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Landlord rules

Published June 09. 2011 05:00PM

Summit Hill borough is again looking into the possibility of coming up with an ordinance that deals with rental properties.

Lansford already has such an ordinance in place.

It's really something every municipality should have.

A few years ago such an ordinance had been adopted in Summit Hill, then rescinded because some landlords thought it was too harsh.

This type of ordinance generally requires the borough be informed when tenants vacate or move into a rental unit. It allows for inspections of rental units after a tenant leaves. It allows the municipality to require that rental properties be brought into compliance with borough regulations, including proper wiring, safety defects removed, and an adequate heating system be in place.

Although all municipalities should have one, it's especially important one come into being in Summit Hill.

Like many municipalities, there is an increasing number of absentee landlords; property owners living in other towns often in other states but having rental units in the borough.

As seen in other towns, there are instances where landlords don't properly maintain their rental units. They get run down and are rented from one tenant to another without improvements occurring.

This isn't all landlords. But we've seen it happen in other communities.

What is happening in Summit Hill is that often people move in and out of rental units without getting moving permits; without letting the borough office know so they can be placed on the tax rolls.

Another situation in Summit Hill is that vacant properties qualify for exemption from payment of trash collection. An ordinance on rental unit could mandate that property owners report occupancy. Such an ordinance should carry a heavy fine much steeper than the annual garbage fee, but back payment on it if the landlord doesn't advise of the rental unit becoming utilized.

The ordinance is especially vital in apartment units, where periodic inspections could potentially avert a disaster from fire or carbon monoxide.

Hopefully Summit Hill will enact a landlord/tenant ordinance and enforce it. And other municipalities without one should give serious consideration, too.

While over-regulation is often a problem with government, lack of regulations also can be woeful.

By Ron Gower

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