Lewiston mayor wants to help landlords get rid of bad tenants

LEWISTON — With promises to work with landlords, Mayor Robert Macdonald said it's time to start cracking down on the people ruining the city.

"A few people that probably shouldn't be here, and we really don't want them here, are in our city," Macdonald said. "It's time to clean it up."

Macdonald and the City Council got their first look Tuesday night at what could become a disorderly property ordinance — requiring landlords to fix situations when their tenants are causing problems, disturbing their neighbors or committing crimes.

"Unfortunately, we are defined by a small area of the city," Macdonald said. "But most of the people in that area are the working poor, and they are suffering more than anybody else because they are sitting there all night long, being kept up by these other people."

City Administrator Ed Barrett gave councilors copies of a Rockland ordinance that does what Macdonald wants at a special workshop meeting. Barrett said a Lewiston ordinance may be very different from Rockland's.

"We don't have to use the same standards, and we have the police looking through our records now to see how it might work with this ordinance here and our call patterns," Barrett said. "We're looking to see how frequently we are called to certain properties and certain units."

The Rockland ordinance declares a property disorderly if police have been called there three times in 60 days or 10 times in a year. Owners of disorderly properties are required to meet with city officials and police to identify the problems and come up with solutions.

Landlords who don't work with the city or don't try to fix the problem face fines of up to $500.

Macdonald said a new ordinance should not be an attempt to force landlords to act as parents or police officers but to take responsibility for their tenants. And Barrett said the process could end up helping landlords.

"It's a very difficult process to evict anyone, and this might be of assistance in documenting the frequency with which the Police Department has had to deal with that property and documenting that they are under some pressure to address the problem," Barrett said. "It could provide proof that it's not a case where a landlord doesn't just dislike the tenant."

Macdonald said the city would work with landlords to come up with a fair ordinance.

A group of landlords attending Tuesday's workshop said they were open to the idea, but had concerns.

"Financially, this ordinance is not going to hurt me at all," said building owner Stan Pelletier. "And if the city wants to give me an affidavit that says certain people don't belong there, I'd love it."

Building owner Donna LeBrun said she thinks tenants should be responsible for their own behavior.

"The landlords should not receive a fine because the police have been sent on a lot of calls," she said. "Obviously, this is not a money-making proposition for a lot of landlords today. I really think people need to be responsible for their actions. I don't think people really are."

Candis Henson, a property manager for several buildings, said she's worried that the landlords and the city could get drawn into conflicts between tenants, with the landlord being forced to pay a fine.

"Invariably I have that one tenant that wants everything to be pin-drop quiet all the time," she said. "I have tenants that call the police on a regular basis now. So I am in favor of this now, but I hope we can come to some understanding of that."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Kim Gerry's picture

I don't agree with much

I haven't agreed with this Mayor Macdonald on much, but this makes sense. I think that there has to be a clear legal channel available for both good tenants and landlords to rid their buildings of the equivalent of human trash. I don't blame the poor for being poor and I don't discriminate. I don't know how section 8 was brought into the conversation as it wasn't mentioned in the article. I don't know about how Maine works but I would be willing to wager most of the bad neighbors aren't even eligible. In other states you can not have a criminal record and receive assistance.

Oh and the comment about poor people not being allowed to own dogs or cats is a bit uncaring. Not everyone who gets assistance has been doing so for as long as they have had their pet. If I had to get assistance does that mean I should be forced to bring my 12 year old companion to the shelter. A lot of people that get assistance are good people just having a hard time. There are many that never pictured themselves having to ask for help. A few rotten apples ruins the bunch.. The problem here is that no one is willing to work together to get rid of the few bad apples. Are there neighborhood watch programs available that can work with the police and advocate for the hard working people who are forced to live next to feral people? As a community people need to stand up and take their neighborhoods back.

I had to get rid of ghetto tripe that lived across the street from me in another metro area. After a long fight, my neighbors and I were able to get the house labeled as "disorderly house" and the neighbors were evicted. Landlords should do a standard background check and find out if trouble follows potential tenants before renting to them Much of the trouble could be avoided if building management made an effort to ensure rental units are not being rented to people who are known trouble makers.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Lewiston mayor wants to help landlords get rid of bad tenants

Scott, Thursday 11:50 am hst
. .This is a tough issue because discrimination is illegal in all 50 of these very United States , the Virgin Islands , the Commonwealth of Saipan , Puerto Rico and the Territory of Guam
Here is how it is playing out here in Hawai'i
First off , the owner owns the building ( generally speaking ) and can probably deny convicted felons for one good reason or another . Pets , too . So , here in HI , building owners are now requiring two months security deposits if\when they accept pets and renters insurance to - also - be purchased by renters
It doesn't make much sense , huh ?
We have more homelessness and feral children than you
Do not forget that some building owners are felons, also , in Lewiston
They are . Background checks are stil very much in order http://sor.informe.org/cgi-bin/sor/index.pl hth ? Steve

Good Idea

In my opinion, I believe this would be a step in the right direction. I have known people in the past who purposely trash/destroy the apartments they live in when they are going through an eviction and that is completely unfair to landlords. Putting an ordinance like this into place is a good idea. I agree with Claire that all parties should be included in the meetings so each side can explain what has been going on. I do worry about those tenants that like to call the police for every little thing and I do not think the landlord or tenants should be penalized if the calls are for minor complaints that do not result in any charges. I lived on the third floor of a building years ago when my children were young and I had a neighbor call the police in the middle of the day because she claimed my children were making too much noise running around in their bedroom (some people just like to complain). If the landlord is willing to work with the city to rectify the situation they would not be penalized. If the landlord chooses to ignore the problem then I think he or she should be penalized. Why would a landlord want to have a problem tenant stay in their building? Maybe the ordinance could include a stipulation that will hold a problem tenant responsible for the fine or at least a portion of it.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Cindy ? Mayor Mac should

Cindy ? Mayor Mac should probably check that - ALL - building owners carry insurance , ƒirst ? . Next ? Fire extinguisers that do work •  4) Code violations including working sprinklers . . .Just a suggestion . ....

