A significant percentage of Jamestown residents remains absent from ongoing discussions over ways to improve rental properties in Jamestown.
They are the ones who make the business a worthwhile one in the first place. They lack either the will or the ability to buy a house, choosing to rent instead. In many cases, they pay their rent on time and act as stewards of the homes they inhabit - and in other cases, they trash the place and leave their landlord with hundreds of dollars in unpaid utility bills.
City Council members hope to find tenants to participate in talks over a proposed landlord licensing statute since there is a good chance they will be affected as much as the property owners are.
City Councilman Paul Whitford, D-Ward 6 and Housing Committee chairman, discusses landlord and tenant issues with city resident Peter Morgante at a meeting Monday. Sitting beside Whitford is City Clerk Jim Olson, left, and City Councilman Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2, center.
P-J photo by Patrick Fanelli
''We're trying to balance it out between the landlords and the tenants,'' said City Councilman Paul Whitford, D-Ward 6, who is spearheading the effort as Housing Committee chairman.
So far, little has been discussed other than the need to create a sub-committee to explore the merits of adopting stricter regulations for landlords and tenants alike to ensure that rental properties - which represent almost half of the properties in Jamestown - are kept in good shape.
The effort could result in an ordinance that requires landlords to be licensed with the city, though City Council members involved with the discussions have been trying to put distance between the fundamental goal they have in mind and visions of a landlord licensing statute.
It's a misnomer, according to City Council President Gregory Rabb, D-At Large, since the Housing Committee may find other ways to achieve the goal of ensuring the upkeep of rental properties that has nothing to do with landlord licensing.
As a landlord himself who maintains a home in the city for tenants, Rabb said he is in favor of the measure simply because it is not fair for some landlords in the city to leave their properties a mess and for others to invest their time and money in keeping them in good condition.
''I try to maintain my property, but it's expensive,'' Rabb said. ''I have to compete in this business with landlords who are bad and not taking care of the properties, and sometimes they can charge less than I can. ... I have a tough time competing against bad landlords.''
Council members hope to have landlords represented on the sub-committee with two members of the Real Estate Investors Association. They also hope to have one or two tenants on the sub-committee as well with a kick-off meeting tentatively scheduled for August.