Committee Discusses Rental Fee Hike, Takes No Action

Mayor William Barlow explains his reasoning behind proposing a large hike in the rental permit fee.

Mayor William Barlow explains his reasoning behind proposing a large hike in the rental permit fee.

OSWEGO, NY – At Monday night’s Planning and Development Committee meeting, Mayor William Barlow requested discussion regarding an amendment to Chapter 149, Housing Standards, of the Code of the City of Oswego, NY, Section 149-6, Reference to Construction Code and Other Laws.

A few people took to the microphone to discuss the mayor’s proposal to increase rental permit fees. This resolution was part of the agenda for the Administrative Services Committee.

Mayor William Barlow explains his reasoning behind proposing a large hike in the rental permit fee.
Mayor William Barlow explains his reasoning behind proposing a large hike in the rental permit fee.

The Planning and Development Committee gave a favorable recommendation to the mayor’s proposal to amend Chapter 149 Housing Standards of the Code of the city of Oswego – section 6 – to read: Installation, alterations and repair to residential premises, and materials, assemblies and equipment utilized in connection therewith shall be reasonably safe to persons and property and in conformity with applicable statutes of the state of New York including, but not limited to, the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code in accordance with Title 19 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Part 1203 and amendments thereto, and the city of Oswego  and orders, rules and regulations issued by authority thereof.

A public hearing, if approved by the full council, will be held at 7:10 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

This is one of many code law amendments that will be coming before the committee and council,” the mayor said.

This addresses the city’s ability to better prosecute code cases in court, the mayor said of Monday’s proposal.

At the following committee, there was a lengthy debate over the merits of the mayor’s plan to increase the rental permit fee.

Barlow proposes increasing the rental permit fee in the city of Oswego to $150 for a three-year period, five times more expensive than the current $30 fee.

“The higher fee will not create better clients. I think that you need to hit the slum landlords with fines, steep fines,” local businesswoman and a landlord Deborah Engelke said. “I think you need to close them down. I don’t understand increasing the rate without increasing enforcement.”

City resident Miles Becker related what some landlords asked him, “Why do we have to make up for the ones who don’t pay attention to the rules?”

Local businesswoman and a landlord Deborah Engelke points out the proposed hike could cause trouble for many landlords and result in higher rent for tenants, as well.
Local businesswoman and a landlord Deborah Engelke points out the proposed hike could cause trouble for many landlords and result in higher rent for tenants, as well.

“They’re footing the bill for these people who don’t,” he added. “What are you going to do? Are you going to let some get away with it and some not?”

“We found that the best way to get compliance is to literally hit landlords in their pocket,” Mayor Barlow said. “We are going to these places that are uninhabitable and literally doing an inspection and taking the tenants and moving them out.”

Even the tenants that have been displaced have been thankful, he pointed out.

“It’s not just one landlord. It’s not just five landlords. You can all probably point to at least five properties in your ward,” the mayor told the councilors.

Barlow said he is working with the college, through Student Association, to help students find quality apartments to rent.

The city is doing more inspections now than it ever has, the mayor added.

Raymond Engelke said the new fee cost won’t help things, and might make things worse.

If a landlord has to pay more for rental permits, he might be less inclined to spend more money to make any repairs, he said.

“The landlords are going to start charging higher rents. I’m sure a lot of them will start charging $10 a month more or, $15 more a month citing this increase,” he told the councilors. “This isn’t going to help anybody, except put money in the city’s pocket two months after you did the budget. If you needed the money, it should have been in the budget in the first place.”

According to the mayor, last year, from March 7 to Sept. 7, the city responded to 277 (code) complaints; 570 documented violations; issued a combined total of 152 building and rental permits. That same time frame in 2016, with the new code office, 1,106 complaints; 1,395 violations; issued 412 rental permits; and 547 combined permits.

“We’re making a difference,” he added. “We’re taking care of issues in the wards. In some cases, vacating properties that are so bad. There are some good landlords, there are some bad landlords.”

The landlords need to “start paying their fair share” and start contributing to the code enforcement department, the mayor said.

