Judge Lifts Ban on Cortland Rental Registry Program, Landlords May Appeal
A State Supreme Court Judge has lifted a ban that prevented the City of Cortland from moving forward with enforcing the previously adopted rental registry permit program. The program requires landlords to register their rentals with the city, pay a fee, and submit to periodic code inspections.
Back in 2009, the Cortland City Council passed the rental registry program. The law was an attempt to reign in and regulate the increasing number of student rentals that are taking over previously single family neighborhoods. The law also applies to non-owner occupied rentals as well.
The law was set to take effect in August of 2010, but a group of local landlords filed a lawsuit against the rental registry arguing that it was unconstitutional and infringed upon the rights of tenants and property owners. State Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey issued an injunction preventing the registry from being enforced. Rumsey raised concerns that provisions in the law could lead to warrantless searches of rental properties by City Code Officials.
The city moved to amend the law and address that concern. In addition, the city council also dropped a provision in 2012 that would have stripped rental permits from property owners who didn't pay their taxes, utility bills, or were the target of frequent code violations or complaints.
The city re-filed the law with the changes and now the judge says he sees no reason to continue an injunction barring enforcement of the law.
City Mayor Brian Tobin sees this as a victory for renters and residents in the city. Tobin says this will help make rentals safer for tenants and will provide a way to address problem properties.
In his decision the judge did say that the city has not adequately defined what constitutes a nuisance property which is included in the law as a basis for denial or revocation of a rental permit.
Tobin says he hopes to work with the City Council to clearly define what a nuisance property is.
The City of Syracuse, Binghamton, and the Village of Groton have all adopted nuisance property laws to deal with persistent code violators or properties that require frequent visits from police.
Local landlord Gerry Ruggiero who is among the group of landlords that filed the lawsuit acknowledged that landlords will now have comply with the registry, but he says the lawsuit is not over and an appeal is planned.
In addition, Ruggiero says the registry will have some unintended consequences, because of the city's law that limits the number of non-related students in rentals more single family homes will be converted to student rentals to meet demand and the assessments of existing rentals will need to be reduced to reflect the loss of income that landlords will experience as a result of fewer students per property.
City Attorney Ric VanDonsel said he will work with the Code Office to determine how and when enforcement of the registry will begin.