LEWISTON — New city rules designed to target problem tenants won't be designed to hurt landlords, city officials said Tuesday.
Mayor Robert Macdonald joined police Chief Mike Bussiere and some of his officers to brief members of Lewiston Landlords Association on what the new rules could mean.
"Our goal is give everybody tools to get rid of the problems," Macdonald said. "My goal, eventually, is to have not Section 8 rents — not 'affordable' but market rate rents — and good tenants. And you people are a key part of that."
Macdonald has championed new city codes that would crack down on unmaintained or troublesome properties. It would require owners and landlords to fix situations when their tenants are causing problems — disturbing their neighbors or committing crimes.
Landlords who don't work with the city or don't try to fix the problem could face fines.
But officials said they don't want to penalize landlords.
"When you folks hear about this ordinance coming out, you expect it's going to be a new way to punish you, a new way to cite you and a new way to cost you money," officer Charlie Weaver said. "I'm telling you, that is not the intent — it never has been. My goal in this whole thing is to get to know all of you, but to work with you to solve these problems."
Weaver is one of three officers who work a police detail focused on downtown problems, and that detail is helping Bussiere write new rules.
As a first step, Weaver said he's trying to create an email list to contact landlords when a tenant on their property is involved with the police. Having that information might encourage landlords to confront problem tenants and could give landlords evidence if they need to pursue an eviction.
"If there were multiple calls for service, we then could contact the landlord and address that issue and work through that," Sgt. Rob Ullrich said. "The goal is to work through it, and if for some reason the landlord refuses to assist, then we might progress to a fine system. But the goal is just to work."
Landlords said they need information from police.
Landlord Tom Peters said the group is worried this will become another way to try and collect money from landlords.
"What we want from you folks, is we need the tools so that if you tell us we have a bad guy, we can get rid of him," Peters said. "Just give us the tools, not fines."
Bussiere said there was no timeline for the ordinance. His staff is pulling similar codes from around the country to see what has worked elsewhere. Eventually, he said his staff would need to work with the landlords to review the ordinance.
"I want us to all work together so when that ordinance comes before the City Council, everybody will be saying, 'Yeah, it's a good ordinance.'"