|
|
|
Wayne Post
  • Landlords question inspections by Palmyra zoning office

  • The Town Board is in the midst of a controversial plan to update its fire and building codes, including changes in how rental properties are inspected.



    But landlords are questioning whether the town’s motives are simply compliance with the state or an affront to them and their tenants.

    • email print
  • The Town Board is in the midst of a controversial plan to update its fire and building codes, including changes in how rental properties are inspected.
    But landlords are questioning whether the town’s motives are simply compliance with the state or an affront to them and their tenants.
    The Town Board tabled a motion to pass Local Law 2 at its Thursday, March 28 meeting after area property managers and landlords spoke out in opposition to a section of the law that would allow the code enforcement office to conduct inspections of all rental dwellings in Palmyra and charge landlords for each inspection.
    New York State requires all dwellings housing three families or more (i.e. apartment buildings) and areas of public assembly to be inspected annually.
    The controversial passage states: “All other buildings, uses and occupancies (except non-rental, one-family dwellings) shall be inspected at least once in every 24 months.” This statement includes mobile homes.
    Furthermore, it states: “A fee schedule shall be established by resolution of the Town Board … Such fee schedule or amended fee schedule shall be charged and collected for … fire safety and property maintenance inspections.”
    Gerald Bamberger, a retired lawyer and resident of Rochester who owns a number of properties in Palmyra, challenged the Town Board at the March public hearing, where he stated that provisions in the local law that would allow the code enforcement officer to inspect private homes without a warrant was unconstitutional.
    “Apparently, the inspection may legally occur more frequently than once every 24 months,” Bamberger said in a statement to the Wayne Post. “In fact, there appears to be nothing stopping the inspector from scheduling an inspection every single Friday. I am not suggesting this would ever occur. But it confers patently absurd authority to the inspector … This flies in the face of due process.”
    Town Code Enforcement Officer Dan Wooden said that while he understands the impression it leaves on landlords, the town is merely trying to comply with state law.
    “(The law) is a model code provided by the Department of State,” he said. “We added some different language to it to make (the law) more suitable for the town.”
    The section in question, said Wooden, “was added to it, and it’s for safety purposes — protection of tenants and landlords.”
    Palmyra residents Tracy Vanderwall and her partner, Dan Nichols, who own several single-family and two-family properties in the town and village, said they are concerned about the $35 inspection fee landlords will owe the town per dwelling; how the town will keep track of all rental properties; and the burden the law places on tenants when the time for inspections arrive.
    The pair began researching the topic when they discovered the village did not have a local law in place for its practice of inspecting their properties.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I’ve researched surrounding areas and nobody does inspections for single or double (buildings),” said Vanderwall. “Other towns don’t even charge for three or more. It’s already the code enforcement officer’s job, so there isn’t a surcharge elsewhere. This is frustrating to us because nobody else does it.”
    Added Nichols: “The board seems to be adversarial about us questioning it, and instead of wanting to talk about it, they get defensive. Our tenants do not call the code people if something is wrong – they call us, and we take care of it.”
    While Nichols’ and Vanderwall’s properties are well-maintained, Wooden said the same cannot be said for every landlord who owns property in Palmyra.
    “We get at least one (complaint) per day,” said Wooden. “You name it, we’ve heard it. Sometimes the complaints are valid, others are not.”
     
     
     
      • calendar