Spring Garden resident wants landlords held accountable
Rod Beever can recall what Third Avenue in Spring Garden Township looked like before Interstate 83 was constructed. He even remembers the name of an ice cream parlor that was nestled among the small family homes in the tree-lined Elmwood neighborhood.
But Beever's happy memories fade when he considers the current state of the neighborhood, which he said has problems that can be traced to transient renters and absentee landlords.
He has complained to Spring Garden Township officials but said he isn't satisfied with their response.
Beever suggested a citizen board is needed to help handle issues with rental properties.
"It's tough to control landlords," Spring Garden Township President Commissioner Eric Lehmayer acknowledged. "You see that everywhere."
But he said he thinks the township has "a good handle on things" when it comes to Spring Garden's 600 to 700 rental units.
Beever disagreed, citing a list of issues he's had with renters, such as faulty rain gutters and spouting, tenants living in garages, fights between renters and visitors using all of the parking spaces.
"Absentee landlords don't have to handle it," he said. "They don't have to see it."
According to township meeting minutes, township manager Gregory Maust noted that Spring Garden has a Rental Registration Program. All rental properties are required to register with the township on a yearly basis, he said.
As part of the registration, a designated contact person is needed if an owner does not live in the area. Meeting minutes show that Beever was provided contact information.
Lehmayer said he thinks the township communicated effectively. And, he added, he doesn't think the township has an absentee landlord problem.
Beever confirmed that he spoke with the township's code-enforcement officer a few times after he presented his concerns to commissioners at their June meeting. He said he thinks follow-up is lacking.
To prevent out-of-town landlords from evading building-code requirements, Beever said he thinks commissioners should consider "an alternative," such as a citizen board that acts as a liaison that holds landlords and township officials accountable.
"I think there needs to be communication three ways: the township to the landlords, the township to the other residents, and the landlord to the neighboring residents," the 68-year-old said.
The township has a list of 28 items landlords must provide, such as three operational smoke detectors, a fire extinguisher and heat to all habitable rooms.
Using a citizens board, Beever said, could eliminate hitting landlords with code violations.
"They are trying to run a business, I understand that," he said.
Lehmayer wouldn't comment on Beever's idea, saying it would have to be presented at a regular meeting to all of the commissioners.
A resident of Elmwood dating back to the early 1950s, Lehmayer agreed the neighborhood has changed.
"I don't see it so much on the street that I live on," he said. "In the avenues, there's a lot of duplexes there. (Property owners) either keep their homes and rent them, or people sell and the new owner sees the opportunity to rent them."