Some landlords speaking at this week’s Brattleboro Selectboard meeting had a few problems with the proposed apartment inspection program. In speaking up, they brought up a community need for both landlords and tenants.
The first issue for landlords was cost. Multi-unit landlords said that to suddenly have a bill due for a couple of thousand dollars, all at once, wasn’t terribly appealing. The board tried to make the point that it was only a couple of dollars per month per unit, but the new ordinance doesn’t call for billing monthly. It’s all due in one lump sum, 30 days from the date billed. Penalties and interest extra.
Landlords providing apartments to low income tenants (those using vouchers of some sort) said the new fees may put a significant dent in (already slim) profits.
Brattleboro could do better being more flexible with billing options (for all sorts of things). Some people really want to pay, but the timetable doesn’t work for them.
The other significant complaint was that the new inspection program had no assistance for landlords to deal with problem tenants. The landlords were saying that tenants should have to pay fines for missing smoke alarms or other violations if they are responsible. They might also want some help with evictions.
I doubt it was their intention, but they made a good additional point – Brattleboro really doesn’t have very good rules for landlords OR tenants.
This presents an opportunity for the Town. It might be wise to put a pause on the new inspection ordinance until some basic rules (dare we say rights?) are put on paper. Time to create a Bill of Rights for landlords and tenants.
Tenants and landlords alike would appreciate the clarity offered by a booklet or poster stating Brattleboro’s apartment rules and regs. It would be useful to have a system in place to deal with violations by either party. It would put an end to rumors (can I be evicted in winter? what kind of warning must a landlord give before dropping by? etc.) and if done well, would give everyone standards to live by.
A Landlord-Tenant Committee could be set up to draft the Bill of Rights for each side’s concerns.
Possible topics to include could be issues of heat and hot water, repairs and services, rights for seniors and those with disabilities, subletting, discrimination, eviction, and tenant organizations. It could cover issues such as deposits, entry into units, proper screening, pets, and so on.
Brattleboro can start now and be ready to go when limited self-governance is soon in fashion. A Bill of Rights for landlords and tenants is long overdue, and may be just the kind of “assistance” landlords and tenants would like from the Town in exchange for the new burdens being placed on everyone by more frequent and costly inspections.