Jim Cyr's picture

I hope that

all the parties involved truly participate in meaningful discussions. And Section 8 should be a bridge not a life style. And if the family can not afford their own living expenses, then certainly " no pets allowed " should be the norm! This should be a good start towards the clean-up.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The meeting

I don't often agree with the mayor but I think he may be on to something. While I don't want my city to be the one that gets rid of people because they are poor, or sick, or elderly or have a criminal record, or are on welfare, or because of racial bigotry, I think there is a limit to how much we should put up with destructive, dangerous and criminal behaviour. It would be a very good idea for community leaders to get involved when police are called to a certain building too many times. They should also include the tenants in the meeting to get both sides of the story. Then they could decide reasonably if eviction, mediation, or the involvement of outside social agencies would remediate the problem. Nobody should be allowed to carry on criminal enterprises,sanction loud disruptions especially after 10pm, have their children roaming unsupervised in the middle of the night, have dangerous pets, or make threats of bodily harm nor to assault their neighbors. As far as I'm concerned the sooner we get rid of people like that the sooner we will have a family friendly downtown.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Damn, did it again

If you have a long time tenant, pays their rent on time every time, you would think, in today's market you would strive to keep this tenant. I have run smack-dab into the out of sight out of mind syndrome. I honestly feel the landlord means well, but I'm not living in an apartment built out of "praise". Praise is nice, but maintenance would do a lot more good when living conditions are concerned. I mean, sure I feel good when my landlord thanks me for bringing a badly leaking bathroom faucet to her attention. She will thank me and promise to have the repairs made promptly. She makes this promise every time I bring up the leaking faucet, for years she has been thanking me and promising me in regards to that faucet.
Can you guess where I'm going with this? I finally moved, that in itself was a total disaster, again due to maintenance issues I won't go into. Fifteen years in one place, rent paid on time every month. Once I became disabled and unable to make my own minor maintenance repairs, they stopped.
It's not always the tenant, and not necessarily the landlord. I honestly feel they mean well, but fail miserably in follow through. If I had a quarter every time I heard the phrase, "Oh, I meant to get to that last week", I'd be rich.
I'm not a hard tenant, I am pretty easy to please, but I do require certain things to be done. If they don't get done, you have lost a tenant.
So all you landlords out there, if you have long time tenants. Don't just assume that as long as the rent is paid, all is well. Sometimes something as insignificant as a bathroom faucet can make all the difference in the world.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Frank ? Imagine living in N

Frank ? Imagine living in N Y C where they kick you out for . .uh. .repairing a pipe •  ( ostensibly ) /s Steve

FRANK EARLEY's picture

This only addresses half the problem

The other half of the problem I feel, is much more difficult to fix. It's the woefully ignorant people out there. Both tenants and landlords.

 's picture

As a neighbor who spent years

As a neighbor who spent years getting rid of trash tenants next doorI know how hard it is to do that. One must be very stubborn and be an absolute pest with the municipal government departments who are not fulfilling their obligations.

This mayor is on the right track; get rules in place to allow such bad tenants to be removed and the community will be the better for it.

Robert McQueeney's picture

Ever try to evict anyone, who

Ever try to evict anyone, who really needs evicting? Months, is the very minimum you will need. First, the landlord has to decide this case is bad enough to actually go thru with it. Then he has to file paperwork and wait for a court date. Then the judge, trying to show his humanity (to the problem renters, not to the hardworking landlord) will give the freeloading renters, who no doubt have stopped paying rent, a month to locate another place to live. All this time, the problem renters, who are not even paying rent, proceed to destroy the apartment, and do not leave in the month the gracious judge has given them.

Then comes the actual enforcement of the eviction notice. Not exactly a top priority of law enforcement, so that takes a couple weeks. Then when the stars finally align, and everything comes in place, the problem renters won't answer their locked door, forcing police to break down the door, causing one last expense to the landlord before they finally are no longer his problem. At this point, the landlord finally gets to go into his apartment and survey the damage and decide just how large of a dumpster he needs to bring to the apartment to dispose of all the trash left behind.

I've only had to do this 5 times, but it is incredibly expensive, one case costing in excess of $10,000.00. Ultimately, owning apartments is a business, and these costs will be passed onto the consumer in the form of higher rents, which in turn are often paid by section 8, costing everyone more$$$$.

If you want to act upon the problem tenant situation, you need to give the landlord the real ability to act upon it, all the while recognizing that there may well be a case where the landlord just plain doesn't like a tenant. It has been my experience that landlords like any tenant who pays the rent, doesn't destroy the place and doesn't bother the neighbors.

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