Got a bad tenant? Landlord could go to jail |

Got a bad tenant? Landlord could go to jail

Area landlords are asking for input on a proposed Grass Valley ordinance that could cost them up to $1,000 or jail time if their tenants are repeatedly in trouble with the law.

Citing the early February “Good Neighbor” proposal, some landlords are concerned with how the policy will affect them. The measure would hold landlords accountable for their tenants if the tenants are the subject of multiple police calls within a month’s time.

The city, which heard the concerns of landlords after the ordinance was proposed earlier this month, will hold a workshop Thursday, March 25, to discuss the issue. The city is also delaying a second reading on the ordinance until one of their April meetings.

“We feel we still need to do additional work on the ordinance,” said Mayor Lisa Swarthout. “It’s not our intent to go after average landlord-tenant issues. It’s to create safer neighborhoods.”

The proposed ordinance came about after the City Council heard from community groups and residents in neighborhoods throughout town as they voiced their concerns over landlords who refused to do anything about problem tenants. In one case, two properties belonging to a particular landlord drew 60-plus calls for service between them in 2009. Grass Valley police attempted to contact the man to do something but were unable to make any headway.

The ordinance could force landlords into the unpleasant position of making evictions after a single tenant arrest, said Cory Koehler, the senior deputy director of the Rental Housing Association of Sacramento Valley, which represents landlords in Grass Valley.

“You don’t want to engulf good owners in a problem caused by one or two rental owners,” Koehler said. “We’re wondering if there is a way to deal with this with existing laws. Put yourself in the rental owner’s shoes. If they get noticed of one complaint on one of their tenants, they may want to start the eviction process just to cover themselves.”

After helping to craft the ordinance based on others like it statewide, Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster said the intent wouldn’t be to crack down on every landlord citywide.

“The spirit of the law is that we’re trying to work with the community to fix these long-term problems,” Foster said.

Both Foster and Koehler agreed better screening practices by landlords could cut down on problem tenants.

The March 25 meeting will be held at Grass Valley City Hall on 125 E. Main Street at a time yet to be determined.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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