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Slumlords beware

City cracks down on miscreants

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A h, the power of the media! Unfortunately, the Independent can't take credit for this one.

According to City Councilman Richard Skorman and Colorado Springs Police Department's code enforcement administrator Karon DiPentino, it was KKTV Channel 11's series "Landlords Hall of Shame" that spawned new code enforcement rules aimed at cracking down on local slumlords. After the news segment began embarrassing negligent landlords in August of 2000, the previous City Council formed a stakeholders committee to address the problem.

Nearly three years later, Council passed the first significant code changes in the upkeep of private homes in 35 years.

"Poor landlords have found out that if there's not a high-level code violation, there [are] no repercussions," said DiPentino. Under the old rules, "if it wasn't a stove leak or raw sewage, our hands were pretty much tied."

The new rules, approved 8-1 by the Council last week, grant police authority to condemn properties that have been previously cited for code violations. Once a property has been condemned, DiPentino said, tenants would be relocated at the owner's expense. Under the previous rules, landlords could delay repairs during a lengthy appeals process.

Cyndy Kulp of the Housing Advocacy Coalition says that though she supports what she described as "tweaks" to the rules, she'd prefer a licensing system where each unit would be required to pass inspection. Of the new rules, she said, "It's not that valuable in terms of controlling slumlords because there's no criminal charges in the code."

Other new rules include the capacity to require animal waste removal every three to seven days and mandates smoke detectors for rental subdivisions. As the CSPD's DiPentino said, "It's strictly a quality of life issue."

-- John Dicker

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