FULTON – Among the rental homes in Fulton, there are some whose landlords do not have a legal rental permit but continue to rent out to tenants.
Dave Ritchie, second ward councilor, knows of at least one in his ward where this is the case: 209 W. Fourth St.
Ritchie’s great aunt and great uncle used to live in that house years ago and he reminisced about how it used to look and the history his family had there.
He said it does not have a rental permit but tenants have been living there for at least a year. According to Ritchie, the owner of the property used to live there but now lives in Syracuse.
“The problem we got are the absentee landlords,” Ritchie said. “The guy that owns that house lives in Syracuse and there’s no rental permit, and we know he’s not living there.”
In addition to needing a rental permit, a landlord must live within 25 miles of City Hall or have a local agent to act on their behalf.
The owner does not have a rental permit and the city has not been able to reach him in order to serve him for court. Ritchie said the owner has been ignoring calls from the Bureau of Code Enforcement regarding the property.
“Either he can be fined or he can be made to get the place up to code or cleaned up, but they’ve got to be able to serve him,” Ritchie said.
Aside from any code violations seen on the exterior of the property, the city cannot determine any indoor ones without being able to inspect it during a rental permit application. Ritchie said a code violation for a couch on the porch was reported, but it is still there.
Fulton Mayor Ronald Woodward said these permits are meant to protect the tenants to make sure they are not living in a space with code violations such as a leaky roof, poor plumbing, heating or electricity.
In properties without rental permits, tenants are most likely unaware of code violations before moving in.
“It protects the tenant and it also makes sure we keep the property values up in the city,” Woodward said.
Rental permits are $50 per unit and last for five years or until the property is sold, whichever happens first.
Permit applications require an inspection by the Bureau of Code Enforcement of the property to make sure there are no code violations.
If there is a code violation, there is a follow-up inspection to see if the problem was fixed. If not, any subsequent inspection results in a fee.
Permits can be denied if the applicant is “in violation of any City of Fulton code, ordinance or local law … or who owes property taxes, water or sewer fees, special assessments, fines for violations of City ordinances or any other fees or past due monies of any name or nature owed to the city of Fulton,” according to the Property Conservation section of the city’s code.
The Bureau of Code Enforcement Chief can write a demand to the owner to file a permit application and if they have not done so within 20 days, a fee will be added to the taxes on the building.
This is the typical process, but in the case of this property, the city cannot enforce this until the owner is found and properly served to show in court.