State Judge Gives Cortland Until April 30th to Provide Missing Papers in Rental Registry Lawsuit
A State Supreme Court Judge has refused to lift an injunction that is preventing the City of Cortland from enforcing its rental registry and inspection program, the judge has asked the City Attorney for several missing documents in connection with a lawsuit against the program.
In a decision dated March 21st Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey refuses to lift a court order that is preventing the City of Cortland from implementing its rental registry program.
Since 2009 the city has been attempting to move forward with a the program, the rental registry if upheld, requires that all non-owner occupied rental units in the city be registered, pay a fee, and submit to code inspections every three years. The legislation prompted a lawsuit from local landlords who argue the aspects of the registry are unconstitutional.
In 2012 the City Council moved to amend the local ordnance, striking provisions that would have stripped rental permits from property owners who don’t pay their taxes, utility bills, and are the target of frequent code violations or complaints. The City Council also exempted two family owner occupied homes from registration and removed a provision that allowed apartments to be searched by Code Officer. The search provision was seen by some as a way to enforce the city's existing law that prohibits more than three unrelated people from sharing an apartment, the goal was to reduce overcrowding in student housing and reduce impacts to the the surrounding neighborhoods.
In his latest decision Judge Rumsey says the city has not provided the court with certified copies of the various sections of the local law. In addition Rumsey points out in his decision that even though the city has moved to amend certain provisions of the law, he has yet to even review other aspects of the law that are also being challenged.
Landlord and local accountant Gerry Ruggerio who is among those challenging the registry says despite the city's efforts to amend the law, there are still other legal problems with the legislation. Rugerrio points to a provision that would strip the property owner of his rental permit based on repeated code violations.
City Mayor Brian Tobin who has been a longtime advocate of the registry says despite the legal challenges and delays he feels confident the registry will be upheld. Tobin says changes have been made that strengthen the law and still maintains the goal of improving the quality of Cortland's housing stock.
Ruggerio says local landlords are also interested in maintaining their properties, he would like to see the city work with the landlords to create a law that works for everyone.
Ruggerio says the struggle to regulating rental housing in Cortland goes back over 35 years, with several local laws passed since then to address the impacts of over occupancy and density; he questioned whether the housing conditions in Cortland have gotten better or worse during over those 3 decades?
The city now has until April 30th to submit the missing documents or the case could be dismissed.