City Considers Changes to Property Maintenance Ordinance

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Planning and Development Committee approved a request for a public hearing regarding amendments to Chapter 249, Vacant and Occupied Property Maintenance Ordinance, recommended by the Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee.

“We’ve discussed it for a year and a half,” committee member and former First Ward Councilor Connie Cosemento said. “Basically, it does three things. The first change, 249-5 B states: the property owner shall be responsible for weekly removal of solid waste from the premises. Unless otherwise agreed upon by means of lease or rental agreement. In that event, the tenant or lease holder shall be responsible.”

If a landlord pays a service to come take the trash every week but the tenants don’t use the service and trash becomes a problem, the violation could be assigned to the tenants, she said by way of example.

Council President Ron Kaplewicz questioned why both the landlord and tenant aren’t responsible.

The property owner is responsible, unless otherwise stated – as with the lease deal, Cosemento noted.

“We need to assign responsibility to the proper party,” she said. “There have been some cases where, college students for example, have not been dutiful in getting the trash out.”

“If the landlord has tenants in there that aren’t paying attention to the codes, why is it the city’s responsibility to make them clean their property up? Why isn’t it the landlord’s responsibility that those tenants comply with city code?” he asked.

It’s the property owner’s responsibility, unless it is spelled out in the lease and then it is the tenant’s responsibility, the city attorney pointed out.

“If you’re renting, you’ve got a responsibility to do what you’re supposed to do just like you do if you own your house,” Councilor Mike Todd added. “If the landlord’s paying for a service for you and you’re not mature enough to be able to handle that responsibility the landlord shouldn’t get punished because you’re a slob.”

If that’s the case, Kaplewicz interjected, the tenants should be evicted.

“The owner has responsibility for control of his property,” he said. “It falls to both the property owner and the tenant.”

As soon as these changes go through, a lot of these trash issues are going to go away, Councilor Fran Enwright said.

If approved, section C would state: “In the event of two notices of violations of any section of this chapter have been previously sent to the owner, tenant or occupant of a residential home within a six-month period, the requirement of a notification pursuant to 249-10 A shall be waived, and the Director of Code Enforcement, or his designee, is empowered to immediately institute any appropriate action pursuant to 249-10 D.”

“In other words, a third letter – a notice of violation is waived. An appearance ticket can be issued,” Cosemento explained. “In court, violations of this chapter, if you’re found guilty, are anywhere from $100 to $250.

A person has to go to court, and it is up to the judge whether to fine them or not, she added.

The resolution was sent to the full council for consideration.

If approved, the public hearing would be held at 7:10 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 13 W. Oneida St.