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Cracking down on code violations
SCHENECTADY -- Pay up or else. The City of Schenectady is going after landlords whose properties are falling apart, causing much more than a nuisance to the neighborhood, but possibly danger to residents. A group of landlords met with the city's building department Tuesday to hear the progress.
Not every landlord is bad, but the city's chief building inspector says a "ridiculous" number of them do not register their properties. That could mean thousands of unreported code violations.
This week one property owner was forced to pay up, and his bill may be the first of many more to follow.
"When you live in a city with close proximity to neighbors you have responsibilities," said Eric Shilling, Schenectady Chief Building Inspector.
Shilling says too many landlords aren't holding to them -- like the man who owned a house on Swan Street, ordered by the court to pay $85,000 in fines for 254 code violations. Among them, garbage accumulating, leaks, holes in ceilings and floors. He was caught -- the problem is others who hide behind closed doors.
"There's about a twenty percent participation in the law," Shilling said.
"Given that we've been running some numbers to identify almost 18,000 rental units available to the City of Schenectady and when you look at about a 20 percent participation rate you can imagine the unenforced, uninspected, possible unsafe conditions," Shilling said.
Code enforcement has been sweeping neighborhoods looking to clean up the mess -- and warn violators that they will pay. Tuesday the group "Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change" met to hear the progress.
"You can't beat up on someone and expect them to produce especially when the finances aren't there," said Chris Morris.
The landlords in compliance say it's a challenge to be -- especially because so many homes in Schenectady are just old. "Let's work carefully with those people who have invested, that is important, and we want to bring in new investors, and people walk away," Morris said, also adding that landlords are willing to work with the city.
Age is a factor for the building department as well, noting that the older a house is, the more likely the structure could put a family at risk.
"If you're going to make the decision to be a property owner please understand that you're going to have work to do," Shilling said. "You're going to have maintenance to do. That's part of the business."
Schenectady says it's been sending out mailers to try and give landlords ample opportunity to register their rentals and even attempted to make a plea deal with the man who's going to be paying $85,000 in code violations.
A word of advice from the building inspector if you are a renter and you're moving: call the building department in that municipality to make sure the apartment you're moving in to is inspected and up to code.