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City wants all rental units logged

January 16, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Rental property owners who do not register their units with city of Martinsburg officials could face a fine of up to $100 a month, or a maximum of $8,500.

City officials are working toward a goal of having all city rental units registered and certified by this summer, said City Engineer/Planner Mike Covell. The objective is to know which properties are rentals and to ensure owners maintain proper business licenses, he said.

Covell said he is optimistic that two-thirds of the city's units are registered.

So far, 1,125 owners have registered around 1,600 rental units, from spacious family homes to cramped apartments in complexes, Covell said.

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The city's Rental Housing Code demands that all properties be registered. That code allows city officials to get rid of problem tenants, Covell said. An appeal process is in place.

To register a property, its owner must pay a fee of $15 to $25, depending on the number of rental units. After that, city officials inspect the property. Once any problems are fixed, the property is listed as being certified, a classification that lasts three years, Covell said.

Some owners may not have registered because they do not live in the area. Others may be trying to avoid the system, Covell said.

Since August 2001, more than 3,300 inspections have been done in rental properties throughout the city. No one area is being targeted, Covell said.

Most properties are in fair condition, with a few minor problems that need to be fixed, Covell said.

A few are "the nightmare that people envision," he said.

The city has not set a precise deadline for registration, but Covell said it probably will be in March or sooner.

After the deadline, owners who did not register will be taken to court, where city housing officials will seek to have the maximum fine possible imposed. That fine is $100 for every month the property was occupied while not registered, Covell said.

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