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October 24, 2018

Fighting for Fulton: New Codes Target Landlords, Complaints Multiply


*UPDATED (9/26/18) to include: an online copy of the code addition can be found here or accessed from the city website.

FULTON, NY – An additional section of regulations has been unanimously approved by the Fulton Common Council to be added to the city code and charter.

“Article VIIA” will be added to the city code and charter entitled “Non-Owner-Occupied Rental Properties.”

As per the legislative intent, the additional codes were incorporated to ensure rental properties throughout the city will be maintained “in a safe, sanitary, and well-maintained state that is free from conditions that would be hazardous to the health and welfare of the occupants or a detriment to the quality of life or property values of the community.

The codes were conceived by the Mayor, members of the common council, and administrative assistant to the Mayor, Cathy Trowbridge.

They aim to bring several recurring issues to the forefront including such regulations as matching exterior siding, using curtains to cover windows as opposed to blankets, proper storage of garbage receptacles, and requiring proper parking for occupants with specified driveway materials, among many others.

They target non-owner occupied rental properties in an effort to crack down on negligent landlords, with approval from the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials.

The city’s codes department is complaint driven and follows a particular process.

Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. explained: first, a complaint is lodged with the codes department.

Second, a code enforcement officer inspects the residence in question and verifies whether the complaint is in violation of the city’s Property Conservation Code, modeled off of New York State’s code.

Then, if a code is found to be in violation, the city sends an “order to remedy” by certified mail.

Each violation of city code has a timeframe to remedy, Woodward explained. Violations involving life safety issues, however, must be attended to immediately.

Finally, the codes department will check to ensure the violation has been resolved after the specified timeframe has lapsed.

However, if the violation is found to have not been rectified, the next step is an accusatory instrument that requires the property owner’s name, age, address, and description which is sent to the Fulton Police Department.

The police send the accusatory instrument to a judge to approve, which is then able to be served to the property owner by local police and gives a notice of court appearance date.

Code court is held once a month and often requires several appearances before resolution, Woodward said.

“This process is called due process of the law and we have to work within the law. It’s much like criminal court. It’s innocent until proven guilty. We can’t change the way court proceedings work, it’s the same throughout New York State,” he said.

Work can become overwhelming at the codes department with only two code enforcement officers. For this reason, a grant secured by Joe Fiumara of the Fulton Community Development Agency will be used to pay the salary of an additional part-time code enforcement officer that is already trained and certified, Woodward said.

Fulton residents have taken the initiative to bring change as a group of concerned citizens have begun regularly attending meetings of the common council and voicing their concerns.

Together, this group of citizens have been traveling the city and making code complaints based on noticeable code violations.

In total, the group targeted 85 rental properties owned by seven landlords and made a total of 345 code violation complaints.

Administrative assistant to the Mayor, Cathy Trowbridge, also a former city councilor, said this is the largest compilation of code complaints since she and a friend turned in over 100 violations.

The new codes are part of an ongoing effort targeting negligent landlords.

Recently, the council passed new laws that allow the city to revoke rental permits of landlords who are in arrears in taxes or city bills and can fine any non-local landlord that does not have a property manager within 25 miles.

The city has revoked rental permits of one landlord based on this law. The case is currently being handled in court.

A resident reminded members of the common council that, although residents are taking matters into their own hands, the responsibility still ultimately falls on city councilors.

“You have to go through your wards, you have to see what’s going on and you have to be proactive, we can’t do it all. I get that it takes time but we’re doing it, you guys have to do it too,” Fulton resident Jean Perry said. “Your feet are to the fire. We’re going to be watching because we want to be proud of our city. You’re either in or you’re out, if you’re not going to going to help us, if you’re not going to do you job, probably you’re not going to be sitting there next year.”

New laws, new codes, and new initiative: the fight for Fulton goes on.

20 Responses “Fighting for Fulton: New Codes Target Landlords, Complaints Multiply”

  1. cindy Doran
    September 21, 2018 at 2:29 am

    Like any law, if they are not ENFORCED they are useless…..

  2. upstate not so good
    September 21, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Put the name of these dead beat landlords out for public knowledge. Not that it will do much good as the people renting these places are only here for one thing and it’s not just low rent!

  3. George
    September 21, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Some what a joke, I called code on a house. I was told that they wouldn’t go look at the safety of the inside of the home because they didnt want the person living there to be homeless. I questioned this and reiterated the concerns of safety. Once again was told nothing they would do. I was dumbfounded to say the least.

  4. New song same dance
    September 21, 2018 at 9:30 am

    More laws. More talk. Like George said. They won’t do anything . It does make counsel look good. We need to get a mayor like Oswego has. He gets things done.

