Landlords could pay for rowdy tenants

Logan Township is introducing a student rental inspection program and sanctions for landlords based on tenant behavior.

After a large party at the Nittany Pointe student housing complex drew township police attention in September and led to multiple charges, supervisors began talking about the need for more penalties. It was the second time in 2013 that township police were summoned to the housing complex because of a party.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Supervisors Chairman Jim Patterson said Thursday after a unanimous vote to amend a township ordinance.

Solicitor Larry Clapper, who wrote the proposed changes in response to the supervisors’ discussion, based the amendments on rules that Bloomsburg adopted and that were subsequently upheld in U.S. District Court.

In the rules outlined in a 25-page document, the township declares that landlords renting to two or more unrelated students in a dwelling will be responsible for disruptive conduct that occurs on their premises.

The amended ordinance defines disruptive conduct as activity that is “so loud, untimely [as to the hour of the day], offensive, riotous or that otherwise disturbs other persons of reasonable sensibility.”

Reports from landlords and township police officers are to be filed with the township, detailing names and responsible parties. If warranted, the township may charge the landlord with an ordinance violation, which could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

The amended ordinance also gives the township the power to suspend or revoke a landlord’s license to rent to students as well as the power to order the landlord to evict a student tenant.

Supervisor David Rhoa said he wasn’t quite sure how he would vote on the ordinance when he arrived at Thursday’s meeting. He asked fellow supervisors for some discussion and debate before voting.

This will burden both large and small landlords, Rhoa said. As part of the registration and licensing program, landlords are going to submit an individual floor plan prepared by a state registered architect or engineer.

“That cost,” Rhoa said, “will likely be passed onto the tenant students or their parents, further adding to the high cost of a college education.”

After asking additional questions, Rhoa said he decided to vote in favor because the amended ordinance “had more positives than negatives.”

Cassandra Schmick, director of zoning and development, said Friday that she currently has a list of 255 housing units owned by 14 landlords that would be subject to licensing and inspection. Of the 255 units, she said 156 are consolidated at the Nittany Pointe housing complex.

A representative of Nittany Pointe was not available Friday for comment.

Supervisor Joe Metzgar also voted to endorse the ordinance as a way to address prior incidents that drew police attention and had no consequence for the landlords.

“Doing nothing is not an option for us,” Metzgar said.

Patterson voted in favor, saying it’s a way to get some control over a student population that changes every August.

“If the landlords can’t control [their student tenants], then they’re going to have to pay,” Patterson said.

“There needs to be something,” said Supervisor Ryan Rimbeck who joined the board in January. “A landlord can’t be sitting back while massive parties are going on up there.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.