SALEM City weighs landlord crackdown

The administration is finding that some landlords simply pay their fine and continue breaking the law.
SALEM -- City officials are mulling over tougher penalties for landlords who repeatedly violate housing codes.
City council's rules and ordinances committee will be asked by the administration to take up the matter this fall, service Director Joe Julian said Friday.
Julian said the city cites landlords for civil violations of the city's housing regulations, which primarily deal with health and safety issues.
The cases are being heard in Northwest Area Columbiana County Court, where landlords found guilty can be fined about $100 plus court costs, Julian said.
But the city is finding that some landlords are simply paying the fine and costs, and continuing to violate housing regulations, Julian said.
Same punishment: Part of the problem is that, the way rules are now written, repeat offenses carry the same fine as initial violations, he said.
The administration would like stiffer penalties to be applied as the number of repeat violations grows. The higher fines would likely deter repeat offenses, Julian said.
The city has spent the last couple of years assembling a housing inspection program to help ensure the nearly 1,600 housing rental units in the city are fit places to live.
Housing inspectors: To accomplish that goal, the city has hired two housing inspectors who periodically inspect rental units and prepare citations for landlords who refuse to fix problems.
Inspectors also can undertake special inspections in response to complaints about a rental unit.
There are about 450 landlords who have residential property for rent in the city.
City council has adopted legislation requiring landlords to keep the administration informed of their mailing addresses, so the city can more easily contact them regarding their properties.
To help fund the inspection and enforcement program, the city requires landlords to pay a $10 annual fee for each rental unit they own.
The city also has adopted a regulation allowing the administration to add any unpaid fees to a property owner's real estate taxes.

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