  5. Tony O
    September 21, 2018 at 9:39 am

    The City of Fulton’s new codes on landlords is all fluff! They can’t even enforce the laws they have now. Plus the city owned Nestle’s property looks like a disaster. Isn’t this a code violation?

  6. Jeffery cobb
    September 21, 2018 at 10:51 am

    This is the start of city clean up, If everyone steps up and helps the city officials by saying something that they might be able to address and fix the problem and make our city a better place.

  7. AUDREY AVERY
    September 21, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    We as Taxpayers and residents of this City have a voice and if you do not use your voice no one will hear you. If you see problems contact the mayor’s office or City councilman of your ward. If you know of drug activity call 911. We need to ban together on these issues that have been brewing for over 30 years, if by next November we do not see things improving then we can vote the powers that be out of office. So be a solution to the issues not a problem to those that are trying to help. As for absentee landlords we should put into public view their names so people can avoid renting from them also the HUD offices should be more vigilant in who our residents rent from. We as taxpayers pay these landlords to rent these scum holes. So let’s cut off their paychecks. Enough said.

  8. Concerned
    September 21, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    I see a lot of problem homes in the City of Fulton, as I drive through. I
    am not a landlord, but I see houses with broken windows, chipped siding ( could have asbestos in the siding). chipped paint, driveways not paved, trash out in front and houses basically in disrepair!!!!!!!. Why aren’t these home owners being harassed like landlords are?

  9. Fed up
    September 21, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    So I called to report drug activity… guess what I got as an answer? Can you actually prove it? How do you know these people aren’t passing off gum? Really? I know these people are known to our police department… all involved have been on prison for drugs… I’m pretty fed up as a taxpayer that we cannot get ahold on this drug problem. And run down residential homes… they all live in those homes… sick.

  10. IM Watching
    September 21, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Shut down those 85 properties and a few more by strictly enforcing these laws, (as if the existing laws aren’t enough we need more) you will certainly add to the homeless problem, increase the number of houses off the city’s tax rolls, and they will eventually be taken within two years by the city for non payment. Rents are certainly going to rise, because of shortages, property taxes are going to rise somebody has to pay the city’s bills, and drive the code enforcement people crazy chasing their tails. Other unsafe violations will not be checked thoroughly because you have inundated your two person code enforcement department.
    Next the city will be attacking private property owners for conditions that need be repaired.

    May sure you start with the Mayor’s house and the Council. Fulton the City who is deeply in the Real Estate Flipping business. Foreclose them and then Fix them and Flip them.

  11. Steve Ward
    September 22, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Feed Up and I’m Watching…concerned citizens of Fulton are starting a Volunteer group to go to home owners that cant physically do small projects anymore or afford to pay to have them done and we are hoping to provide free support to folks that truly are in a bind. Please consider joining our efforts to help clean up Fulton and helps the less fortunate. And I also don’t want these drug users in my neighborhood so I applaud the efforts and am also waiting to see if follow up will happen. If they close these houses they will be told where other DSS houses can be rented, and hopefully not from a slum lord so their living conditions will be better. As For drug users….Don’t have much sympathy for them. They chose that life and I don’t want to pay for their housing.

  12. September 23, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    Most of the personnel complaining about what our house holds look like do NOT understand the majority of US live pay check to pay check. Some of us can’t afford to even do touch ups to our residence. Why is it any one’s business if some of the residence in Fulton use sheets, blankets, or other things for curtains ? Even 2nd hand curtains from the thrifty shops cost a arm / leg. They should have a pantry for personnel who are in dire need of household essentials. We should be more concerned about our infrastructure , like the terrible roads we utilize everyday. The empty commercial buildings that still stand there with no one is willing to purchase them .Look behind West First Street North back yards. There is all sorts of debris and old furniture landlords chose to simply throw down the banks of their back yards. All the way down to route 48 N. I’ve tried my best to clean up after my neighbors and what the storms blow down the banks of our back yards. As earth day approaches every year no one takes the time to even try cleaning up the river banks along West First Street North. Good grief. We could make Fulton great again if we have the right resources and politicians who really want to work for WE THE PEOPLE. Fulton could use some environmental advice from Oswego. They have hanging flowers, flags and potted flowers on their bridges. Something as simple as that makes our environment a better view to look at. We are all in this together. Before you judge anyone, look in your own closet , I’m pretty sure you’ll find skeletons hanging there also. BTW, NO ONE IS PEREFECT !

