By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - City officials have issued the first warning to a property owner under a tough new law designed to get rid of neighborhood nuisances.
The letter, sent last week, alerted landlord Dan Sparrow that one of the apartment units he owns at 1023 Russell St. was just one crime away from being declared a "criminal activity nuisance" because of recent drug arrests there.
In this case, Sparrow, a Versailles, Ky., man who specializes in historic renovations, said he'd already resolved the problem by evicting the problem tenant.
"If they evict the tenant or take action" to stop the nuisance, they've satisfied the city under the new law," said City Solicitor Jay Fossett.
"This ordinance is not designed to punish property owners. It's designed to get rid of a neighborhood nuisance."
Fossett said he sent the initial warning letter because the Russell Street apartment was the site of three drug arrests on April 16, and activity at the apartment had triggered numerous complaints from residents of the Old Seminary Square neighborhood.
The city solicitor expects to notify other owners of problem properties in about a week.
Starting in June, Covington's code enforcement department will send out monthly warning letters.
Under the law that took effect April 12, Covington residents who engage in drug use, prostitution or outdoor gambling two or more times in a 12-month period could be forced to leave their apartments or homes.
The law also applies to owners of commercial property and vacant lots.
Landlords who fail to evict criminal offenders before a second offense happens or another search warrant is issued could find occupational licenses revoked or utilities shut off at the offending apartments.
In extreme cases, the city could seek a court order to board up a troublesome property.
Sparrow, who owns 50 apartment units, mostly in Versailles and Lexington, said that he visits his rental properties at least once a month and usually screens his tenants carefully.
He said he took a chance on the tenant in question at the request of a counselor at a local social service agency.
"Except for this incident, I have some very good tenants," Sparrow said.
"This was just an unusual case."
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