By DAVID SKOLNICK
The city’s crackdown on landlords who haven’t registered their rental properties is misguided, said the head of the Mahoning Valley Real Estate Investors Association.
The city is “wasting time, money and resources,” said Sherry DeMar, president of the 70-member association. “We have people getting murdered left and right and vandalism pushing landlords out of town — and time and money is being spent on this. I can’t believe it.”
The city is giving landlords until Thursday to register their rental properties or face a fine of $100 a week.
The city originally had given landlords until Aug. 15 to register.
“The time is up for rental properties to be registered,” said Bill D’Avignon, the city’s community- development agency director. “We don’t want to fine anyone, but it’s well beyond the due date.”
About 1,500 rental units in the city are registered, with the number growing every time The Vindicator writes an article about the program, D’Avignon said.
But there are about 2,500 rental units not registered, city officials estimate.
“A lot of landlords are fearful to register because their rental properties are not in compliance,” said Maureen O’Neil, the city’s rental-property registration administrator. “If there are repairs to be made, please register. If they make an honest attempt to comply, we’ll work with them and give them time to take care of the problems.”
The city is asking people who suspect rental properties aren’t registered to contact them.
Residents can call the rental- property registration office at 330-742-8833, contact the office by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail a list to its office at 9 W. Front St., Suite 315, Youngstown, OH 44503.
Tenants are contacting the office to see if their home is on the inspection list, O’Neil said.
The program requires rental-property owners to pay the city $20 per unit for an annual license after a safety inspection. If a property is a multifamily dwelling, the first unit is $20, and each additional unit in the structure is $15.
The city’s inspection list of 21 items requires rental properties to have, among other things, working electric and heating systems, operating gutters and downspouts, structurally sound porches and stairs and windows that aren’t broken or cracked.
The inspections are basic but are needed to protect tenants’ safety, O’Neil said.
Some landlords also say the program isn’t fair because it doesn’t include vacant units, those that are owner-occupied and federally subsidized properties.
The latter are exempt because a government agency already is inspecting those units, and the city is looking at a plan to inspect vacant units, city officials say.
“The people of Youngs-town are being led [by some city officials] to believe landlords are the source of all the problems in the city,” DeMar said.