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Rochester continues to take legal action against delinquent landlord

todayJanuary 24, 2024 2

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —

Code Enforcement Inspectors in Rochester will be hired for each quadrant in the city. It is just one of several updates provided Wednesday morning during a news conference at City Hall with the Housing Quality Task Force.

According to the city, there is one vacancy remaining in the Code Enforcement Department, set for a plumbing inspector. As of January 24th, there are 17 total code enforcement officer positions. Rochester’s Building and Compliance team is also working with the Neighborhood Service Center teams to “place two part-time Code Enforcement inspectors with a total of four inspectors; one in each quadrant will be hired.”

Clarification provided from the city explains two part-time code enforcement inspectors have been hired with two additional openings remaining. City officials also note this setup is designed to develop future full-time code enforcement officers.

During the progress update, City Mayor Malik Evans emphasized the recurring analogy of a ‘saber tooth tiger’ he and his team have been using as a motivated approach when it comes to targeting landlords and owners not keeping up with their properties. Legislation and litigation — that is what the City of Rochester’s housing attorney says are the two focal points in how they are holding delinquent landlords accountable. Per a law change last year establishing a vacant building registry, any property owner in the city with a vacancy for 60 days must register that building with the city. Owners of such properties are on a tight deadline — up to January 31st, to complete the new Civics Vacant Building Registry application.

“The owners have an obligation to get to us a plan to rehabilitate that building and get it occupied again or to demolish it. If they don’t do that, we’re going to charge them significant fees, and the fees increase depending on the size of the property and the number of units. Why? Because the larger, blighted properties cost the city money,” says Corporation Counsel, Patrick Beath, who was appointed following Linda Kingsley’s retirement at the end of last year.

Also under the legislation umbrella, all LLCs owning property must identify to the city all members under that LLC.

“Once we know who that is we’re going to start to see patterns, right? Irresponsible individual landlords are going to be evident to us once we have those names and can start connecting the dots better,” Beath explains.

On the matter of litigation, more than 30 cases against landlords have been taken to court with the law department’s goal of targeting those with the largest portfolios with significant issues. Beath gave an example of how the enforcement arm of all these changes is working. He gave an example of a recent court case involving Hirschron Estates, with Beath explaining the group owns a number of units in bad condition, so the city brought forth a lawsuit. As a result, the city was ordered a judgment of more than $250,000 but the owners never showed up to court.

“They defaulted, so you might say, well what good is that if you can’t even get their attention? We’ve

got their attention… because their *lenders found out because they’re all a part of the lawsuit too, and they’ve all started to foreclose on Hirschron properties and they’ve assigned a receiver to get the properties back up to code and to collect money so that our judgment is satisfied,” says Beath.

Among some of the other changes are new websites. One is designed for landlords to more effectively manage their portfolios and address issues, called the Civics Portal. There is also a new tool for tenants and the general public called the Code Compliance Score. The site uses a transparent scoring system to gauge enforcement efforts and helps provide tenants with better insight to make a well-informed decision when it comes to selecting a landlord or owner for rental.

Also of note, one week ago, housing advocates rallied in front of City Hall calling for City Council to take part in a rent control study. Advocates have continued to push for this following new state guidelines rolled out in December on how to determine rental vacancy rates. Mayor Malik Evans did not directly deny nor affirm support for such a study but did say there are a variety of factors related to the matter.

“I get why people want to look at that and it’s something that we may be looking at doing another study to see if we qualify. But we have to be prepared for plan (A.) or (B.) what if we don’t qualify? What do we do then? And if we do qualify, how does that still solve the problem of the two to three units that we have scattered all throughout the city, where – by the way, the bulk of our renters live,” says Mayor Evans.

“I think if we can find the dollars, I think it’s something that we’re gonna look at and it’s something that we’re having conversations with, with city council about – so we should have more to come on that soon,” he adds.

News8 did reach out to City Council for a response. Another point made during the news conference: the city has received more than $530,000 from fines awarded in court action so far.

​ ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —

Code Enforcement Inspectors in Rochester will be hired for each quadrant in the city. It is just one of several updates provided Wednesday morning during a news conference at City Hall with the Housing Quality Task Force.

According to the city, there is one vacancy remaining in the Code Enforcement Department, set for a plumbing inspector. As of January 24th, there are 17 total code enforcement officer positions. Rochester’s Building and Compliance team is also working with the Neighborhood Service Center teams to “place two part-time Code Enforcement inspectors with a total of four inspectors; one in each quadrant will be hired.”

Clarification provided from the city explains two part-time code enforcement inspectors have been hired with two additional openings remaining. City officials also note this setup is designed to develop future full-time code enforcement officers.

During the progress update, City Mayor Malik Evans emphasized the recurring analogy of a ‘saber tooth tiger’ he and his team have been using as a motivated approach when it comes to targeting landlords and owners not keeping up with their properties. Legislation and litigation — that is what the City of Rochester’s housing attorney says are the two focal points in how they are holding delinquent landlords accountable. Per a law change last year establishing a vacant building registry, any property owner in the city with a vacancy for 60 days must register that building with the city. Owners of such properties are on a tight deadline — up to January 31st, to complete the new Civics Vacant Building Registry application.

“The owners have an obligation to get to us a plan to rehabilitate that building and get it occupied again or to demolish it. If they don’t do that, we’re going to charge them significant fees, and the fees increase depending on the size of the property and the number of units. Why? Because the larger, blighted properties cost the city money,” says Corporation Counsel, Patrick Beath, who was appointed following Linda Kingsley’s retirement at the end of last year.

Also under the legislation umbrella, all LLCs owning property must identify to the city all members under that LLC.

“Once we know who that is we’re going to start to see patterns, right? Irresponsible individual landlords are going to be evident to us once we have those names and can start connecting the dots better,” Beath explains.

On the matter of litigation, more than 30 cases against landlords have been taken to court with the law department’s goal of targeting those with the largest portfolios with significant issues. Beath gave an example of how the enforcement arm of all these changes is working. He gave an example of a recent court case involving Hirschron Estates, with Beath explaining the group owns a number of units in bad condition, so the city brought forth a lawsuit. As a result, the city was ordered a judgment of more than $250,000 but the owners never showed up to court.

“They defaulted, so you might say, well what good is that if you can’t even get their attention? We’ve

got their attention… because their *lenders found out because they’re all a part of the lawsuit too, and they’ve all started to foreclose on Hirschron properties and they’ve assigned a receiver to get the properties back up to code and to collect money so that our judgment is satisfied,” says Beath.

Among some of the other changes are new websites. One is designed for landlords to more effectively manage their portfolios and address issues, called the Civics Portal. There is also a new tool for tenants and the general public called the Code Compliance Score. The site uses a transparent scoring system to gauge enforcement efforts and helps provide tenants with better insight to make a well-informed decision when it comes to selecting a landlord or owner for rental.

Also of note, one week ago, housing advocates rallied in front of City Hall calling for City Council to take part in a rent control study. Advocates have continued to push for this following new state guidelines rolled out in December on how to determine rental vacancy rates. Mayor Malik Evans did not directly deny nor affirm support for such a study but did say there are a variety of factors related to the matter.

“I get why people want to look at that and it’s something that we may be looking at doing another study to see if we qualify. But we have to be prepared for plan (A.) or (B.) what if we don’t qualify? What do we do then? And if we do qualify, how does that still solve the problem of the two to three units that we have scattered all throughout the city, where – by the way, the bulk of our renters live,” says Mayor Evans.

“I think if we can find the dollars, I think it’s something that we’re gonna look at and it’s something that we’re having conversations with, with city council about – so we should have more to come on that soon,” he adds.

News8 did reach out to City Council for a response. Another point made during the news conference: the city has received more than $530,000 from fines awarded in court action so far. Read More NewsRochesterFirst  

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