City intends housing code to help landlords, mayor tells group

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.

Macdonald agreed.

"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.'"

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The problem

It seems to me there are problem landlords as well as problem tenants. We need to get rid of both. The city needs to enforce the codes. They are there for a reason. We would not be looking at all the blight we have if the codes had been enforced sooner. I also wonder if the trash problem in the city isn't something the city could do more to eliminate. City people mostly don't have vehicles to take trash to the dump. It's all well and good to tell them to pick it up but perhaps it would encourage them more if the city stepped up its trash collection in those neighborhoods. As for section 8 housing, it seems to me we need to start by taking a survey to determine the need vs. the availability. It makes no sense to just decide we should not have any. Lewiston has a substantial population of elderly, handicapped and low income workers. A candidate running for office should not be turning his back on those folks.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

The hard truth

I was in Lewiston in August and had to stand at a window with only a small hole to speak thru, in a noisy hallway to conduct verifying I have rental property in Lewiston, supply my ID and fill out paperwork to receive an E- File permit for an annual dump permit.

The hardship of any other person to get a dump pass is off the wall, when many would love to get rid of the trash and garbage left by others to clean up their neighborhoods, but the city hampers that ability with all of the red tape and disqualification for the dump access or charges for certain items.

Having said that, if the city would open the dumps on specific days or months for neighborhood cleanups for the community to discard that junk left behind buildings etc., it would help clean up the neighborhoods much more than they can now.

I would also suggest that that the city could leave the large debris dumpsters at open lot locations in the city for the community to utilize giving them access in that manner as well as another solution..

Food for thought....

Robert McQueeney's picture

Problem tenants

Having worked in the apartment business for a good many years, I can tell you it is very difficult to evict a problem tenant. There are waiting periods and when you finally get a legal order to evict a tenant, every judge wants to show their humanity and give the problem tenant yet another month to move out, so they can find a new place to live. The obvious problem with tis is that gives the problem tenant another month to be a problem, and to destroy the apartment, all the while the landlord can not do anything about someone destroying their property. This makes it extremely difficult for the landlord to be able to maintain his buildings while paying the mortgage, insurance and taxes, as well as whatever utilities he includes with the rent.

If Mayor MacDonald is working with landlords, he surely has been made aware of these concerns. I would be very interested to learn what Mayor MacDonald is proposing to actually give landlords the tools they need to protect and preserve their property.

Bob Wright's picture

Randall, sometimes there are

Randall, sometimes there are things that need to be said with no nice way to say them. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Randall Pond's picture

Targeting Section 8?!

Are you People On Drugs or WHAT?! Saying you do Not Want Section 8 Housing in Lewiston and Affordable Rents is a Fast Way to Make NO ONE Want to Live in your City!

I don't know where you think low income people are going to live.

Not all Problem people in the Twin Cities are on Section 8 and I find out Targeting them like this in writing to be Highly Offensive!

May or MacDonald You're up for Re-Election When? Lewiston Needs to get rid of you like The State of Maine Needs to get Rid of Governor Paul LePage.

Shame on You for Saying What you Said. You People in Office Disgust ME!


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