Supervisors approve rental inspection fee

Penn State Altoona students might see a rent increase for off-campus housing in the fall now that landlords face a new rental inspection fee.

Logan Township supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved a $50 per rental unit inspection fee that is based on estimates for the cost of the inspections, which include travel to and from the housing units.

“We are going to evaluate that fee after one year to see if it is too high,” Supervisor Joe Metzgar said.

In addition to the annual rental unit inspection fee, supervisors set fees for landlords to appeal rental denials and suspensions at $500.

In February, the supervisors amended an ordinance giving the township authority over landlords.

“If we have a riot and police have to come to quell the situation, our ordinance says those students can be removed, and we can suspend the landlord from renting those empty rental units,” Metzgar said.

Police Chief Ron Heller said officers respond to incidents at student housing weekly. A five-year study beginning around 2003 revealed 1,001 incidents at one housing complex, Heller said. Problems have continued, and “the supervisors have had enough,” he said.

One recent incident involved so much shattered glass on premises surrounding student housing that police dogs could not perform their job of quelling riotous students. And firefighters risked their bodies to retrieve a student from the top of a water tower near a housing complex, Metzgar said.

Through the years, students’ antics have gone without recoil from some landlords, supervisors said. The new sanctions and inspections are the township’s response.

“We want to ensure the units are safe and have no public hazards. We are going to inspect units, and for that, there is a fee, and we will pass that along to the landlords,” Metzgar said of the inspections.

That $50 fee includes triannual inspection of rental units. The inspector will look for presence of working smoke detectors in all sleeping rooms, outside of sleeping areas and on all floors of the unit, outlets and switches, windows and ceilings.

There is also a $50 reinspection fee. Landlords of student housing could not be reached Thursday. None of the approximate 14 landlords attended the meeting.

“Good landlords have no problem with it,” Metzgar said. “This has been in the works for six months and advertised. I have had no one stop me and complain about it. I have had a few people who rent out to students say they are happy about it because it brings every landlord on the same page.”