East Siders question self-inspections by landlords

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

East Side residents are worried that the city’s rental registry will bear similarities to the fox and the henhouse.

Many homeowners on the campus side of the city have long wanted some type of inspection or registration program for rental housing. But the type of program being considered falls short of what East Siders had wanted. The rental registry proposed in the city’s new Community Action Plan calls for self-inspections by landlords. While that’s a good start, it doesn’t go far enough, the residents agreed during a meeting of their neighborhood association.

“I don’t let my students grade themselves,” said Neocles Leontis, comparing the self-inspections to self-grading.

An East Side resident questioned why self-inspections would be allowed.

“Is it because the landlords have money and we don’t,” she asked.

Leontis said that parents of college students often assume that rental units undergo fire inspections in Bowling Green.

“They are absolutely shocked to learn the places they rent haven’t gone through fire inspections,” he said.

“It’s not only about students. It’s about young families,” Leontis said. “Let’s do something before we have a tragedy in town.”

If landlords are allowed to do their own inspections, it was suggested that at least a check-off box be included where landlords can identify if a rental unit has undergone a fire inspection.

City Council member and East Side resident John Zanfardino agreed.

“The registration is only going to be as good as the information on it,” he said.

Zanfardino, plus council members Sandy Rowland and Bill Herald agreed the rental registration program may be the best the city can get.

“I don’t see BG moving to inspections,” Zanfardino said.

Renter satisfaction surveys are also being planned, Zanfardino said. While BGSU offers renter reviews, much of that focuses on apartment complexes, while this will focus on houses. The questions will focus on rental houses having inadequate heat and air conditioning, structural problems, and other issues.

Due to a fear of retribution by landlords, specific addresses will not be published.

In other business at the East Side meeting, Zanfardino reported on other priorities selected by council members in the Community Action Plan. Included are zoning changes along East Wooster Street, creation of micro-grants for neighborhoods, and formation of a historic preservation program.

Elizabeth Burroughs, who tracks police blotter data on East Side issues reported on the latest numbers for items such as nuisance parties, noise and litter.

Burroughs said the number of nuisance parties and noise complaints have dropped in the last few months. Litter, such as Taco Bell sauce packets and pizza boxes, are still a problem.

Police Chief Tony Hetrick reported that police officers have not changed their practices. “We haven’t done anything different.”

However, Hetrick said the police division is noticing some different trends. In the past, the busiest times for police were Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The busy times are now just Friday and Saturday, he said.

“We’re still seeing a lot of house parties, but they’re not getting out of line,” the chief said.

Police still visit homes where yards are cluttered with party trash. The residents are given 30 minutes to clean up.

Hetrick said he is also continuing to call landlords about repeat problems.

“He calls landlords on Monday morning, and I don’t think they enjoy those phone calls,” Rose Hess said.

The neighbors also discussed the lawsuit filed against the city by landlord and attorney Maurice Thompson, of Columbus. The lawsuit claims that the city cannot legally limit the number of unrelated residents in a single residence to three. Five other landlords in Bowling Green have since joined in the lawsuit.

“We believe in the right of the city to have an ordinance like this,” Rose Hess said of the limits.

So the East Side organization wrote a letter to the judge hearing the case.

“It could be mayhem,” if the limit was found to be unconstitutional, Hess said.

Mark Hollenbaugh reported on the survey conducted among East Side residents last year to check on their priorities. Top on their lists was licensing of rental houses, the need for more code enforcement, concerns about non-conforming properties, over-occupancy of rental units, the imbalance of rentals over owner-occupied homes, and the need for a single point of contact when calling for assistance on such problems.

Also at the East Side meeting, residents Gary Hess and Hollenbaugh talked about changes proposed to the city charter. The two, who were part of the charter review committee, reported that some proposed changes which would have negatively impacted the East Side were rejected for the charter update. Those changes would have made all City Council seats at-large, made all seats non-partisan, and made all terms last four years.

In other business, local residents were reminded that volunteers will be needed at the end of August to go door-to-door to visit new college students in the neighborhood. Last year nearly 45 volunteers visited about 500 single-family homes, Rose Hess said.

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