Mayor Richard Kimball is recommending a plan to license landlords in the city as a way to try to improve housing.
After a string of complaints about housing code violations, the mayor told the City Council during a work session Monday night he wants to follow Buffalo's example and institute a landlord licensing law.
"I will be asking that we license all non-owner occupied properties in the city," Kimball said. "Buffalo's law calls for licensing apartment units of three or more. This deals with even single-family homes if they are not owner-occupied."
The mayor said all rental units would have to be inspected to make sure the property is up to code before being rented out. He also said tenants would have more responsibilities.
"It puts the burden on the landlord to make sure the property is up to code," Kimball said. "But it also puts some responsibility on tenants. They can't just go in and trash a place and leave it."
At least one city landlord objected to the plan Tuesday. Former City Council Member Anthony LoGuidice, a member of the Real Estate Investors Association, said the city already has a number of laws favoring tenants but burdening owners.
"We are already responsible for the entire upkeep of our properties," LoGuidice said. "We are responsible for unpaid utility bills, and often we get stuck for back rent and cleanup costs when tenants take off in the middle of the night, leaving garbage all over our apartments."
He called the licensing proposal an additional burden on landlords and said what the city really needs is better enforcement of existing laws.
"Most of the housing code problems are due to irresponsible tenants, not absentee landlords. You can't say a landlord who lives in Lakewood or Ellicott or Falconer is absentee just because they are not in the city," LoGuidice said.
"There are some of what you would call slumlords around, but most of us are responsible people who are doing our best to keep our properties up."
Kimball has been trying to address the issue of neighborhood blight for several months, launching a clean sweep program during the summer that he said had been partly successful.
"It takes a long time to teach responsibility," he said. "We need to clean up some of our neighborhoods, and I think this (new law) will go a long way toward doing that."