By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — MORIAH — Moriah and Port Henry are going after property owners who rent substandard housing to low-income tenants.
Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said the Town of Moriah and Village of Port Henry are now enforcing local laws requiring a certificate of occupancy when a new tenant moves into a home.
Inspections of the dwellings will be made by the municipal codes officer before a certificate is issued, he said.
The issue has been that some absentee landlords are renting out apartments in poor condition, often to clients of the Essex County Department of Social Services.
Scozzafava put Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill on notice Monday that if his agency is paying the rent for a client, it must follow the local law.
O’Neill has said that in cases where someone is eligible for housing assistance, Social Services pays the rent directly to the landlord — but the agency can’t tell the client where to live or what apartment to rent.
“Have the caseworker ask or contact the landlord,” Scozzafava said. “Ask ‘do you have a certificate of occupancy?’ If not, they shouldn’t be renting it.”
‘FOR TENANTS’ SAFETY’
The request was made at the County Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee session, and O’Neill said he would pass the information on to his staff.
“As long as it doesn’t violate our regulations, we’ll do it,” O’Neill said after the meeting. “If it’s town-wide we’ll try to do it.”
Scozzafava had previously asked Social Services to inspect apartments before clients move in, but O’Neill said they don’t have enough authority or manpower to do that.
Most of the problems are in apartment buildings in Moriah’s Witherbee and Mineville hamlets, but Scozzafava said the local laws apply to the entire town and village, not just one area.
“It’s for the safety of the tenant. We’ve received a number of complaints about conditions of these apartments. If we don’t take action, we’re susceptible to liability ourselves.”
Scozzafava said in some cases the buildings were in such poor condition the codes officer had to condemn them and order everyone out.
The building owner should go to either the town or village hall to apply for a certificate of occupancy before renting out a dwelling, the supervisor said.
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