There is a new landlord licensing law in effect in Cheektowaga, and unlike when it was first proposed nearly 18 months ago, there seems to be broad support among town officials, police and residents.
The new law, which was unanimously approved at a Monday night Town Board meeting, requires any landlord renting more than three “non-owner-occupied dwelling units” to register with the town “in order to curb criminal activity and disorder.”
“This is one step of many steps for improving the lives of our residents,” said Stanley J. Kaznowski III, the Town Board member who co-sponsored the resolution along with Supervisor Mary F. Holtz. “We wanted people to know we’re sincere in cleaning up our neighborhoods.”
The law will require the affected landlords to register with the town to obtain a two-year license – without any fee – and provide contact information for a local property manager as well as the names of the tenants residing at each unit.
In the event there is “criminal or public nuisance activity” occurring on the dwelling property, fines will be imposed on the landlord for repeated police reports generated at those addresses. No fines are levied for the first two police reports, but the fines start at $50 for the third incident in the same calendar year. It increases to $100 for the fourth incident, $500 for the fifth incident and $1,000 for each subsequent one.
“The Police Department is 100 percent behind this legislation,” said Cheektowaga Police Capt. James J. Speyer Jr. “This is a tool that will allow us to have some leverage. This will help us to rectify some of our ongoing problems” of repeated calls for the same types of incidents at the same address.
Kaznowski said the new law serves three main purposes:
• The town gets access to information that will track in a database who manages and lives at each unit.
• It compiles repeated cases of nuisance, like loud music or neighbor disputes, and those of criminality, including drug reports, incidents of prostitution, gang activity, burglary and others.
• It gives the landlords a boost in efforts to evict problem tenants.
Initially, the town considered requiring all landlords to register for a fee, but town leaders, using information gathered in a September 2011 public hearing, made some changes to those early drafts of the law.
“We tweaked it,” Holtz said, primarily so as to exclude those “mom-and-pop” landlords who live on location with tenants and target, instead, absentee landlords. “We just wanted to pass responsibility on to the landlords to think before they rent.”
Unlike in many communities that have landlord licensing regulations that govern mainly code enforcement issues, Cheektowaga’s specifically targets “quality of life” issues, Kaznowski said.
“We’re really trying to help people in their neighborhoods, If you look at this. Why should you pay taxes for police to attend a property 200-300 times every year?” asked Kaznowski.
The new law takes effect May 1.
For a replay of a live blog of Monday’s meeting, go to blogs.BuffaloNews.com/live. email: firstname.lastname@example.org