Village enacts rental property law

| 22 Feb 2012 | 03:44

    Measure seeks to crackdown on illegal apartments; village also take action affecting senior housing, outdoor furnaces and signs, By Claudia Wysocki MONROE - The Monroe Village Board approved a new law this week that will require the registration of all rental properties within the village. The purpose of this new law, according to village officials, is to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents and to protect the village’s existing homes from deterioration. By registering the properties, the law will enable the village to have an inventory of all rental housing. All 7,000 property owners in the village will receive a packet of information in the mail, asking them to identify the type of housing they own. Single-family homes that are owner-occupied will be exempt. The new law, which has to be filed with the Secretary of State, is expected to go into effect within a few weeks. It will require: Rental property owners will have to conform to the maintenance and maximum occupancy code. Absentee landlords will have to have a resident agent for all rental units. That person will have to have the name and address of the owner as well as the tenant’s name. If the building inspector finds sub-standard conditions, those conditions must be corrected before a rental permit is issued. The new law, which has to be filed with the Secretary of State, is expected to go into effect within a few weeks . This will allow the building inspector to check for working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and proper entrances and exits. Rental units found to be unsafe must be vacated and will be subject to condemnation with the expense borne by the owner. No housing unit can be let, rented or occupied by someone other than the owner or his immediate family until a rental permit is obtained. Rental landlords will have to pay $50 per unit at registration and $25 per unit annually thereafter. Failing to register as a landlord or agent or allowing anyone to occupy a unit without a valid permit, the owner could be fined up to $250 per unit per day. A second offense ups the ante to $500 per unit, per day. Background The village has been hampered by state law that requires permission from the owner or tenant to enter the property to do fire and property maintenance inspections. Search warrants, which are the next step, were found hard to do. Typically, the village was alerted to dangerous conditions only after the police or fire department are called to investigate a problem. For example, the police were called to a domestic complaint. They found six people living in cubicles in the basement with only one way out. One of the bedrooms was in the furnace room. Following a public hearing Tuesday night in which no one from the public attended, the board passed the new Rental Property law. In other business: Senior housing The village officials say there is a need to manage population growth which includes senior housing among the many problems the Monroe community is facing. Senior citizens faced with empty nests or financial hardship from rising taxes are looking for help in order to remain in their hometown. Previously, an area use variance was required - which sometimes hindered developers who wanted to build senior housing. A new law has created a floating zone, which means senior housing can now be built in any portion of the village and in any zoning district, whether residential or commercial. The one restriction in this new law is that the project must be built on at least one acre. The Village Planning Board will first decided whether the housing is suitable for a particular site; its recommendation will be forwarded to the Village Board. The trustees will decide if it makes sense to have, for example, a 22- unit complex on a proposed one-acre site. The proposal was questioned by village resident Michael Lofstedt, who said the Zoning Board of Appeals should be the lead agency, regarding issues such as lot size, setbacks, density, and height requirements. “What if my neighbor, who lives on one acre, decides to tear down his house and wants to build a 22-unit senior complex? The proposal must satisfy the planning board and the general public, said Mayor Jim Purcell, “and that there is no significant impact on the environment to hinder it.” The mayor added: “We are giving the developers flexibility. It will depend on the economic times, what the developer is looking to do and his costs.” Outdoor furnaces The Village Board has banned wood-burning furnaces located outside a home for health, comfort and safety reasons. The low-lying smoke emitting from the furnaces was found to be polluting the air as well as being a fire hazard. The ban will be in effect year round. Outdoor signs To help promote business in the village, officials have relaxed its outdoor sign ban to allow sandwich type signs to be placed temporarily in front of commercial and industrial establishments. The free-standing wooden signs, which include slate type material for writing with chalk, cannot exceed 18 inches by 42 inches. The location of the signs has to be approved by the building inspector. Dumpsters Property owners with Dumpsters on their property must keep them tightly covered. The Dumpsters must also be disinfected on a regular basis and kept in an enclosed screened space on a concrete pad. Chain link fencing will not be allowed.