Under a new law that makes rental property owners responsible for any drugs or other illegal activity that takes place on their rental property, landlords could be forced to keep rental units empty for a full year.
Parents or grandparents also could be forced to move out of their homes for a full year if they cannot prevent their children from manufacturing or selling drugs on the premises.
“It’s a tough law,” said Dan Vogel, city attorney, explaining the use of the ordinance. “But we hope we will never have to use it.”
The law is meant to force people to take responsibility for what goes on in their rental property or their homes, Vogel said.
The ordinance was read twice and approved at the April 3 board of aldermen meeting making it effective immediately.
The law also covers prostitution or other illegal activity on the property.
If police determine that drugs are being manufactured at a particular address, the nuisance law will be used. It includes a hearing before the mayor and an abatement order issued by the mayor.
As with any other offense, the property owner will be sent an abatement order.
If the illegal activity continues, the property owner will be called to appear at a public hearing in front of the mayor.
“In that case, the mayor acts like the judge,” Mayor Herb Adams said.
If it is determined that the property owner has been unwilling or unable to abate an illegal activity, the property will be vacated for a full year.
The law came about, Adams said, because of drug violations in the community.
The law puts on notice individuals with rental property that they had better know who they are renting to and what goes on in their rental property, Adams said. However, the law is meant to be corrective.
“The law is not meant to be punitive, “Adams stresses. “We want to correct the problem.”
The new law is in response to an increase in drug activity in the community, according to Police Chief Matt Mansell.
Mansell said despite arrests made and individuals charged, there was repeated drug activity at a particular address.
“We had one house where there was a death from an overdose,” Mansell said. “Ten days later there was another death. We can get people out but they go right back in and are back in business.”
There are people still living in the house, the chief said.
“There has been a lot of drug activity in that house recently,” Mansell said. “In most cases after there are arrests people pick up and leave but not always. We were looking for a way to enforce that that property could not be used for drug activity.”
Although the new law is aimed primarily at drug offenses, it can be applied to any illegal activity.