  13. Keep Moving Forward
    September 23, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    To Fulton citizens, particularly IM WATCHING, there are 2 choices….1.) allow slumlords to earn thousands of dollars per month, mostly paid for by the taxpayers, while contributing to people-including children- to live in squalor conditions, while also contributing NOTHING to the City of Fulton as most, not all, are in surrounding cities/villages OR 2.) as a community, stop complaining and help with this initiative-there is plenty for everyone to do- AND go to the Common Council meetings to become informed and hold the city officials accountable, including codes.

  14. September 23, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Doesn’t the city of Fulton have more urgent things to worry about then what we use to hang in our windows for privacy. You may want to start with our streets/ roads as well with all the empty old commercial buildings properties. If you haven’t realize most American’s live pay check to pay check and go out with many necessary things to get by. Some of us work 2- 3 jobs just to get by. Fulton could use some guidance from the city of Oswego to make Fulton look half way decent again. We need change with our politicians and the policy contributors. You would think we were living under Russian dictators.

  15. IM watching
    September 23, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Talk is cheap, show us that you are serious by doing volunteer work for people, there are some people that are fixed income people who rent out part of their house and rely on the income they receive. Not everybody is dealing in drugs that live in these houses, HUD checks the livablity of them before they are allowed to move in.
    You have an 80 member police force, so somebody doing drugs call them up and report them. Code enforcement is already constantly checking complaints, and doing rental permits. These new laws will take the city back to when they were banking houses for years off the tax rolls and hiding them from the tax payers.
    A year from now these draconian laws will blow up in the administrations face, because people walk away from houses all the time and leave the mess for the taxpayers to clean up and pay for.

  16. Keep Moving Forward
    September 24, 2018 at 9:10 am

    IM WATCHING,
    I am not saying that every person living in a rental home is dealing or doing drugs. However, the problems that come with drugs have taken over this city. Perhaps you should go to a Common Council meeting to hear the horrific stories from Fulton citizens regarding how their lives have been affected by the drugs in this city. Cars are being broken into. Wallets being stolen. People watching constant drug deals out their window. Citizens sleeping with baseball bats in fear of a drugged up person breaking into their home. A young citizen, who moved her from another town, coming home to see people hanging out on her neighbors steps waiting for drugs to get their fix and being told they will kill her. People finding heroin needles in their yards while outside trying to play with their kids or grandkids. Drug addicts walking the city from one drug house to next in EVERY SINGLE WARD in this city. You can not possibly have such strong opinions until you Herat the stories of tax paying citizens who are actually contributing to society.
    In regards to HUD, inspections are not required very often. And SLUMLORDS, who are making thousands of dollars per month, continue to be paid by HUD, even when the living conditions are horrible. Many of these rental units do not even have running water and HUD still pays the SLUMLORDS rental money each month that comes from the taxpayers. HUD is still paying SLUMLORDS for homes in which there are children living in that have garbage over flowing around their homes bc city garbage pickup is charged on the water bill, which they do not have. So the garbage just overflows around the house. Oh and should I mention the house full of
    Regarding your comment on codes and rental permits- if you want to be a landlord and rent, you need a rental permit. Period. It is the law and many cities have this.
    Perhaps you should check into where the majority of police calls go and types of calls. The majority are non owner occupied homes. In fact, there are rental houses that do NOT have rental permits with drug addicts living there in which police have had hundreds of calls to the same address. Another great use of our tax dollars.
    And back to rental properties-there are very good landlords in this the City of Fulton that take care of their properties and care about their tenants. The SLUMLORDS, do not. The SLUMLORDS do NOT care who they rent to. They do NOT care if the roof is leaking. They do NOT care if the outlets don’t work. They SLUMLORDS do not care if the the siding is falling off or the house is 4 different colors of paint. The SLUMLORDS do not care if the tenant has to park their car in mud and dirt because they don’t spend the money to pave or put crushed stone down. The SLUMLORDS do not care if the garbage is not picked up and the skunks and rats become a problem for the neighbors who do care. The SLUMLORDS are just filling their disgusting houses with whatever tenant is next in line and collecring their checks from HUD living in their big homes, driving beautiful vehicles and making ALOT of money-thousands of dollars per month!
    So you can sit there and criticize all you want. Like I said, there is enough work to be done for everyone to pitch in and get this City back on track. Perhaps you should use your voice positively and get involved vs saying how this City wide effort is going to blow up in faces.

  17. jamie
    September 24, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    Add to the list: the parking in right of ways perpendicular to the streets and on corners creating hazardous visibility conditions and destroying greenscape and obstructing sidewalks, unshoveled sidewalks, garbage, lack of police presence, etc.

