After several years of very limited enforcement, Tamaqua has decided to enforce Ordinance #545 Spot Inspections of Rental Housing.
Barry Isett and Assoc., (BIA), a private "for-profit" firm is doing what was done prior by one or two borough employees. Is the borough receiving any benefit in exchange for the higher costs?
There is a lack of availability of the BIA staff, citizens have only three days/week to discuss their issues. For 545 inspections, Mondays or Thursdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. are the only possible times. A window of only 10 hours per week? A Saturday option would be more convenient.
Has Council considered that the cost of property taxes already makes renting out homes less than profitable? Putting new costs onto landlords ultimately will be passed along to the tenants RENTS WILL GO UP.
The public is being promised safety, but less than 30 percent of the homes are rentals. If the Boro is concerned for faulty electrical services, structural deficiencies, or substandard living conditions, shouldn't 545 apply to ALL HOMES? The 70 percent-plus homes which are owner-occupied or vacant are not covered by 545.
545 prejudges rentals as non-compliant, forcing PROOF of code compliance without incident, complaint or injury. Building codes are vastly different between residential and commercial structures, why doesn't 545 exclusively address commercial structures and leave the 1 & 2 family residential structures alone? Also, why are landlords as a "business" targeted? Do dentists, law offices, store owners, hair stylists, etc. have to register annually and undergo this same scrutiny? Other businesses are grandfathered, why aren't rental properties grandfathered?
The borough is requiring tenant's names and the name of who pays utilities on the registration application. Tenants have lawful rights, especially privacy. Asking who pays for utilities is not essential to code enforcement nor required under 545. The borough has a moving permit ordinance for the tenants to disclose their own names.
A standard of enforcement was established for 545 and after a decade, with no chance for public discussion, has now been radically changed. An ordinance MUST be consistently enforced or it's unlawful.
I respectfully ask Council to immediately repeal ordinance #545 and draft an ordinance that is fair in promoting public safety in ALL HOMES regardless of tenant or owner occupied status. Additionally, I request the Council carefully consider the tremendous costs of hiring an outside, for-profit firm to enforce local ordinances.
Timothy M. Stahl, PE