The ordinance won't be heard until Monday but one local organization with state ties wants their voice to be heard when it comes to their opposition to it.
The Evansville City Council will discuss the proposed Good Neighbor Ordinance Monday night. In addition to building upon the city's 2006 public nuisance ordinance, the ordinance takes aim at tenants of rental properties that have a history of being a public nuisance. Under the ordinance, tenants accused of serious crimes like rape or murder face automatic eviction. Tenants accused of less serious offenses like disorderly conduct, public intoxication, theft and intimidation have 'two strikes' before eviction. Finally, tenants accused of code violations like high weeds, trash in the yard or abandoned vehicles have 'three strikes' before eviction. While the ordinance has the support of many city councilmembers, some for-profit landlords, EPD and the Mayor's Office, a local group affiliated with a state organization has come out in opposition.
"If the ordinance -- as it's written right now -- is what's going to be voted on, we hope it gets voted down," said Michael DiRienzo, the attorney representing the Apartment Association of Southern Indiana. The AASI is affiliated with the Indiana Apartment Association.
The AASI opposes the Good Neighbor Ordinance because it's too broad and too quick, Dirienzo said.
"What they're doing with this [ordinance], they're reducing the amount of time you have to abate things," DiRienzo said. "They're expanding what they consider nuisances to 27. Some of those things are minor like loud noises, fireworks, tall grass, stuff like that."
The ordinance is complaint-driven, said Councilwoman Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley, the author of the ordinance. Evansville Police may start the complaint of nuisance activity at a rental property. Landlords and tenants who receive these complaints must eliminate the issue within 72 hours and provide a response to the Evansville Police Department that details the steps taken to take care of the nuisance, Brinkerhoff-Riley said. The ordinance has the support Monte Fetter. Fetter is the owner of Fetter Properties, one of the largest property management companies in the city. He is also the president of POMA, the Property Owners and Managers Association of Evansville. Fetter said because the complaints will be tracked, it establishes a paper trail on troublesome tenants.
By using a 'carrot and stick' approach to improve tenant behavior, Councilwoman Brinkerhoff-Riley said the ordinance will not only encourage rule-abiding tenants to move less frequently but also weed-out troublesome tenants.
"The vast majority of renters aren't the problem," Brinkerhoff-Riley said. "It just takes one in your neighborhood or on your street to cause problems. If it's not a crime of passion or a crime of addiction, I think we have a shot at controlling some behavior. Part of that is by reinforcing that they are part of the neighborhood and we have an expectation when you're there."
The AASI would prefer to have property owners address the issue with tenants before getting the police involved, DiRienzo said. One of the other issues the organization has with the ordinance is that if a resident is evicted, he or she cannot rent from the same management company anywhere in Evansville for up to one year.
"There is a danger to something like that where you can create a blacklist where someone can get put on this list for having an ordinance violation that ends up being dismissed," DiRienzo said.
Furthermore, DiRienzo said the AASI believes the ordinance tries to do too much in some areas but not enough in others.
"What this ordinance doesn't do is protect landlords from claims that are made against them by their tenants," DiRienzo said. "Whether it's police misconduct, discrimination -- one tenant gets cited and one tenant doing the same thing doesn't -- the landlords aren't protected from that."
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