PLATTSBURGH — City officials are considering a local law that, if OK'd, would implement changes for the community of renters there.
A potential addition to the City of Plattsburgh's Building Code, the law would enact a registry, inspection and permit protocol for high-occupancy rental units.
The draft law intended to protect the community's health, safety and welfare, as well as other benefits, like safeguarding the character of the city's residential areas, it says.
It was the city's Livable Community Advisory Committee, comprised of residents and councilors Peter Ensel and Jeff Moore (D-Ward 6), that noted problems with rental properties in the city.
"This will provide some guidelines for landlords to uphold," Ensel (R-Ward 4) said," and will set forward the schedule of inspections that would, I think, help improve the issues."
In April, the city formed the Livable Community Advisory Committee to explore community-driven ideas to enhance City of Plattsburgh livability.
A subgroup of the committee, dubbed Code Enforcement, focused on rental properties and the city's codes surrounding them.
Subcommittee member and Ward 4 resident Art de Grandpré said many of those properties in the city were in disrepair.
"It is very clear that the center city is on a downward spiral," he had told city councilors in August. "At times, it looks like a ghetto.
"Those of us who own private homes, see the homes depreciating in value."
The Code Enforcement subgroup studied the City of Plattsburgh's Building Inspector's Office and its Police Department, eyeing the city's guidelines and their execution.
"In order to determine which ones were effective and being enforced," de Grandpré had said, "to seek modification of those that don't meet the needs of the residents of the City of Plattsburgh and to propose new codes that would make Plattsburgh residents enjoy a better standard of living."
A recurring idea had been a rental registry to log all rental properties, including those that may have flown under the radar, ensuring all city-based units were up to code.
"If the building inspector doesn't know where a rental property is, obviously, he can't inspect it," de Grandpré had reasoned.
The proposed local law would bring that idea to fruition by way of rental certification and permits.
The certification would begin March 1, requiring property owners register their high-occupancy rental properties on an annual basis.
As defined by the draft law, that type of unit includes single-family residences rented by more than four unrelated persons, units within a duplex or two-family dwelling rented by more than four unrelated persons or a multi-family dwelling.
Then, per the law, rental permits would go into effect May 1, making it unlawful to rent high-occupancy units without one.
Valid for three years, the permits would certify that the property was in line with codes on both the state and local level.
The city would have the ability to revoke and/or choose not to renew a permit should a property sway away from those guidelines.
Also included in the law was room for fees.
Those could require landlords to pay for permitting, inspections and re-inspections, as well as for registering and certifying a unit.
That amount, to be set by the Common Council, was not featured in the draft law.
It has been said that revenues generated via this process would hope to fund a new building inspector position within that city department.
The draft law also lays out processes related to notices of violations, retaliatory actions and other related content.
The full language can be found at http://www.cityofplattsburgh.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=372.
A public hearing on the law has been set for Thursday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
Another public hearing has been set for Monday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. in the council chambers as well, to discuss the city's environmental impact study for a variety of downtown projects.
Known as the Generic Environmental Impact Statement, that document can be found at https://www.cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov/604/DRI-Environmental-Impact-GEIS.
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