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Landlords, property owners in Waynesboro oppose proposed inspection program

July 03, 2008|By DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- Waynesboro Borough Council President Craig Newcomer wants volunteers - landlords, renters and other interested parties - to serve on a committee to study what should be included in a rental property inspection ordinance.

The council heard Wednesday night from several landlords and rental property owners who expressed opposition to an inspection program. One former renter spoke in support of an inspection regimen.

"I can't see it happening anytime soon," Newcomer said when asked how long it might take to have an inspection program. Setting up a committee could take one or two months, he said.

A regular inspection program would ensure minimum standards for safe rental housing and protect tenants from retribution from landlords, Code Enforcement Officer Daniel Sheffler said. Under the current process of doing inspections on a complaint basis, some renters have found themselves evicted, he said.

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"You're trying to take a lot of money out of my pocket," Robert Brown, president of Wacco Properties, said of a 17-page draft ordinance. Complying with the International Property Maintenance Code would be prohibitively expensive, especially for older properties, he said.

"If you follow up on this, you'll see me in court," Brown said.

Some of those code requirements, such as a window in every room and hard-wired smoke detectors, only apply to new construction, Councilman C. Harold Mumma said. Older buildings would not have to be retrofitted, he said.

"I'm not yet convinced of the problem. I'm not yet convinced of the need," said Bob Correll of Wacco Properties. He wanted to know how many complaints that the borough receives about the more than 2,000 rental properties in town.

Sheffler said he receives one or two per week.

"We're dealing with 100-year-old building stock," Correll said. The draft ordinance contains no provision for grandfathering older buildings and no checklist of what landlords need to do to be in compliance, he said.

"If we're going to walk down this road, let's keep it simple," Correll said. He suggested the borough use a much shorter Pottstown, Pa., inspection ordinance as a template for anything it adopts.

The draft ordinance is based on one from Berwick, Pa., which has withstood federal court review, Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.

Other rental property owners complained that registration and inspection fees would add significantly to the cost of them doing business.

Washington Township resident Patrick Burns, who recounted an unhappy renting experience in the borough, said he supported strict standards "so that everyone is treated equally."

As an alternative to inspections, Councilman Ronnie Martin suggested that rental properties be registered with the borough and allowing continued inspections upon receiving complaints. There could be fines for not registering a rental property, he said.

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