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Proposed City Ordinances Should Take Aim At Bad Landlords And At Bad Tenants

No one should be happy with the condition of some houses in Jamestown.

At a time when home values have skyrocketed in the city, there are still houses whose values are a drain on the rest of the neighborhood. Everyone knows there are some landlords who can’t be found when the time comes to make a repair or deal with an issue. Everyone knows there are landlords who don’t care what happens on their property as long as they receive their rent check.

There are thousands of city residents who want to see those landlords put out of business for good. And we agree. The city should make it so difficult for a bad landlord to stay in business that they fade away.

But it takes two to tango on the pile of garbage on the front lawn. To place the blame entirely on landlords is unfair, because some landlords can’t keep ahead on maintenance because tenants abuse properties like a cheap rental car. Jamestown has long had a problem with a population of poor tenants and a population of poor landlords.

It’s hard to argue that a rental inspection ordinance and public nuisance ordinance aren’t needed. The city must have a way to tamp down the neighborhood issues — including the waste of police resources — that certain properties create. We hope, however, that the ordinances work both ways. Why should a landlord be the only one held responsible for a tenant’s behavior? Why should a landlord lose their property if they are holding up their end of the tenant-landlord contract by providing safe, up-to-code housing?

New York state made things impossible for landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords couldn’t evict tenants, had a difficult time applying for rental assistance without tenants cooperating and were still expected to pay their taxes and expenses even if they weren’t being paid rent.

The city’s ordinances fall in line with the state’s thinking when it comes to the tenant-landlord relationship by placing the blame on landlords — even if the landlord in some situations isn’t at fault or if existing state regulations make evicting poor tenants nearly impossible.

The City Council and Development Department are right to push more stringent ordinances. Bad landlords should be held responsible. So should bad tenants.

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