Friday, September 12, 2008

Who's Job Is It Anyway?

This past Wednesday evening heralded the second in a series of meetings called by New Albany’s Common Council Committee on Housing issues. This committee was formed to look at ways to gain some semblance of control over our ongoing unsafe/uninhabitable housing units within our city limits.

From our point of view, based on how other cities around the country have dealt with such, the starting point would be to have a data base of contact information on all rental property in our city.

Right out of the box jumped the suggestion that requiring rental property only to be registered would somehow give owner occupied homes a free pass from enforcement. Nothing could be further from the truth.

With few exceptions (and yes Ethel, there are exceptions) the responsible party of owner occupied homes is usually pretty easy to track down.

With rental property, that is often not the case. Names change, people move out of state, transfers are not recorded, banks sell mortgages to other banks, etc., etc,…!

Again, citing how others handle these situations, a database of contact information for a locally based responsible party provides a starting point in solving most (not all) of these issues.

An obvious truth came forth that if a ghost landlord did not want to be found, registration would be pointless. I disagree on two points.

First of all, not all problem properties are owned by “ghosts”.

Second, if those that can be found are registered it takes another segment of properties off the extended search grid which saves time, resources, and money for the already overworked enforcement entities. That in turn saves wasted tax dollars and gets us down the road farther & quicker to reclaiming our city. Some of those saved $$"s could then be used for Ghost Hunting!

Somehow the conversation got off track and turned to trash pickup and grass/weed control. Although I’ll agree the city could and should do a better job of both, I fail to see how a landlord justifies the concept that neither is his/her responsibility if the property has a tenant.

While I understand the tenant has rights & responsibilities, I think it behooves the property owners to monitor their property and deal firsthand with their tenants. I don’t see that the city has the obligation to absorb that responsibility from the landlord.

I know that in any State approved rental agreement there are statements of the rights & obligations of both. I don’t read in the statue anywhere that the owner can pass that responsibility off to the city.

Then came the age old discussion of who picks up what for whom as it relates to garbage, trash, & yard waste.

So once again, here’s the skinny as I understand it. I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong although probably anonymously on another blog site.

Southern Indiana Waste Systems will pick up recyclables weekly. It is not the same truck but it is usually on the same day as one’s garbage pickup. Any who don’t know can find out what is or is not recyclable by calling S I W S @ 812-948-5356 and ask for Stanley. Or as an alternative you can call Matt Denison @ 812-948-5333.

The same folks (different truck) will pick up your garbage once a week. Garbage being everyday household trash. Not yard waste, tree limbs, leaves, construction leftovers, etc. In addition, they will (or can by wording of the contract) pick up one (that’s 1 as in singular) other item such as a broken chair, discarded lamp, etc.

Now we come to the street department’s obligation. They will, if you call and politely request, come by and pick up yard waste, tree limbs, bagged leaves and even an occasional couch or mattress upon request. In addition, again if you ask, they have a contact that will come by and remove old appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, etc.

They are not however responsible for nor have the manpower to haul off an entire households furniture & personal belongings.

By ordinance in Chapter 50 Garbage & Refuse; Section 50.08, the city can and I think should, levy a charge of $5 per item for the disposal of large items such as furniture, air conditioners, etc. However I have never known that to be done. Here's the link.$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:newalbany_in

Perhaps if they did and did so consistently, this conversation wouldn’t be as necessary.

Another alternative is for the property owner to call southern Indiana Waste Systems or an alternative waste hauler to dispose of such. Or better yet in the case of rental properties, require a more substantial upfront deposit from the tenant to cover the costs of disposal.

The whole point being ownership carries with it responsibility whether one lives on the premise or not. It is not my job to clean up after neighboring property although many of us have done so and in too many cases continue to do so.

Likewise, it is not the city’s job to do so either. That burden falls squarely on the shoulders of the deeded owner.

I understand that there are those among us that have neither the, health, income, nor family backup to perform costly maintenance on a home they have lived in for years. Thankfully, there is any number of programs throughout the community to address these circumstances.

I also understand there are those who make their living by renting homes to others. Some of those renters are in the same shape as those aforementioned. To the landlords who are carrying that burden, my hats off to you.

However, if all of your tenants are in that shape and you are loosing money on every unit you own, you as well as they are doomed to fail.

If that is not the case, perhaps you should reach out to a more responsible renter clientele and raise your fees in order for you to cover the expenses of helping the needy and maintain your property as well.

Or perhaps you could form an association of like minded landlords and form a slush fund to help those in need.

Before you say it "If you're so damned smart, why ain't you in  business yerself?" let me say been there done that. How do you think I got this smart?

Anyway you do it, letting the property deteriorate just to keep a roof over the tenants head is not a long term solution. Not for the tenant, the landowner, nor the city.

Now to the big dogs! Earlier on this very blog site (Mayor Englands 1st Semester Report Card) I patted this administration on the back for a job well done during its first half year. I sited their reports on bringing to a close many code violations, unsafe houses, and zoning issues.

Having said that, it is evident that these accomplishments while good are only the first peripheral layer of this decades old onion.

We still have city owned property that is overgrown with weeds & debris.

We still street department employees drive by one pile of limbs to pick up another.

We still have multiple police units sitting idly at single traffic stops.

And we still have to question why there are so many outstanding violations of many stripes that have not been addressed.

Nearly every neighborhood association, Board of Works, Building Commission, or Common Council meeting I attend I hear of yet another situation that has allegedly been reported repeatedly and is still unresolved.

We were promised by this council and this administration that actions to do so would be addressed early on. There was much talk of an increase in staff for the city law department to address such matters.

If there has indeed been forward movement in that direction and if some of these issues have been resolved, please tell us. We would love to give you another ‘Atta boy!

If not, understand that the clock is still ticking, this year is nearly over and 2011 looms just over the horizon.

Tic-tock, tic------

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At Fri Sep 12, 10:28:00 PM, Blogger Highwayman said...

I suppose we expect too much from our elected & appointed officials, but you'd think after spending our tax dollars to purchase multiple hard copies of New Albany's Code Book, some would take the time to read up on at least the subject being discussed.

Or an even more outrageous concept, the area of enforcement they are responsible for!

Slip slidin' away..............

At Sun Sep 14, 11:03:00 AM, Blogger New Alb Annie said...

Lloyd, don't let them waste too much of your time. It's been my experience that the excuses for non-enforcement will just keep flowing.

I thought I'd heard all the excuses possible, but the current discussions have contained some very new, innovative ones.

At Sun Sep 14, 04:56:00 PM, Blogger Highwayman said...

NA Annie,

Ain't it the truth!

Stay tuned, there's more to come.


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