As the president of the University Hill neighborhood association, I was disturbed by the suggestion by University Hill landlord Raj Aluri in the Sept. 27 paper that landlords should not be answerable for tenant behavior (“Are rentals tearing at the fabric of Columbia neighborhoods?”). Bad behavior is a joint problem, and Mr. Aluri’s neighbors are working with the Columbia City Council on a new ordinance that will address this reality.
Landlords often have significant financial investments in their rental properties, but those properties generally do not look like their own homes. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask landlords to be responsible for policing their own property in order to ensure that the number of tenants is lawful; tenant misbehavior, including loud, large and boisterous parties, is curtailed; the property meets code requirements, which impact safety; the exterior is in repair and the yard and tree lane are maintained; tenants do not park in front yards, in violation of city ordinance; and trash containers are appropriately stored and the yards are not littered with beer cans and other trash.
Are rentals tearing at the fabric of Columbia neighborhoods?
The proposed ordinance will largely hold landlords to existing city requirements, for which there is often no acceptable remedy to the aggrieved neighbor. The idea is to make enforcement swifter and less cumbersome.
The landlord problems have increased as the student population has increased. Nevertheless, the city and the university benefit from livable, well-maintained, in-town neighborhoods. The problem appears not to be the result of well-run professional student housing but rather landlords who own poorly maintained and widely dispersed older structures in residential neighborhoods.
Landlords can depreciate their investments and obtain sheltered income streams and deduct maintenance and insurance expenses. We should demand more accountability in exchange for these benefits.
Whether the fault lies with tenant, landlord or both, the real problem is one of basic civility and citizenship. The city code is the social compact by which we have agreed to live. A new ordinance should foster that civic responsibility.
Thomas R. Gottshall