LEETONIA- Village Council Wednesday night tabled proposed legislation establishing rental property registration and scheduled a Zoning Committee meeting to discuss the issue with landlords after three property owners once again questioned the ordinance. The committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at Village Hall.
Property owners Dan Valentine, Louie Raneri and Ron Stouffer, reportedly representing the landlords as a whole, campaigned against the proposed ordinance and provided a letter from an attorney the group has solicited with intentions to challenge the ordinance if it passes as is. Council approved the first reading of the ordinance earlier this month.
Presented by Zoning Inspector John Rydarowicz after months of preparation, the ordinance would require rental property owners to pay a minimal registration fee and annual renewal fee for each rental unit, list the occupants living in the units, obtain insurance on the units and make the units available for inspection when needed. It would also require rental property owners living beyond 10 miles outside village limits to designate an agent over 18 years of age to be responsible for a rental unit.
According to Village Solicitor Walter Newton, the attorney's letter challenges the legality of requiring an agent and questions whether the village can require owners to obtain insurance on their properties. Valentine also disputed whether the zoning inspector should be allowed to force inspections.
In response to the concerns, Newton explained that he and Rydarowicz crafted the ordinance similar to other Cleveland area municipalities and that a case exists from Youngstown in 1992 in which the appointment of an agent for rental property owners outside the city had been overturned. He also noted that no apparent precedent exists for the insurance issue, and that the ordinance would not require anything more regarding inspections than is already being used in other ordinances.
Newton said that based on his research, if the ordinance is passed as is, the landlords could likely challenge it.
Much like council's first attempt to pass a rental registration ordinance almost two years ago, which failed on its third reading after landlords vehemently voiced displeasure at a council meeting, this second attempt is being challenged by the landlords as unfairly discriminate against rental property owners.
"Why should we have to get insurance if private or commercial property owners don't," questioned Valentine.
Raneri did not like the fact that he would have to take responsibility for the property instead of the tenant and did not want the zoning inspector to come to him with zoning violations.
"This is your problem, not mine," he said. "Don't come to me. I don't want to deal with (my) tenants."
Collectively they admonished council for not consulting the landlords before passing the first reading to seek assistance in crafting what they deemed suitable legislation.
"We came to you and offered to help create something that we can support, but instead we had to read about (the first reading) in the paper," Valentine said.
The landlords are being encouraged to attend the committee meeting to air their grievances, but council members warned them that they want to get the ordinance passed as soon as possible since it has taken almost two years to draw up, and noted that the committee meeting is to discuss whether the ordinance should be modified, not necessarily to do so.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org