Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Trash Can Placement And More Fines For Roanoke City Landlords


Photo by Roanoke Times
Below is an open letter to the city council and mayor pertaining to some changes to city code requiring citizens to put their trash cans at the side or behind the principal structure. The porch does not count as the principal structure.

REI was concerned with the additional fines that landlords will get from what tenants do. This is a letter written to the council and mayor and a response below. I was happy to see that the city council and mayor appear to be listening to our concerns and willing to work together to develop a solution that works for everyone.

Responses came from Mayor Bowers, Court Rosen and Bill Bestpich. Mr. Bowers and Rosen said that if we are having problems at the implementation of the program we should contact them. Mr. Bestpich offered a solution as to where if landlords document our first 2 attempts to get compliance from the tenant, the city will work with us to develop a mutually satisfactory solution.

All were misinformed by a comment made by the Solid Waste Department that implied that the landlord is the one who gets the notice of non - compliance. They were not aware that notices of non - compliance for the trash cans go to the tenant and we are not aware that there is a problem until the day we get a fine.

Mayor Bowers and City Council,

Real Estate Investors of Roanoke, an association of 450 investors in Roanoke, is aware that there will be a scheduled council meeting tonight pertaining to a modification / clarification to the city code to require citizens to put their trash cans on the side of the house rather than the porch or front yard. And that there will also be 2 more people hired to enforce violations.

We all agree with doing what we can to make Roanoke a nice place to live. The one thing REI of Roanoke has issues with is the increase of fines to landlords as a result of this for what tenants do. In most of our leases we require our tenants to follow the city code. I'm sure you are aware that it is impossible for a landlord to actually monitor this. It is more of an empty threat. And I'm also sure you are aware that a tenant is not concerned with their landlord getting a fine. Especially when they are skipping out in the middle of the night without paying rent.

A landlord should not be accountable for what a tenant does.  People should have accountability for their own actions. If we are truly trying to resolve the trash issue I would like to suggest giving the fine to the person who created the problem. If a tenant leaves their trash can at the street or puts out more than 6 items, they are the one who should get the fine. If that was the case, they would NEVER do it again ANYWHERE they live in Roanoke. However giving the fine to the landlord will result in the continuation of this bad behavior as they will never suffer the consequences of their own actions.

You may be thinking how this could be enforced considering that the city can easily determine the property owner but not the tenant. I would like to offer a solution to this problem.

There are 2 points of contact that the city has with landlords pertaining to solid waste issues. One, if the tenant sets out more than 6 items the Solid Waste Dept has been good about contacting the landlord so we are aware and can clean it up. Another point in contact is when a fine is sent to the landlord.

REI of Roanoke would like to suggest that if the landlord responds to either of these points of contact with the tenant who created the problems name, SSN, DOB or anything else needed, the city submit a bill to the responsible party. If the landlord does not respond to these points of contact than go right ahead and bill them for it.

If the objective is to solve the problem, which I have found is the most talked about issue in the neighborhood association meetings I attend, billing the person who created the problem is the solution that will clean up this city. Billing the landlord will never resolve the issue.

We are small business owners and times are tight for us as well. We are continuously bombarded with many forms of taxes, fees, fines, tenant trash removal, painting between tenants, mortgage payments, insurance, mowing, repairs, continual maintenance, court costs, lawyer fees, etc. The list goes on and on. We don't need more fines from ramped up solid waste violations. Please consider adding a sentence to the city code that requires fines be given to the appropriate party so we can permanently resolve this issue.

Best regards,


Dallas.



Response from Mr. Bestpich:

Dallas

I agree with your basic premise that we all should be accountable for our
own actions.  Actually, if common sense and common courtesy really were
common, this wouldn't even be an issue for any of us.

I would encourage you and other landlords to make compliance with local,
state and federal laws and regulations more than an empty threat in your
leases.  We were assured yesterday that no one would be fined before
receiving three notices of non-compliance.  If you can document your
efforts to get a tenant to comply after the first two notices, city staff
should be willing to work with you to develop mutually satisfactory
solutions.  I hope you will let us know if that is not your experience.

As you note, real estate investment is a business activity, and each
business owner has an obligation to the larger community to conduct
business in a manner that benefits all the stakeholders.  I am sure that is
your goal in the operation of all your business interests.

Thanks for taking the time to share your concerns.

Bill Bestpitch


REI Response:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for taking the time to read REI of Roanoke's viewpoints on this issue. And thanks for offering the solution pertaining to documenting our efforts to gain compliance.

Regarding this comment:
"We were assured yesterday that no one would be fined before
receiving three notices of non-compliance.  If you can document your
efforts to get a tenant to comply after the first two notices, city staff
should be willing to work with you to develop mutually satisfactory
solutions.  I hope you will let us know if that is not your experience."

I'm afraid that what you have been told by the Solid Waste Department was misleading so I am copying Skip Decker on this email so he can tell you the truth. Yes, it is "technically correct" that the Solid Waste Department will give three notices of non-compliance before sending a landlord a fine for the tenants bad behavior.... however when we are talking about the big blues, those notices do not go to the landlord. They go to the tenant.

The "first notice" the landlord has is the fine. There is no opportunity to rectify the situation. And this is why this issue is important to REI.

Skip, could you tell the mayor, city manager, city councilmen and REI if you have made a policy change as to where now landlords will get the notices of non-compliance for the tenants bad behavior pertaining to the big blues?  Maybe this is a new policy change and REI has been left out of the loop.

I asked our group at our meeting last night if it was just me that did not get notices for "big blue violations" and the vote was 100% unanimous that no one in the room has ever received one.  The notices of non-compliance for "big blues" are presently given to the tenant.

We feel it is important that when any department in the city makes plans that will negatively affect small business owners such as ourselves, that they come to one of our weekly meetings prior to doing so to talk about the issue and work together to develop a viable solution that is a win win for everyone. We have been working diligently over the past year attempting to work with both the city and the neighborhood associations to fight neighborhood blight. We are trying to provide an open line of communication so this is not an us against them scenario but rather one that works together to make Roanoke a great place to live.

It has been an uphill battle and we are still being left out of the decision making process but we don't intend to give up. We are under the belief that working together will develop solid relationships and foster an environment that will lead to change. We hope the city feels the same way.

Thanks again for taking your time to hear our viewpoints on this issue.


Best regards,


Dallas 


Response from Mr. Bestpich:

You're exactly right, Dallas.  Keeping the lines of communication open is
the best way to resolve concerns to everyone's satisfaction.  We need a
system to send three notices to the person who will be fined before that
happens.  I am sure that Skip and Chris will continue to work on an
equitable process to implement the policy adopted by city council.

Bill


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