Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Hard line taken on nuisance tenants

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

COVINGTON - The nearly 3,000 rental property owners here will have to pay closer attention to their tenants' behavior, or face stiff penalties from the city.

The City Commission unanimously adopted an ordinance Tuesday night, revising the 19-year-old nuisance code to take a hard line on drugs, prostitution and dice games.

The revised code specifically prohibits prostitution, controlled substances, and outdoor gambling in all residential, commercial, and vacant properties in the city.

The original proposal included alcohol-related offenses and all gambling, but the revised version for Tuesday night's vote is less stringent.

And, instead of the proposed "two strikes" and you're out, the code passed Tuesday night moves to evict a tenant after a third strike.

The code also includes guidelines for the city to inform property owners of illegal activities taking place in their homes, and the consequences homeowners face if the illegal activities don't stop.

The ordinance was proposed after police responded to 60 calls to a home on Greenup Street in 2001 and 2002 on over a dozen different charges, including prostitution and drug activity. The landlord of that home faced suspension of his license because of the activity of his tenants.

"That was one of those cases where the landlord didn't know what was happening," said Mildred Rains, code enforcement director for Covington. "With this new law, they will know. The city's not going to put up with this behavior anymore."

At Tuesday's meeting, City Manager Greg Jarvis explained the changes made to the originally proposed ordinance after two meetings were held with residents of the East Side.

Resident Bennie Doggett, 1501 Scott Blvd., thanked city staff, Jarvis, City Solicitor Jay Fossett, Commissioners Jerry Bamberger, Craig Bohman and Bernie Moorman for meeting with the East Side residents about their concerns that the initial proposal may have targeted African-Americans.

Doggett told the commission that the East Side neighborhood plans to form a 12-member taskforce to monitor the enforcement of the nuisance ordinance.

Resident Tom Wiggins, 1307 Scott Blvd., said he thought city staff did a "great job" on the ordinance and he is all for it.

Under the revised code, police will notify the code enforcement department of a violation at a property. The code enforcement department will then notify the homeowner of the violation by mail.

A second violation will result in a certified letter sent to the homeowner with a requirement that the criminal activity stop.

After a third violation, the city can evict the tenant, impose fines on the homeowner of $100 per offense, and suspend the homeowner's occupational license for up to a year. Any unpaid fines can result in a lien on the property.

"This action will be quicker because everything will come before the code enforcement board rather than going through the court system," said Rains.

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