New York State Senator Tim Kennedy is renewing a push for a bill that would give the City of Buffalo power to more effectively deal with problem landlords.
In the current environment, City code enforcement officials face a tough time collecting fines for housing code violations from slumlords and absentee landlords who are sometimes blanketed behind limited liability corporations and often live out of state or country.
Under the proposed legislation S.4229-A, any unpaid housing code violations would be treated as delinquent taxes. This would permit the city to place a lien on affected properties, giving concerned neighbors more recourse against problem landlords who would then have to pay up or face foreclosure. The legislation passed the Senate June 17th, but remained stuck in committee in the Assembly. Kennedy is calling on the Assembly to bring the bill to the floor for a vote during the upcoming session.
“Each neighborhood I represent has its own set of challenges, but the issue of blight caused by absentee landlords and property owners remains a consistent complaint stretching into every corner of my district,” said Kennedy. “If passed, this legislation will empower the City of Buffalo to say enough is enough- you can’t hide any longer. Responsible property owners are critical to rebuilding our city and fostering vibrant neighborhoods. At the core, we are protecting our property owners and our property values, and we’re forcing those who remain negligent to pay up, or get out.”
The push coincides with current issues in the city, from Councilman Pridgens’ ‘shamelord’ sign posting on Orange St., to Towne Gardens, LLC’s recent appearance in housing court last Thursday.
Lawyers for the Towne Gardens Apartments on the city’s East Side were in court to address a litany of issues affirmed by residents, inspectors, and members of the media over the past several years. More than 1,000 violations have been filed since 2011, according to city attorneys. Over the years, the issues have included plumbing problems, unsafe broken locks, dangerous mold, a few broken windows, and problematic gutters, roofs, and soffits. According to the complex’s attorney, the most of the problems that they were in court to address have been rectified.
Councilman Pridgen maintains that despite the progress made at Towne Gardens Apartments there are still concerns that prevent the case from being taken out of court. The lawyer for Towne Gardens is due back in court on Jan. 18 to update the city on the lights around the complex.
The proposed legislation was originally spurred by Project Slumlord and has the support of Mayor Byron Brown and Common Council President Darius Pridgen.
“Most landlords are law-abiding and responsible, but we need to continue to crackdown on property owners who don’t pay their fines for housing code violations,” said Mayor Byron Brown in support of the legislation.