A landlord licensing law described by Common Council members as the most important legislation for city neighborhoods in recent years was vetoed late Friday by Mayor Griffin.
The bill's sponsor, Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, quickly promised to attempt to override the veto at Tuesday's Council meeting.
"I'll lobby the votes aggressively," he said. "The vote will be 'Are you for representing your constituents whose neighborhoods are being destroyed or absentee landlords?' "
Franczyk said the mayor's veto means he is siding with investors. In his veto, Griffin said the cost of the program probably would be passed on to tenants, "many of whom are the very members of our society who can least afford to absorb the costs."
The law calls for the inspection of all rental apartments every two years. It also establishes a license and fee system for landlords. Only owner-occupied doubles would be excluded.
Landlords would pay $35 per building for the application and license and $30 per building for the inspection. An additional charge of $10 per unit would be made for one to four units; $8 per unit for five to 10 units, and $5 per unit for 10 or more units.
The Council passed the ordinance, 10-3, on Nov. 27. The legislation enacting the fees was approved 9-4. Nine votes are required to override the mayor's veto.
"This is probably the most significant piece of legislation the Council has passed in the past few years to support the neighborhoods," Council Majority Leader Eugene M. Fahey said.
Franczyk said he hopes the Council members who originally supported the law will stick to their votes. In the past week, representatives of local landlord associations have been lobbying Council members to change their minds.
"At this point, we don't know if we can stop the override," said Donald J. Reeves, president of the Western New York Chapter of the National Apartment Owners Association.
Reeves said he agrees that more needs to be done to penalize irresponsible landlords, but contends the Franczyk law is too broad. He also said the city does not have enough inspectors to check all apartments every two years.
Franczyk said the law, which was co-sponsored by Masten Council Member David A. Collins, has support from block clubs and community groups. He said petition campaigns are under way to support the override.
"This landlord initiative is one of the most important pieces of legislation I've ever co-sponsored," he said. "I'd say 90 percent of the calls to my office are about dilapidated properties."
The entire rental industry should be treated like a business, Franczyk said, with regular inspections and minimum standards.
Revenues from the fees would pay for more building inspectors, Franczyk said. The city now has 34.
"Right now, the city is on the verge of a crisis because we don't have enough inspectors," he said.
The mayor said he supports rigorous enforcement of building codes and would consider increasing penalties for repeat offenders. Griffin said a new penalty should be instituted for landlords who punish tenants for reporting hazardous conditions.
"Unfortunately, the city's building inspectors are often frustrated in their attempt to enforce the housing code by judges who are too lenient," Griffin said.
The Franczyk law is the latest in a series of attempts by the Council to regulate the rental business, Fahey said. Previous efforts failed because they focused on smaller categories of apartments such as student housing.
"That was illegal because it was exclusive," Fahey said. "Franczyk has gotten around it by making it citywide. I think it's good for Buffalo."