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Landlords sound off over Waynesboro rental proposal

February 06, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Critics of a rental inspection program proposed in the Borough of Waynesboro urged the borough council Wednesday to scrap the initiative altogether.

The proposed rental inspection ordinance would require landlords to register rental units. It would require inspections of those units by the municipality’s inspector every year, every three years or every five years depending on past performance.

The borough council heard from more than a half-dozen people against the proposed ordinance.

With Councilman Wayne Driscoll absent from the meeting due to a family emergency, the other council members said they did not want to vote without a full board present. They had planned to decide whether to proceed with putting the program in place.

Instead, the council has chosen to issue a request for proposals from inspection firms that would like to hold the contract for the rental unit inspections. The council is seeking cost estimates of what the fees may be.

Landlord Barry McNew of Waynesboro referenced a previous comment made by Councilman Craig Newcomer, who said the council doesn’t want to penalize people who are doing the right things.

“It certainly looks like you are,” McNew said.

Rouzerville, Pa., resident Jim Benchoff said he has 17 rental units in Waynesboro. He said landlords already face a host of problems, including tenants stealing appliances and copper wiring for scrap.

Renters need to be held liable for the damage they cause in apartments, but landlords are rarely able to recover money through the legal system, Benchoff said. To be fair, the rental inspection program needs to put some responsibility on the renters, he said.

Benchoff said that before the meeting he was working in a unit trashed by a tenant.

“I’m doing this as an investment for the future because I know Social Security isn’t going to be there for me,” he said.

Gail Miller of Waynesboro said she, too, has had tenants cause destruction in her units. She described a destroyed furnace, cupboards and pipes.

“We have to do the work,” Miller said. “They just get away with it.”

Hagerstown resident Jim Bowers said he rents out two single-family houses in Waynesboro.

“Anyone who doesn’t have a rental thinks it’s sitting back and watching checks come in. Like (the others) said, you’re cleaning up a rental or making repairs and hoping a check comes at the end of the month,” Bowers said.

There might be a problem with a couple landlords, but the program affects the good landlords like the ones at the meeting, he said.

“We’re penalizing everyone who is a landlord because of certain people. That doesn’t seem fair,” echoed Darwyn Benedict of Waynesboro.

The ordinance is too stringent with its specifications like where trash containers need to be, according to Waynesboro resident Paul McCarney.

“That’s what this is telling me — I’ve got to be the landlord and the parent,” he said.

McCarney said landlords would be willing to register units and stipulate that the borough has the right to inspect any involved in a landlord or tenant complaint. He questioned how the borough expects to conduct the inspections.

“We have all these ordinances and we don’t have the manpower now to take care of them,” he said.

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