Regarding Ordinance 916, Residential Rental Inspection Program, I would like to share some concerns with my fellow community members. Whether you are a landlord, a renter or a homeowner this is the time to take notice. Please carefully consider the nature of how this ordinance was presented and passed. If we, as a community, condone such decision-making practices we are headed down a slippery slope, indeed.
As the article in the July 30 edition of the News-Journal stated, North East Borough Manager Pat Gehrlein presented the idea to Council members on Monday, Oct. 5. It was requested more than once by landlords in attendance that a meeting be planned for landlords and Council to discuss the program. There was no such meeting. Council passed the motion to advertise Ordinance 916. It was advertised by the NE Borough only as legally necessary in the Erie Times-News. Then it was mentioned in the North East News Journal dated Oct 15, 2020, among two other resolutions.
In this article, Patrick Gehrlein is quoted as saying, “there are grace periods built within the program so the landlords could test out of having their units inspected.” This is a misleading statement. There are no such “grace periods” written in the ordinance. By the time that the inspections might go to every four years, the intrusion on the landlords’ and tenants’ private homes will have already happened and the damage done. This is only one of the quotes that only speaks in half-truths.
April 5, the ordinance was officially passed by the Borough Council. I was still not aware until after May 7, when a letter was sent to “All Borough Residential Landlords” in the mail from Mr. Gehrlein. This letter was to inform landlords of a meeting to discuss the ordinance that had been passed before landlords had been given the courtesy of an opportunity to be heard.
During this meeting on May 27, when landlords were exercising our rights to speak about the ordinance, our questions and concerns were treated in a dismissive manner. Then in a following meeting on June 7, we were told that our comments were just “banter,” and we should form a small group with designated speakers for a later meeting as if we had no forum to be speaking there.
Another example: during one of the meetings, I asked if there is a concern for substandard properties to be fixed, why not focus on them instead of forming a whole new bureaucracy? A Council member said, “Because that’s just the way the world works!” I find that condescending especially when we are discussing our basic 4th Amendment rights! As well as the possibility of facing fines and/or imprisonment for violation of this ordinance!
In speaking to many North East renters, they do not want inspectors entering and searching through their homes. In fact, according to the ordinance, the private homes of the landlords’ can be searched if there is an apartment anywhere on the premises. Every building on the premises is subject to inspection, so anything that one might have in a storage shed could be rifled through. The ordinance is not just a “simple” checklist. They are in every room in every house. They want to come into your bedroom. It is not about having anything to hide. It is about having the right to privacy in your own home. All members of the community have the right to the same thing.
Furthermore, I feel this is simply not necessary. As a community member, I have noticed improvements throughout the borough. There have been renovations throughout the area. Yet, this is the reason that Pat Gehrlein has given for the ordinance. Please be aware of what is going on in our community. I am speaking up; it is never too late for your voice to be heard.