Middletown landlord questions nuisance ordinance

6:00 a.m. Thursday, June 18, 2015 Local News

Middletown’s proposed chronic nuisance ordinance received a first reading Tuesday, but not all landlords are in agreement with the revised language.

The Middletown Real Estate Investors Group and City Manager Doug Adkins spent about one month clarifying the language of the ordinance, which is designed to keep track of properties that generate higher than normal calls for city services through code enforcement violations, criminal activity or other actions that require a public safety unit to respond.

The ordinance was set to be on City Council’s April 21 agenda, but was pulled so city officials could have further conversations about it with local landlords.

Jeff Faulkner, a local landlord who told council during citizen comments that he owns more than 100 properties in Middletown, wanted clarifications on issues of criminal trespass and how that would trigger a nuisance violation as well as other penalties and provisions.

Faulkner said some landlords who use property management services may not know about police calls for service until it is too late and was concerned about the amount of penalties and fines that could be levied against landlords. He also raised concerns about the appeals process.

“I would have thought you would have asked for the opinion of those who own a lot of property,” said Faulkner, who claimed he was never invited to landlord meetings.

After the meeting, City Manager Doug Adkins said Faulkner’s concerns were already addressed in the ordinance. Those provisions include that a landlord who learns of the issue and who has taken the necessary steps to address the issue, such as filing criminal complaints against someone or initiated eviction proceedings, will not face action by the city or have those properties declared as chronic public nuisances.

Steve Bohannon, chairman of the Middletown Real Estate Investors Group that is made up of local landlords, said they have spent a lot of time working with city officials on the proposed ordinance trying to do something positive to protect their investments and to work with the city.

“He’s a bigger operator and doesn’t need us,” Bohannon said of Faulkner. “Most of us have a smaller number of properties.”

Faulkner and the city have had issues in the past, including a pending civil suit against the city in Butler County Common Pleas Court that was filed in January concerning malicious prosecution and other issues when the city operated its own public housing authority to administer Section 8 housing choice vouchers.

The city has transferred control of the Section 8 program to the Butler and Warren county metropolitan housing authorities and has closed down the Middletown Metropolitan Housing Authority.

“It’s (the ordinance) is designed to get the out of town landlords out who don’t care about the city,” Bohannon said. “I’m 100 percent behind it and it’s good for the city. If you have properties, you need to take care of them. Do what you’re supposed to do and everything will be fine.”

The proposal is now set to go before council for consideration and final adoption at the June 21 meeting.

Earlier this year, to assist local landlords in leasing their properties to quality prospects, the city set aside $5,000 for reduced-cost background checks. Landlords currently are left to their own devices to screen tenants.

The city is working with Selection.com who can prepare a report on prospective tenants that include previous addresses, past due accounts, and credit score as well as a criminal check of more than 241 courts in Ohio. In addition, the company also offers about 19 other types of checks for an additional fee.

Selection.com usually charges $15 for these reports, but will do it for $9 for local landlords.

Selection.com reported eight landlords have screened 26 prospective tenants since the program started, according to city spokeswoman Carley Berman.