Opinions mixed on proposed rental-inspection law in Waynesboro

August 29, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The Waynesboro Borough Council received comments Wednesday about its proposed rental-inspection program, which has detractors concerned about perceived costs.

The program, which has been discussed for four years, calls for routine inspections of the municipality’s more than 2,000 rental units. It is designed to allow for a systematic way of getting into properties to ensure they have plumbing, electrical, heating and other systems that meet International Property Maintenance Code standards.

Landlords could be required to pay for the cost of inspection and fined for violations. Building owners who live outside the area also would be required to hire local property managers.

“I do feel this could affect market values in a community,” said Richard Durham, a property owner from Kearneysville, W.Va.

Waynesboro businessman Bob Correll said he was opposed to the initiative when it was first proposed. However, he served on a committee developing the ordinance and had a change of heart.

“I began to see — through our fire chief’s eyes, our code enforcement officer’s eyes — parts of our community most of us don’t see,” Correll said, saying he learned about apartments without functioning furnaces or overrun with spiders.

Waynesboro Fire Chief Dave Martin said he has entered homes that do not have smoke detectors or proper wiring.

“I’d just like to see something done for the safety of the residents,” he said.

Council President Jason Stains said he does not know when the council will vote on the rental-inspection ordinance. Wednesday’s meeting was advertised as a public input session.

Craig Mahrle, who owns buildings on Main Street, said he does not think Waynesboro has housing dilapidated enough to warrant the new program.

“What message is sent if a town feels it needs to impose a rental-inspection program? I don’t think that’s a positive message,” he said.

The program could protect tenants, some of whom have been evicted by their landlords after reporting issues, Councilman Craig Newcomer said.

If approved, owners of older buildings would need to address safety issues like fire alarms, but they could be exempted from things like minimum room sizes, according to Sam Wiser, the borough council’s solicitor.

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