Last updated: March 16. 2013 8:14PM - 503 Views

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PLYMOUTH – The borough has added more teeth to its residential rental-unit ordinance, hoping to put the bite on neglectful absentee landlords.

Zoning Officer John Thomas, a former police chief, said it is hoped the revised ordinance will make owners of apartment buildings more attentive to their properties' condition and their tenants' behavior.

I'd say 98 percent of the landlords are good people and take care of their properties, Thomas said. But about 2 percent live out of town, and they don't keep after their buildings, and we can't get in touch with them when problems come up.

Thomas said Plymouth Borough Council approved the changes to the ordinance in September, and letters went out on Jan. 10 to all owners/landlords of rental properties. Thomas said last July's triple murder in a rental property at First and Orchard streets prompted council's decision to upgrade the ordinance that was first enacted in 1994.

Thomas said a property at 405-407 E. Main St. has more than 200 bags of garbage piled up on the back porch and in the back yard. He said issues like this need to be addressed in a strong manner.

Thomas said the ordinance addresses several areas:

• Increases the license fee from $25 to $35 per unit and requires it for all residential units.

• All units must be kept in a good and safe condition. Transfer of these duties to the tenants or other persons does not relieve the owner/landlord of responsibility or liability.

• Owners/landlords are expected to use all legal means available to evict tenants who routinely engage in disorderly conduct, disturb the peace or create excessive noise. Routinely engage is defined as three or more violations during any 30-day period or six violations within any 12-month period.

• Owner/landlord should use all legal means to evict any tenant convicted of, or pleading guilty to, illegal distribution of drugs or drug paraphernalia.

• Fines of not less than $400 and not more than $1,000 plus all costs will be levied. Each day a violation continues will constitute a separate violation.

Thomas is responsible for the enforcement of the ordinance.

The feedback I've received has been positive, he said. Everyone I have talked to said they will comply with the conditions of the ordinance.

Thomas said the ordinance requires a mandatory yearly registration and inspection for all rental units, occupied and unoccupied, within each structure.

Owners/landlords will receive a copy of the ordinance. Thomas said council approved the changes to ensure the buildings are safe and healthy for occupants.

For more information

Plymouth Borough Code Enforcement Officer John Thomas urges anyone with any questions about the revised Residential Rental Unit Ordinance to call 779-1011.

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