Commissioners Want To Explore Rental Housing Law

SANATOGA PA – Alarmed by what he said he’s seen during recent months while working in Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township homes, electrician and Board of Commissioners Vice President Bruce Foltz called Thursday (Feb. 23, 2012) for the municipality to consider an ordinance that would govern the registration and inspection of rental housing within its borders.

Foltz, who has decades of experience in building trades, was supported by fellow Commissioner Stephen Klotz, himself a former contractor and now a contractor’s sales representative. Although they did not formally vote on the matter during their second monthly meeting, board members directed Manager Rodney Hawthorne and staff to explore the proposal.

Foltz suggested that, like the neighboring borough of Pottstown, the township create a registry of all rental housing properties; consider charging an annual registration fee to be paid by landlords for each property; and require annual inspections of registered properties, as well as inspections each time new tenants occupied a property.

“I think we’re missing the boat if we don’t do all of that,” Foltz said.

Foltz described conditions he witnessed recently at several rental properties, where tenants called him in to perform work that landlords either hadn’t yet acted upon or refused to address. “I’ve seen some really bad situations,” he said; “a home where the basement was flooded, and now it’s got mold and mildew problems. Lots of things that aren’t up to code. It’s a real problem.”

There’s little the township can do now to ensure resident safety without an inspection program in place “when tenants just move in and move out,” Klotz added.

Board members noted such an ordinance might also generate revenue that would cover the program’s costs.

According to U.S Census Bureau data, about 82 percent of the township’s more than 4,000 housing units are owner-occupied. Most of what remains is available for rental occupation.

Pottstown borough council in October 2010, over strenuous objections from landlords and to the delight of community activists, approved rules that imposed rental licenses that must be renewed annually, limited the number of people occupying a rental unit, prevented tenants’ disruptive conduct, required local property managers to be designated by out-of-town landlords, and demanded all fees, taxes and fines on rental properties be paid and current.

Pottstown’s ordinance was based on a legally vetted and apparently successful law instituted earlier in Gettysburg PA. Although Foltz did not indicate he was interested in a township law that included as much detail as Pottstown’s, he pointed to it as a resource to consider.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Feb. 23 meeting):

Photo from Google Images

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