    There are may great points mentioned here. The key is ENFORCEMENT. Let the residents with concern and pride be the eyes and ears. Complaints need to be immediately addressed and taken seriously. ENFORCEMENT. ACTION. Otherwise get off my payroll as an overtaxed and under-represented City of Fulton taxpayer if you don’t want to do your job. ENFORCEMENT actions should be taken against the resident non-owner as well. When do they become accountable for their own actions. ENFORCEMENT and ACTION. ENFORCE the rules and then INSPECT what is expected! These common sense and ‘curb appeal’ regulations are easily viewed from a moving (Tax payer owned & operated) vehicle at 5 MPH. Other jurisdictions and Homeowner Associations enact these rules across the country. Which in turn instills pride in ownership/occupancy, promotes safety, health and wellness, reduces crime and drug use/drug houses, promotes property values and helps retain a residential and commercial base which stabilizes a city and REDUCES taxes.

    1. Assign the personnel and TAKE the CALLS

    2. Establish a web site to accept and prioritize complaints (This can be done for a few hundred dollars)

    3. Fulton CITY PD? Answer your phone and take drug deal & suspicious activity calls seriously. YOUR VISIBLE PRESENCE IS A DETERRENT. It happens in Voorhees park 1 minute from the station and yet you can’t respond in a timely fashion. I’ve called. Have a monitored tip line on your website…oops, that’s right you don’t have a website anymore! If there aren’t enough of you how about the Sheriff’s Dept., The State Police or the myriad of DEC and Border Patrol Agents that are in town daily? Empower the neighborhood watches, give them direct lines of communication to the Agencies, traffic cameras and observation technologies are getting cheaper daily! Get with the times.

    4. City engineers – go drive around and have a look. A good hard look. Take the DPW with you and pick up trash and fix the corners while you’re at it! And clean the curbs, and mow your right of ways, and take the Code Officer with you and City Attorney that way the threat of litigation based on discrimination can be addressed up front. Maybe move a few cars, some furniture, write some citations, paint some poles and replace signs that are too faded to read. You know? Your job. Not sure where you live but next to me is now a haven for rats, skunks and squirrels and oh yeah a whole bunch of garbage, uncovered cans, garbage in the side yard, unmowed lawns, etc. There are regulations in place already. How can you have a 4 unit building with 13 occupants and parking for 2 vehicles? You can’t! But email me and I’ll show you how it’s done right next door to me! and yes! I pay higher taxes on my single family home than this 4 unit commercial property next door!

    5. Give complaints legitimacy and take them seriously. Take ACTION and ENFORCE, ENFORCE,ENFORCE

    6. I would dedicate on a volunteer basis, my time, my vehicle and my gas to drive the city on my personal time to record and submit violations, and nuisances as long as ACTION is taken. I’m sure others would as well. City of Fulton? Here’s your answer to the manpower and expense issue. So now what’s the excuse?

  18. IM Watching
    September 24, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Bottom line rental properties are a business, providing shelter for lower middle class people. The rental money whether it come from the Federal government or private circulates into the city. The Mayor has for a fact tried to shut down landlords for a long time, these laws will chase them away, just as a slew of other businesses have closed down and moved away. You are naive. Watch what I am saying in a year.

  19. I'm watching too
    September 29, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Jamie, very well said. I fully agree with your comments.

  20. jamie
    October 1, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    the issue is not what “class” people belong too. Cleanliness, tidiness and sanitary attentiveness cost very little. Respect and pride in yourself, surroundings and for other people’s property is…yup, free.
    Most of the non-owner occupied residences in question have owners that have moved away (hence the requirement for a local property manager) or are businesses. So I would respectfully submit that the rental monies, for the most part DO NOT recirculate into the community in the same manner as weekly payroll wages. The rents are overinflated and overpaid at taxpayer expense. When was the last time HUD did a reinspection or checked on the occupancy status of a property? Or DSS or CPS ? Insuring that ONLY those who qualify for helped are being domiciled and helped? Yeah, right! The system is drained and taken advantage of. Clean it up! Take initiative. If the landlords who arent attentive and who dont enforce basic rules leave, then so be it! Let those properties revert back to single family, owner occupied dwellings with a sense of pride in ownership and purpose. And with those families and owners comes a stronger tax roll, better neighborhoods, higher property values and maybe more privately owned businesses. Just think, a commercial base to reduce residential taxes!

    It’s a very basic, very easy cycle really.
    Clean it up! Have some pride!
    City Government? Get outside and pay attention. Landlords? 1 strike and then FINE,FINE,FINE! Think of the revenue Fulton!
    Enforcement is key.
    And get the corners fixed before the plows destroy whats left of the curbing as it is!

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