EDINBORO — A packed house at the Edinboro Borough Council meeting on Monday night had numerous property owners and landlords speaking out against new rental license requirements being implemented by the borough zoning office.
The prominent change, and the change halting several rental licenses from being approved, is a requirement for landlords to gather their tenants’ phone numbers and license plate numbers for submission to the borough on the application. Numerous property owners spoke out, believing this was an illegal change of code taking place, including landlord Tim Flynn.
“I’m on a number of national boards,” said Flynn. “And not one of them, can you change code in the middle of the ‘season.’ You don’t change the rules.”
Billie Fitzsimmons, borough code enforcement officer, though, stated the current code gives her discretion as to how she may implement it. “The way the code reads, it gives me a little discretion, in my rental application packet, to maybe require a little more information to make my job easier,” Fitzsimmons said, regarding phone numbers and license plates.
Multiple owners felt that requiring license plate numbers was a bit extreme due to the fact it’s their duty, and not Fitzsimmons’, to inquire on who is living at the house they rented. Owner Kim Grove, for example, said she often drives past her rented property to see how many cars are outside the house to make sure only people on the lease are staying there.
In an interview with Erie television station WICU12, Borough Manager T.J. Jemetz spoke on that relationship, stating, “It’s not going to be someone looking through all the houses and checking license plates. It is when you have a pattern of behavior that is happening. If you have cars parked in front of a place night after night after night.”
Several owners also felt they were not notified of the changes, or in a proper manner in order for them to obtain a rental permit. Many of them suggested, along with emailing and calling them, an advertisement should have been posted in the local newspaper, so that all property owners and tenants could be notified about the information they are required to divulge.
In regards to the legality of the information gathering, Timothy Wachter, the council’s solicitor, stated, “With respect to the phone numbers and license plates, there is nothing I’m aware of, and I’ve looked, that states it is prohibited for the borough to collect that information for any reason.”
A number of owners also commented on not being able to rent as many houses as they have in the past. They feel this is due to new policies and procedures tenants have to go through in order to rent property in the borough. Rebecca Westgate, for instance, stated she feels Edinboro is creating an “unfriendly environment” when it comes to renting property to tenants.
Councilman Dan Mulligan, in response, brought up the fact that people who live in the Highland dormitories on Edinboro University’s campus must stay on campus for two years now, which will result in more vacancies in houses off campus.
After Mulligan’s comments, mayor Brenda Cannell called for recess and said that when the meeting would return they would address only the remaining business on the agenda.
The next borough council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28.