A proposed ordinance, if enacted by Mt. Lebanon Commission, would require owners of multi-family rental properties to register their properties with the municipal inspection office. It also would authorize the municipality to inspect rental units regularly and would mandate that landlords perform necessary maintenance and make repairs. The ordinance, crafted by Chief Inspector Joe Berkley and Codes Enforcement Officer Phil Quattrone, addresses quality-of-life and safety concerns that have been voiced by tenant and landlords in recent years, says Berkley.
Berkley is confident that the ordinance, if passed, will serve both:”If you’re a good tenant and you have a bad landlord, this will help you,” he says. “And if you are a good landlord and have a bad tenant, this will also help you.
Here’s how things would work, as the ordinance currently is written. Rental property owners would have to notify the inspection office, if they have a vacancy. At that time, an inspector would take a look at everything from plumbing and electrical to the general condition of the unit, including plaster, flooring, lighting and water temperature. The unit would either “pass” or “fail” and the landlord given the opportunity to make the needed repairs.
Berkley says tenants often complain that when they signed their lease, the landlord agreed to make minor repairs or replacement —a broken light fixture, a poorly functioning light fixture or a stuck window, for example—but nothing ever happened. “In the past, when we got this sort of complaint, we had to refer it to Allegheny County,” Berkley says. “Now we will be able to force the landlord to fix it.”
Landlords will be given various reasonable deadlines for remedying problems, depending on the severity of condition or the danger it might pose to health or safety. A landlord who does not comply could ultimately end up at the magistrate’s office and be fined up to $1,000.
On the flip side, if a property passes inspection, is leased and then three months later the landlord finds holes in the walls or other kinds or unwarranted damage caused by a tenant, the landlord will be able to use the date in the inspection report as a basis for going to the magistrate and “filing for possession,” evicting the tenant.
A registration and inspection would cost the landlord $65 and covers two inspections of the unit. A single inspection would be good for three years or until the unit changes hands.
A new part-time (30 hours per week) employee would conduct the inspections. There are about 2800 total multifamily rental units in Mt. Lebanon, and significant number change hands each year. “But we really don’t know exactly how many,” Berkley says.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be held Monday, January 25, at 8 p.m. in the commission chambers of the municipal building, 710 Washington Road. You are welcome to comment at the public hearing or to email Berkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.