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Politics and Government

Syracuse Common Council debates requiring rental inspections, landlords push back

Tom Magnarelli
Councilor Khalid Bey (center) with Councilor Joe Nicoletti (right) at a Syracuse Common Council meeting, Aug. 1.

Proposed legislation in central and northern New York would require inspections of rental units. Lawmakers are receiving pushback from landlords.

Legislation in Syracuse would require periodic interior inspections of rental properties, either by consent or warrant, every two years. The precedent set in Rochester, which was challenged and upheld by the courts, allowed the city to obtain a court order for inspections when landlords were refusing consent.

Joseph Tupper, of the Syracuse Property Owners Association, said he understands the reasoning behind the proposed law but still disagrees with it.  

“There’s a purpose behind it and that’s to get at landlords that are refusing inspections," Tupper said. "Our approach, and my group’s approach, is there are other ways to do that besides private interference in private homes.”

Currently, code enforcement is driven primarily by complaints. The problem is that some tenants are too afraid to make complaints.

“I’ve got enough calls with people, oftentimes very upset, sometimes crying on the phone, for fear that there would be fear that there would be retribution from a landlord for calling code enforcement,” Bey said. "The discussion is about ensuring that people have respectable conditions to live in throughout the city."

Syracuse Common Councilor Khalid Bey said he has received calls about faulty plumbing, sewage and rodent infestations.

"They can't get any remedy yet," Bey said. "The landlord is still collecting rent. At what point do you hold them accountable?"

Bey is pushing hard for the legislation requiring regular inspections. This comes after a 13-year-old girl was killed in a fire earlier this year and questions arose about whether the landlord had violated any property codes. Bey hopes the legislation will get a vote Monday but some councilors seem reluctant, questioning if it will face lawsuits and get tied up in court.

Watertown City Council will also look at legislation that would allow the city to inspect rental properties every three years.