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Chambersburg council tweaks rental ordinance

June 13, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Borough Council tweaked its rental property inspection ordinance Tuesday after fielding phone calls from several property owners who questioned why they received bills last month.

David Finch, assistant borough manager, said requests for exemptions from the ordinance fell into three categories:

-- Rental property owners who are allowing a family member to stay in the rental unit rent free.

-- Rental property owners not currently renting their units.

-- Bed and breakfasts.

The council finally approved the inspection ordinance in March after four years of discussion. The final product was a compromise between what the borough wanted and what property owners wanted.

The ordinance requires all rental units to be inspected once every three years. Property owners can either pay a $10 annual fee to the borough or pay an independent contractor to do the inspection. Landlords who opt for private inspections must pay the borough a $6 fee for a certificate of compliance once every three years.

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Units that fail inspection will be assessed an additional fee.

When invoices were mailed out last month for the property inspections, which began alphabetically June 3 with Alexander Street, the borough began receiving phone calls from property owners seeking waivers.

Council endorsed the Property Maintenance Code Advisory Committee's recommendation Tuesday to keep charging rental property owners, even if they are letting family stay in their rental units for free.

"Where do you draw the line of what is family? At cousins? Ex-spouses?" Finch asked.

Council supported dropping the fee for property owners who use their rental unit as storage or are not looking to rent it.

If they choose to rent it in the future, they will be subject to the fee, Finch said.

The issue of bed and breakfasts remains cloudy. The advisory committee will take it up again at its July meeting, Finch said.

Roger Sackett, who owns and lives at the Shultz Victorian Mansion Bed and Breakfast at 756 Philadelphia Ave., questioned why he received a bill since his establishment is owner-occupied.

During discussions this winter and spring, council decided it would assess hotels that cater to long-term customers and advertise weekly or monthly rates lower than standard rates, Finch said.

Sackett said he does offer a deal for long-term customers, such as business people relocating to the area who may need an extended stay while searching for permanent housing.

"We need to look at businesses that are substantially residential properties and not involved specifically in transient business," Council President Bill McLaughlin said. "We need to have the committee take a closer look and identify properties that fall in the residential category."

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