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TOPIC: Re:Landlord Accountability Followup
dsijams ()
NSN Coordinator
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Gender: Male Location: 4204 E. 4th Pl. Tucson, Az 85711
Landlord Accountability Followup 10 Years, 2 Months ago  
The following was sent as a followup to the Tuesday, Feb. 5 Tucson Mayor & Council Study Session:

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich,

Thank you for your work on and support of the Landlord Accountability Initiative. Once the Initiative’s additional ordinances and the related program get under way, neighborhoods will appreciate the City’s increased and more effective work to bring problem rental properties into line with reasonable community expectations.

One continuing concern that will occupy neighborhood leaders’ minds will be the actual improvements that are brought about on the ground. There is substantial evidence that the number of problem properties in Tucson is larger than is implied in the rather timid beginning that the City Attorney suggested last Tuesday. A short list of “the worst of the worst” may be a way to start, but the list is still short and will very likely need to be substantially lengthened.

Barbara Lehmann, President of Dodge-Flower Neighborhood Association, said recently:

“Due to the lack of landlord accountability, as well as the protection of anonymity, too many rental properties contribute to the overall deterioration of neighborhoods. There are landlords who, whether because of ignorance, greed, laziness, or financial hardship, allow their properties to fall into disrepair. Some landlords live out of town - even as far away as Paris! They never even see their properties or know anything about their tenants. They know only what is on their properties' profit and loss statements. When properties deteriorate, the trashy appearance sends a message that welcomes blight to our neighborhoods. All it takes is one bad property on a block to do that.”

Many neighborhood problem properties are not likely to reach the “worst of the worst” list and will therefore remain a blight on neighborhoods for too long.

Ramping up the Landlord Accountability program to deal with this already identified backlog should be a high priority.

Thank you again,

Donald S. Ijams
Network Coordinator
Neighborhood Support Network
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Last Edit: 2008/02/10 18:19 By dsijams.
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rbowers ()
Neighborhood Activist
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Re:Landlord Accountability Followup 10 Years, 2 Months ago  
This is an email which I have sent to the Mayor and City Council and interested parties.

February 11 2008

Dear Council Member Uhlich and Others,

As I pointed out in a prior email to the Mayor and City Council, the "Landlord Accountability Act" appears to make only one new provision which is not already in existing State law and City ordinances: the ability to require the owner of a slum property to attend Crime Free Multi-Housing training. Existing law already provides the ability to designate a property as a slum property and to force the use of a property management firm to administer the property, as well as confiscation or forfeiture of property under certain circumstances. It is the initiation of a further program intended to deal with "problem properties" which is the important aspect of your action.

In doing so, you must insure that the rights of property owners and tenants are respected. You must insure that there is a balance and fairness in the application of law between the desire to require landlords to have clean and safe properties and the methods used to attain.

If a person is a criminal, the crime is well-defined. There are clear categories, determinations and remedies for categories of crime. As concerns the ownership of rental property, we are essentially defining crime where "we" the City believe that for certain properties the persons owning the properties are not managing or maintaining them properly, however with a significant lack of both clear definition and due process.

As a landlord or property manager, a police officer can come to you and say "We want that person evicted because we believe that they are involved in crime." If you fail to comply, you may be threatened that "abatament procedures" may be commenced against your property, which could lead to the forfeiture of your property. This type of intimidation happens where there is a suspicion or allegation of criminal activity, not just where charges have been filed and crime confirmed through court proceedings. If you do not believe such threats and intimidation occur, ask landlords and property managers.

As a landlord or property manager, a "Code Official" can determine that your property is a slum property and designate it as such. Unlike crime, there is no clear definition. Though the law sets forth criteria, this is a subjective matter. There is appeal from such designation, however it is limited. Such designation can lead to the confiscation and forfeiture of both the management and the ownership of your property if you do not act as instructed to correct the conditions which have been cited and within a specific time _frame_.

Under the program proposed, and actually ongoing, a "Code Official" or a police officer can determine that your property is a "problem property" because of the incidence of police calls which can be used to determine that your property is a "nuisance" and thus subject to the same laws regarding designation as a slum property. This process is not defined by the proposed or existing law but rather is procedural in process. Even though the existing law (ARS 33-1901 - 33-1907 and parallel City ordinances, which are actually concerned with the physical condition of properties) directly has nothing to do with the incidence of police calls or incidences of crime, properties can be handled as slum properties for those reasons by alleged interpretation of the law.

It appears that under the program proposed, it can be claimed that your property is a "problem property" because it is believed that your property affects the value of other properties. If you do not believe so, listen to and read your own words and those of persons communicating with you on these matters.

On top of these determinations, and to assist with them, an owner can be held responsible for criminal activity which occurs on their property under the principle that they SHOULD HAVE KNOWN about such criminal activity whether they had such knowledge or not. There is no requirement that the owner or their representative was notified of such activity, just the presumption or assertion that somehow they should have known about it, and profited from it by the acceptance of rent. Arizona's Landlord and Tenant laws provide a lot of rights and privacy to tenants that could prevent an owner, or their representative, from knowing about activity occurring on their property. If you do not believe that such things occur, ask your City and County attorneys for specific cases that have occurred. In my opinion, this is the most Orwellian in nature of the remedies which we are attempting to employ, and the only control on it is legal defense in court.

There exists and occurs great latitude for misuse of laws and their alleged interpretation relating to property in the program proposed, which is not only proposed but already ongoing. There exists a large latitude for seeking cooperation through harassment, threats and intimidation. There does not exist a means to prevent or control such misuse of law within the law as it exists other than litigation and complaint.

We indeed as a City and as citizens are right to aspire to having only clean and safe rental properties in our City and its neighborhoods. We must not "get there" through harassment, threats and intimidation. We must get there through cooperation and just application of law. We must not let our aspirations lead to arbitrary and over-zealous application of remedies, which in some cases exceed the actual law.

We can say, and our attorneys employed can say, that we will not use excess to apply these laws or perform this program, however we have not included such protection in the laws or the program, as should be easily seen by the examples here. You must act not only to develop necessary laws and programs, but also to make sure that our police and attorneys act in a manner which respects people and their rights. Do not simply assume that it is so.

Robert Bowers, Citizen and Neigborhood Activist

I have certain affiliations as follows, however such affiliations do not mean that these organizations necessarily agree with or support my views:
Chair, Toumey Park Neighborhood Association
Member, Core Group and Steering Committee, Tucson Neighborhood Support Network
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