The local child endangerment/animal abuse case that made headlines earlier this month has some residents and councilmembers debating how the borough can crack down on neglectful landlords and properties kept in a state of disrepair.
A woman and her boyfriend who were living on Liberty Street face multiple charges after police found the woman’s children and two emaciated dogs living in a house that police said was in “deplorable” condition.
Fire chief Bill Chilleo said that when responding to calls, his department has encountered a number of properties around town in less-than-stellar condition.
“There are a lot of rental properties that people do take care of,” he said. “But there are a lot of houses that we go into that are very bad.”
Some other municipalities have tried to tackle this problem by requiring visual inspections of all rental properties every three years or so, said solicitor Thomas McDermott. In those communities, the “good” landlords were the biggest proponents for such inspections, he said.
When similar concepts were floated in Bridgeville in the past, local landlords weren’t as welcoming to additional regulation, said borough manager Lori Collins.
Tenants concerned about their building’s condition do have options, though. A tenant is permitted to invite the borough’s code enforcement officer to inspect any part of a building that the tenant is permitted to use, McDermott said. And the code enforcement officer can take action based on anything he observes during these visits. However, tenants in smaller buildings may fear landlord retaliation, since there’s not much anonymity in a two- or three-unit building.
Much of council’s conversation focused on landlords, but Mayor Pat DeBlasio that the problem wasn’t limited to rental properties.
“[This] should be about property ownership and taking responsibility for your property, whether you lease it to someone or whether you live it in yourself,” he said. “It’s as much people that own and live within their own property that we’re speaking of.”