The problem properties take up a lot of city resources, the mayor said.

“When you take (landlords) to court it is exhausting for the Code Office. We simply do not have the manpower or time to take enough of these landlords to court to make a difference in the community. That is why we’re changing our strategy, changing our code,” the mayor explained.

If they only fine the bad landlords, it isn’t enough to support the department, the mayor said.

Assistant City Attorney Tom Reynolds pointed out that the fee is currently $30; the overall cost for the city to process the permits is more than double that.

The taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize that anymore, Barlow said.

The mayor pointed out some other examples, such as to launch a boat at the marina is $100 and to rent the Breitbeck Park pavilion is $75.

The quality of life is being destroyed in many Port City neighborhoods due to slumlords, the mayor said, adding, “Enough is enough.”

Hiking the fee isn’t going to make the bad landlords better, Raymond Engelke reiterated. The city should fix what’s broken and not burden all landlords, he said.

Council president Shawn Walker noted that some comparable cities charge less than Oswego – with some not charging anything.

“I think (the proposal) is a little bit high, personally,” he said, adding that perhaps the committee could find some sort of compromise.

The committee took no action on the matter Monday night. It will return for further discussion at a later date.

Seventh Ward Councilor Robert Corradino pointed out that he is a landlord. As chair of the Administrative Services Committee, he said he would preside over the meetings and take part in any committee (and council) debate regarding the fee hike proposal. However, he said he would abstain from voting.


  1. You got to be kidding me. $150.00 every three years? How is that going to break the bank with any landlord? Senior citizens pay $50.00 a year to turn their water on and off to go to Florida and they aren’t making any money on their property. Come on people , threatening to raise someone’s rent $15 dollars a month? That’s less than what a tenant pays for cigarettes a day. Stop with all the bull and just raise it for god sakes. I don’t think it’s going to break the bank of any landlord to pay $150.00 every THREE years. Come on.

  2. It’s not about the money, it’s about uniformly administering the NYS code throughout the city. The city elected to a few years ago to have the landlords do their own code inspections. The premise was to save the city money by not having to send codes people out for inspections. I’m pretty sure this is illegal but certainly unethical.

  3. The rate hike is only going to punish renters as they will be paying for it in raised rents. If landlords do not keep there building up to code then fine them 150.00 a day for everyday until it is up to code. And as for the scub bag renters, don’t even give them a chance to let the property get bad. If they “slip through the cracks” give them 24 hours or start fining them 150.00 a day up to 1 week and if they don’t pay up after 1 week and are cleaned up, call a Marshal and kick them out. By the way, great job Rob and Shawn, keep up the good work. I hope the mayor slows down and listens to what you have to say.Robert was a landlord of mine many years ago and he was wonderful. You should all listen to him. Shawn is my ward councilor and he has been very helpful over the past 10 years for me.

  4. Robert, I think your on to something, Have the landlords and renters that do not follow all city cods pay double in water and sewer rates and I bet they will bring there property up to code and fast. If they do not, put that moneys into an account to assist homeowners that are seniors or disabled on fixed income. The Mayor says they do not have the man power, well hire back some of the previous laid off code enforcement workers or some of the many people without a job in Oswego to help with code enforcement. The city know who are the good and who the bad landlords are. Start looking at the bad first. Seems like a no brainier to me. No need for a raise in the rental permit fee.

  5. Why not put in WATER meters on all the homes. This way everyone pays for the amount of water they use. Not a flat rate as it is now. Or is that the right thing to do about the water/sewer rates. Water Meters is the right move.

  6. Why not look at creating and maintaining a mandatory commercial and residential rental property registry that’s updated annually or when there’s a transfer of ownership or change of address of property owner/landlord. Registry fees would be based upon the number of units per property address. Such registry would include property and/or landlord name, address, telephone number, emergency contact number, current and/or past code violations, corrective action, code inspection dates, code inspector name, etc. In addition, a commercial and residential registry would reduce the amount of time city departments take to contact property owners/landlords especially if they are not responsible or absentee property owners/landlords. Just food for thought.

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