First readings of landlord ordinances approved

EAST LIVERPOOL – The first readings of a pair of ordinances aimed at regulating landlords and rental properties in the city were approved by a split vote of city council on Monday evening.

Councilwoman Sherrie Curtis presided at the meeting in the absence of council President John Torma. All council members were present, however, with two – Scott Barrett and Charles Wade – voting their opposition to the first reading of the so-called “Better Landlord” ordinance and a related ordinance creating a rental dwelling license for rental property owners.

The licensing ordinance came up for approval first, with councilman Russell Dray offering what he said was provisional support for the measure. “I’m going to vote for it tonight, but there’s a lot of things in there that we need to go over yet before we do decide to pass this,” he said. “I will approve it tonight, but I don’t know about next time.”

Councilman Ray Perorazio threw his support behind the legislation, saying that, contrary to the objections of some landlords, the process had been fair and legitimate. “There was nothing underhanded about this, there was nothing sneaky about this,” he said, with audible objections amongst a few in attendance.

Perorazio said that as he and his council colleagues study the legislation in the coming days, city landlords who have specific objections within the ordinances could contact him at his workplace anytime with questions and complaints. “Let me know what your concerns are. I have a few of my own – but we’ve got to do something.”

Wade said a major factor behind his no votes is that parts of existing ordinances are duplicated in the new ordinances, causing an unnecessary influx of new paperwork that would take time and effort away from the proposed building inspections.

Wade also shared his fear that some landlords may decide to sell their rental properties within the city rather than contend with the additional paperwork and other requirements of the ordinances. Those vacant buildings that landlords aren’t able to sell may simply be abandoned, creating more nuisance properties for the city to contend with.

Among the landlords offering objections was Linda Ziegler of Ohio Avenue, who said that what the city really needs is a “better government” ordinance. Ziegler – who has voiced opposition to the legislative effort at previous meetings – objected to what she considered inadequate public notice of the meeting, having learned of it only an hour before its 7 p.m. start.

Ziegler agreed with Wade’s assertion that there appears to be much duplication between the new legislation and existing ordinances. She asked about the various council members’ expertise in calling for some requirements found within, such as landscaping. She also was skeptical of the fire department’s ability to devote sufficient manpower to their proposed property inspection duties while still providing adequate safety coverage at current staffing levels.

* The next city council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 19 in council chambers.