Lehigh Valley

Northampton Borough passes public rental unit regulation

Regulations, licensing and inspections covered

NORTHAMPTON BOROUGH, Pa. - Northampton Borough Council voted 4-3 at its Thursday meeting to approve an ordinance regulating public rental units.

Councilmen Ed Pany and Tony Pristas, and Council Vice President Keith Piescienski voted against the ordinance.

The bill was passed after borough residents and council members voiced their opinions on the legislation, with some saying it would go a long way toward ensuring citizens’ safety and some contending it would place unnecessary burdens on landlords and tenants.

The proposed ordinance would establish regulations, licensing and inspections for rental properties and housing occupancy in the borough. The ordinance would set minimum standards for rental properties and establish violations and penalties, as well as an appeals process.

The borough contains 1,365 registered rental units.

In brief:

  • Owners of residential rental units would need to submit a registration application for each unit periodically, with each application requiring a fee.
  • The borough would then issue the owners a Residential Rental Registration license after the application is submitted.
  • Property owners would need to provide the borough with a listing of the rental units’ occupants by Dec. 31 of each year.
  • Rental unit owners would also need to inform the borough whenever an occupancy change occurs within their unit.
  • The borough would need to complete an inspection of each rental unit periodically, with unit owners paying an inspection fee.

Most residents who spoke at the meeting, including some landlords, supported the legislation, saying it ensured tenant safety.

Ruth Miller, who is a landlord, supported the legislation and its inspection fees, saying “you cannot put a price on health and safety.”

Councilwoman Judy Kutzler said the ordinance was intended to ensure the health and welfare of borough residents as well as to establish more “humane” standards of living for citizens.

The ordinance would make sure everybody in the borough is safe and lives in a healthy environment, Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr. said.

Councilman Tony Pristash said the ordinance was “unfairly applied,” saying many landlords maintain their property well but would still need to pay inspection fees.

The ordinance, which would amount to a “landlord occupancy tax,” would cause landlords to pass the costs of the fees to tenants, Pristash said.

Councilman Edward Pany said while inspections are necessary, the regulations and fees the ordinance establishes are “excess baggage” and would lead to “big government.”

Other business

Council voted to hire a new full-time police officer, Matthew Bennicoff. The addition of Bennicoff will bring the borough’s complement of full-time police officers to 12.

Council also approved the hiring of Keith Knoblach as a part-time codes enforcement officer. Knoblach is also chief of the borough’s volunteer fire department.

Council President Anthony Lopsonzski, Jr. was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

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