City Wants to Step In, Collect Rents

Could Crackdown On Landlords Backfire?

landlord helpWould city officials make better landlords? That’s a question that the City of Syracuse may be forced to answer.

Two years ago, a prosecutor there jailed a couple after they failed to make ordered improvements on a single family home that remained vacant. They were given three months to come up with the money, which they claimed they could not raise at that time–back when the housing market took a tumble.

Now, another city attorney has taken the reins, and vowed to make unsightly rental properties a top priority. According to a report in, this month she told the city’s council members that from January of April of this year, her office has “processed” more than 16,000 old and new cases regarding “absentee” landlords, a designation which includes those who title property in corporate names.

In Syracuse, landlords are required to appear in court personally for housing code violations, and arrest warrants are available against  those who do not comply with court appearances or ordered improvements.

But this enthusiastic advocate is not stopping there.  She also said she is considering taking over the properties and collecting rents from the tenants directly.

How those rents would be used is unclear, and so is the question of whether the monies would be applied to improving the properties.

But some community members are questioning whether the strategy of blaming a landlord for the poor condition of a property is entirely fair — or effective, in improving either the appearance or relative safety of the neighborhood.

One person asked “Are you out of your mind?” after reading about the plan, referring to local politicians taking over funds from tenants.

A local landlord blames tenants for the poor condition of her property. She claims she has tried three times to evict a tenant who she swears is gaming the pro-tenant system by damaging the property, calling building inspectors to report the damaged unit, and then avoiding paying rent until the landlord makes the ordered repairs. At the thought that the city could do a better job, she says, “Don’t be too quick to judge and blame.”

According to the news report, two neighborhood groups have also raised concerns.  They say “show me the money” when it comes to results.  Going after landlords at this rate is one thing, but they question whether the overall result will be more boarded-up buildings that neither the city nor the landlord can afford to tear down, making some neighborhoods into slums.

Over the past several years, the population in Syracuse has been on the decline. Officials expected another 10% drop in the recent census, but were pleasantly surprised that the decline slowed to just 1.5%, driven by more high tech jobs and a surge of immigration in the area.

And that may mean a greater demand for rental properties in Syracuse.

See 10 Inexpensive Ways to Spruce Up Your Rental or Rehab Property.

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