Update on the Landlord Accountability Initiative
Written by Physical Environment Content Coordinator   

On August 4, 2008, Christina Cruz, Vice President of Midvale Park NA, and I visited with TPD Capt. Brett Klein who is the leader of the City of Tucson’s working group to implement the Landlord Accountability Initiative.

Capt. Klein recounted the history of the Initiative, describing chronic problem apartment examples from the Westside Patrol Division and how police worked with the City Attorney’s Office, Ward III staff and neighbors, and others to find satisfactory and long lasting changes in apartment management and culture.  These efforts evolved into the current Landlord Accountability Initiative now operating. Tucson Mayor and Council passed ordinance revisions this spring to assist City staff in dealing with landlords of problem apartments.

Though Tucson Police lead the project, there is significant involvement from the City Attorney’s Office and the City Department of Neighborhood Resources.  Beginning this July, four problem apartment properties were identified as the early focus of the Initiative. Criteria for choosing these apartments include police calls for service per dwelling unit (ratio), fire calls, criminal home addresses at the apartment and code violation experience. Preliminary apartment candidates, ranked high on the composite criteria,  were reviewed in some depth before the final four were selected.


Capt. Klein wants to set up a process where dated milestones for remedial actions lead to stronger sanctions, ultimately leading to court (possibly including liens, injunctions and seizures). The Initiative working group is establishing its protocol using the beginning round of apartment properties as a testing ground. Several more months will be needed to establish each step in the process before a second round of apartments is added.

The goal of the program is to break the cycle of criminality at chronic problem apartments in a lasting way that turns the particular apartment property into an asset to the surrounding neighborhood.

Comments

Christina and I asked about the larger picture of landlord accountability in Tucson.

Capt. Klein readily admitted that there are many problem apartment properties that continue to be a drain on the community and on police resources.  With over 400 properties in Tucson with more than 40 units apiece, the top 50 at least from the rank ordered list of problem properties should receive immediate, effective attention. Problem properties with less than 40 units should also be explored.

Klein agrees that streamlining the process, with appropriate shortcuts and reduced time lags between steps, is important.  We suggested that the second round of apartment properties be added to the program sooner rather than later, running in parallel with the first round to some extent, using the lessons learned in the first round.

There are many more landlords in Tucson than those associated with apartment properties. The Landlord Accountability Initiative does not deal with single family, duplex and triplex rentals. Though police frequently make some headway with problem landlords of single family rentals, long lasting fixes are rare.

The City has a number of requirements of property owners (e.g., code enforcement, zoning restrictions, building permits) that can be used as levers toward better property management.  Arizona Revised Statute 33-1902 requires that rental property be registered with the County Assessor with financial penalties for failure to do so. ARS 33-1902 also says “Residential rental property shall not be occupied if the information required by this section is not on file with the county assessor.” and “On request from a city or town the county assessor shall provide the most current list of all registered rental property owners within the city's or town's boundaries.”

Several promising approaches to improving rental property management practices at all levels deserve consideration.  The crime free lease addendum remains one of the best tools available to landlords in ridding their properties of problem renters.  Any efforts to get landlords of rental properties of any size to use and enforce the lease addendum will be beneficial.

Exploring the possibility of diverting rental income from accruing to property owners who are negligent, until remediation requirements are met, seems worth while. Identifying areas of Arizona Revised Statutes where small changes can improve the tools enforcers have may pay off by shortening the remediation process and assuring better, longer lasting outcomes.

Working with property management companies to include crime free addenda in their leases should bring benefits. Perhaps some sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal” program could be devised for management companies whose practices materially improve the chances that good renters move into neighborhoods.

Donald Ijams, Coordinator
Neighborhood Support Network
August 5, 2008

Last Updated ( Friday, 08 May 2009 )
 
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