Ordinance for rent

By on July 30, 2014

Ephrata Borough’s solicitor submitted a redraft of a proposed rental ordinance at Monday’s Development Activities Committee meeting.
Solicitor James R. McManus went over some of the major revisions on the controversial document that was first disclosed to the public on Jan. 14.
The proposed ordinance angered some landlords who objected to provisions of a three-strike rule &tstr; counted by police calls for disruptive behavior by tenants or by serious property maintenance violations within a 12 month period.
Fines and penalties assessed for accumulating strikes can lead to an automatic loss of a rental license and eviction for tenants.
Many landlords and tenants responded to the borough’s request to provide feedback during several meetings over the past six months.
McManus’ redraft of the document is based on those public comments. Though he discussed some of the changes to the original ordinance, McManus said the revised document would not be available until after all borough council members view it.
Robert Thompson, borough manager, said the revised ordinance would go on the borough’s website when council was “comfortable” with it and that there would be more time for public comment before an approval vote is taken.
One revision changes a proposed requirement that a landlord hire a local property manager if the landlord lives beyond 15 miles of the rental propertyin the borough.
That was revised to require a landlord to live within 30 miles or “demonstrate” the ability to respond to a rental unit within 45 minutes when called.
“This isn’t a requirement to be at your rental property in 45 minute for peeling paint,” said Nancy Harris, borough zoning officer. “That requirement would be for a serious police issue involving the landlord’s tenant.”
McManus discussed many issues with the appeals process, the appeals board, and what determines a “strike.”
“It does not count as a violation if it has been appealed, if it is abated within the time given within the code enforcement office, if a court finds in favor of the land owner and against the borough, or if an appeal is pending,” McManus said.
He offered a two-page supplement that outlines how council could form a three-member appeals board that is separate from the property and maintenance appeals board.
The proposed board would include one member who is “a landlord or manager or responsible agent.”
“It identifies the scope and jurisdiction of the board and relates to appeals concerning disruptive conduct reports and appeals concerning the issuance or the denial of a residential permit,” McManus said.
“One of the things we tried to make clear in the revised version is the distinction between what we’ll call administrative procedures and remedies and non-administrative procedures and remedies,” he said.
Patrick Burns is senior staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.


One Comment

  1. Chris

    September 11, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    The current “revision” does little to resolve open ended interpretations of the law. The bottom line is this; the ordinance creates a tribunal and a “board” system to review persons accused of ‘Strikes”. The Ephrata BOROUGH taxpayers are going to have to fund additional staff and pay for equipment to staff such a project, therefore taxes will go UP. The Borough Council has done nothing to identify the ROOT CAUSE of the problem, instead opting to punish all rental property owners just to satisfy their urge to punish the few. I believe there is a better way to address the problem of slumlords and vagrant tenants, and that way is not by railroading a new ordinance that has not been vetted. The comment was made BY COUNCIL that Lancaster City and Reading have a similar ordinance in place. DO WE REALLY WANT TO BE LIKE READING AND LANCASTER CITY? Read the crime statistics and tell me you want to go in that direction!. Owner Occupants, tenants and landlords need to all protest this flawed ordinance until the real root problem is identified and a valid fix is proposed.

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