‘Good Landlord’ law draws praise, scorn | TheUnion.com
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‘Good Landlord’ law draws praise, scorn

A group of about 80 citizens gathered Thursday night to sound off on Grass Valley’s proposed “Good Landlord” law – praising, deriding and offering suggestions on the controversial proposal.

Some said it would help to clean up their neighborhoods, others said it was an unfair burden on already stressed landlords, while a few questioned its constitutionality.

The ordinance was proposed in February to the Grass Valley City Council as a tool for police to be able to bring landlords to the table in helping them deal with problem tenants.



Police were spending too much time and effort at certain properties where tenants were disturbing entire neighborhoods, said Grass Valley police Chief John Foster. Responses to those properties were taking valuable police resources away from the rest of the city, Foster said.

The police crafted an ordinance to notify landlords of arrests and safety violations at their properties and to possibly punish landlords who failed to make an effort to deal with the problem on a case by case basis with fines, and in extreme cases, jail time.




Some landlords said they thought the policy too punitive.

“You’re passing police responsibility on to us,” said an unidentified man who is a landlord in the city. “It feels like you’re shifting responsibility.”

Many made similar statements, pointing to a criminal justice system which puts some types of offenders back into neighborhoods without substantial punishment as the problem.

They also urged the city to be more communicative with them about problem tenants.

Some complained police couldn’t be specific enough about what kind of problems were occurring at their property so the landlord could make changes.

Neil Dorfman, a local attorney and property owner in Grass Valley, pointed out the eviction process can be tedious and expensive, resulting in months of missed rent and legal fees.

Many landlords agreed, saying the police could be more helpful in removing problem tenants than they could by fining the property owners.

Others said the ordinance could make a difference in their neighborhoods and called on the City Council members to pass it into law.

“We need this in our area,” said Blaine Larios, a resident of North Church Street.

Homeowners there complained about renters menacing the area and were part of the drive to introduce the ordinance in the first place. Some went as far as describing the area as a war-zone. “My wife can’t get down the street sometimes with these people hanging out in the middle of the street. There are a small percentage of properties which are the reason we need this ordinance. We know a majority of landlords are good but the few who aren’t make it very difficult.”

A number of comments echoed Larios’ sentiment, urging the council to pass the proposal to make communities safer.

Overwhelmingly, though, commenters opposed the ordinance at the open meeting attended by Foster, Mayor Lisa Swarthout, the City Council and many city staffers.

Foster pointed out a revised ordinance would go before the council, increasing protection for homeowners. He said the new ordinance could increase the number of infractions a tenant could incur before a landlord would face punishment, and stretch the time period infractions could occur before a punishment could be taken from two within a 30-day period.

He also said if landlords made a good-faith attempt to stop the problem, they’d no longer be accountable to a penalty.


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