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UH council passes landlord bill

December 7th, 2007

Living off campus will now hold more responsibility for John Carroll University students. The University Heights City Council passed four ordinances on November 19 that will allow for heavier fines and penalties on both landlords and renters who are labeled as nuisances.

Junior Executive Vice President Molly Delaney addressed the mayor and Council. Delaney pointed out many of the positive things JCU students do to help the community, such as Footprints for Fatima and Through the Eyes of a Child.

However, Delaney was upset by The Sun Press article that quoted Mayor Rothschild as saying “while this ordinance is aimed at (John) Carroll tenants, it goes for everyone.”

In a previous City Council meeting, Mayor Rothschild was quoted as having said that the ordinance is for everyone and not specifically intended for JCU students.

Delaney said to be lied to is, “not only unethical, but demeaning. Some students do abuse the rules, and are the ones that give us a bad image.”

She suggested that the students this ordinance is aimed at and those it is not should be separated.
Mayor Rothschild responded and said that currently, a “communications agreement” with JCU and the city is being worked on, and will help relations between the two groups.

Mayor Rothschild also said that the comments made by The Sun Press are something she can and cannot say are exactly right or wrong, and she can’t be accountable for what The Sun Press prints.

One of the ordinances said that the Chief of Police can have a written order be served to the owner of the rental property, tenants of the property and building commissioner if there have been two or more violations within a 12-month period.

Landlords will be subject to having their rental permits revoked by the building department if the distinction of nuisance property is given to his or her property.

The new ordinance also established that when a third citation has been given to a certain house, a $250 fine will be issued because of the nuisance activity. For every additional report of a nuisance activity occurring at the house, a $500 fine will be given.

According to a Nov. 22 article in The Sun Press, “Nuisance activities include alcohol violations, littering, gambling, drugs, health and safety violations, animal violations and other disturbances of the peace where a citation was issued or someone was arrested.”

One significant amendment that the city made to the ordinance after the first reading was dealing with renters who currently live in homes that have received citations before they moved in.

Several JCU students were concerned that although they had not received the citations, previous renters’ citations would carry over and be applied to the number of nuisance activities reported at that house.

An amendment was added to the ordinance that said if the landlord could prove the tenants currently living in the house are not the same as those given previous citations, then the building commissioner can waive the prior citations.

As current University Heights Building Commissioner Bill Nadeau said, “You will not have to suffer for another man’s sins.”

A landlord will have 30 days from the date of the notice to appeal the Police Chief’s decision to designate the house a nuisance property. If facts can be seen that prove the nuisance label is not true, then the chief of police can withdraw the declaration of a nuisance.

However, if the chief denies this request, he will send the appeal to the city’s board of zoning appeals.

The ordinances all passed unanimously after a second reading. University Heights Clerk of Council Nancy English explained that while in some cities three readings are required to vote on new legislation, in University Heights it can be passed after only two.

One man, a Shaker Heights resident who rents a property on Warrensville Center Road, said he did not mind the new legislation, but brought up the need for more feedback from all parties involved.

“I’m not really concerned with the higher fee for obtaining a renter’s permit, or for the new rules,” he said. “However, I think all parties – the University, the city, the students and the neighbors – should be involved and have a dialogue.”

He specifically mentioned that the city had no contact with him as a landlord for almost two years.

He received one letter explaining the first increase in obtaining a renter’s permit two years ago, and then another letter recently when the new legislation was passed, raising the fee once again.