Curwensville Borough, Landlords Discuss Proposed Rental Property Ordinance

CURWENSVILLE – Curwensville Borough Council and several borough landlords continue to debate the merits of a proposed rental property ordinance.

At a special meeting Tuesday, several landlords questioned the council about several items in the ordinance.

Landlord Art Faccone asked how the ordinance would relate to HUD properties. Faccone said HUD has its own regulations regarding inspections. Faccone asked if the borough would need to inspect HUD apartments, since they are already inspected.

Code Enforcement Officer and Council Member Tom Carfley said HUD properties would not need inspected by the borough unless one of the tenants makes a complaint. However, Carfley said that the unit would still need to be registered.

Faccone asked who would be serving on the board of appeals, if a landlord wanted to appeal any of the findings of an inspection.

Because the council is a member of the Moshannon Valley Council of Governments, they can utilize the Mo-Valley COG’s resources for an appeals board.

Carfley said the borough also has an agreement with Clearfield Borough and Lawrence Township to use their appeals board for any issues in Curwensville.

Landlord Dan Russell asked how the borough is going to handle properties, which are already occupied. Carfley said units that are presently rented will be grandfathered.

He said these apartments won’t need an inspection unless they become vacant or unless the tenant files a complaint. He said the landlords will be required to notify the borough of any changes.

Landlord Darlene Wriglesworth asked why the borough was charging a registration fee. She said the inspections can be done without the need for a fee.

Carfley said the council had changed the fee from $100 per building to $25 per unit. He said the council determined the $25 per unit would be fairer to the landlords.

He said there could be a landlord paying $100 for one apartment in one building, whereas another landlord could be paying $100 for several apartments in one building.

Wriglesworth asked how the borough was going to keep track of the renters. She said even utility companies have trouble keeping track of renters when they move. She said the borough was “penalizing good landlords by making them pay fees.”

Wriglesworth asked how long a landlord would have to wait to get an inspection before they could rent their units to new tenants. She said if the timeframe is too long, she could lose good tenants.

Council member Dave Donahue said he agreed that the inspections would need to be done in a timely fashion. He also said that the council needs to make sure the apartments being rented are “livable.” He said there have been issues in the borough with tenants in units without water or heat.

The landlords asked about a timeframe of when the ordinance will go into effect. Carfley said the updated draft of the rental ordinance will be advertised for seven days and will be voted on at the Oct. 14 meeting.

He said the new ordinance will take effect Jan 1, 2020. The ordinance pertains to residential properties only, not commercial rentals.

The council said they have made several changes to the ordinance, based on discussions with landlords. They have made the registration fee $25 per unit, instead of $100 per building.

They removed any references to jail time, and changed the word “license” to “permit.” Inspections will be based on an as-needed basis or if there’s a complaint filed, instead of annually and a more detailed checklist for inspections has been put together.

The council has also removed the “vacant property” section and will have a separate ordinance to deal with vacant and foreclosed properties. The council also lowered the fines in the “violations and penalties” section.

According to the updated ordinance, landlords must keep and maintain all units in compliance with all applicable codes, ordinances and provisions of all applicable local and state laws and regulations, including but not limited to the Property Maintenance Codes of the Borough of Curwensville.

Landlords must register each property. Landlords must obtain and maintain a permit for each unit, and failure to register will result in a $300 fine.

No registration or permit can be transferred unless the new operator shall give notice in writing to the Code Official within 10 days after the transfer, in any manner, of ownership or control of the interest in the property.

The fee for transferring a Registration and or Permit shall be $25 per unit and shall be paid at the sale or transfer of title. An additional $50 per unit shall be due should the $25 per unit transfer fee not be paid upon sale or transfer of title.

The ordinance outlines the inspection process and the steps a landlord can take if they wish to appeal any violations, as well as penalties and remedies for violations.

A full copy of the ordinance can be found at https://curwensvilleborough.com/.

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