Landlord Code of Conduct Ordinance Overview

As I have stated time and time again:

  • Most of our landlords are responsible and law abiding, some are not.
  • The city council has never shut down a good landlord.
  • Public safety is the number one priority.

Per the request of one of our local landlords, I wanted to provide a summary of what is contained in our new rental ordinance and it is needed. There are a number of landlords that have opposed these changes because it they fear it puts their business at risk. I have never accepted this to be a valid concern as the city council has never take action against a good landlord. However, we have not had the ability to shut down some bad ones such as Laura Boardman (who took her boyfriend tenant on a violent Rochester crime spree). The new ordinance closes several loopholes and gives us some new tools to ensure compliance or eliminate issues. The new ordinance is supported by many responsible landlords and every neighborhood that I have heard from.

Most non-compliance issues are handled by the building safety department. We expect that if there is a problem the landlord or property manager will handle it. If they do everyone is happy. If they do not, the issues may eventually work their way to the city council. At that point, we are able to require changes to address the issue, refuse to renew, suspend, or revoke a rental license. In the case of consistently problematic property owners, we will also have the ability to not allow rentals at additional properties as well. In Laura Boardman’s case or that of some additional dangerous property owners, we could drive them out of Rochester.

Here are the requirements we spell out for property owners and managers in Rochester (“Ten Commandments” style).

  • Thou shall not lie on their application.
  • Thou shall not lie about their property to city officials.
  • Thou shall pay their fees.
  • Thou shall follow our rental and building codes.
  • Thou shall have paid all their taxes.
  • Thou shall not have more people living in the unit than permitted.
  • Thou shall not force the city to clean up their property repeatedly.
  • Thou shall ensure that the dwelling complies with the law.
  • Thou shall allow inspections.
  • Thou shall keep track of who is living in each dwelling.
  • Thou shall not be responsible the responsible party for a property who’s license is suspended.
  • Thou shall not rent or offer to rent without a license.
  • Thou shall not threaten retaliation against tenants that make complaints.
  • Thou shall not threaten the public health, safety, or welfare of the citizens of Rochester.
  • Thou shall take the “Crime free multi-housing course.”

Note that the last mandate was suggested by Ed Hruska, Mark Bilderback, and some local landlords. I agreed to this mandate as it serves the public.

One change that was requested by landlords was that we should not take any action taken against a property that has come into compliance. However the majority council including myself disagreed. The issue is that we have two problems here. First some problem landlords don’t take any action before the day of court and then come and claim that they are being harassed because the problem has been fixed. I am not willing to play that game. Second, there are some landlords and situations where we may wish to stop all of our landlord’s activities in Rochester. I do not want to give up this ability. This is how we can shut some of our persistent slumlords down.

Most of our properties are well run by good property owners, but… Rochester has had a serious slumlord problem for many years. You can witness this driving down 4 ½ street on a hot summer night. At the end of the day the safety of our neighborhoods is our primary concern. For years the city council never took this issue seriously until Mark Bilderback and I forced an emergency meeting. We have worked with interested parties to ensure that our ordinance is fair and have had that fact verified by property managers that work in Rochester and other cities. We now have a tool whereby we can drive bad landlords out of Rochester. I would love to be known for doing to Rochester slumlords what St. Patrick did to the snakes in Ireland.

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