Can disruptive tenants cost landlords their rental permits if the landlord does not evict immediately? For Harrisburg landlords and property managers, the answer is yes.
The new Bill 12 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has landlords up in arms. This law, which went into effect in December, states that if a tenant receives two disruptive conduct reports from the city within a twelve month period, the landlord will lose his or her residential rental permit for that unit.
Sound harsh? If the landlord does not serve an eviction notice and begin the eviction process for disruptive conduct within 15 days, the rental unit will be deemed unfit for occupancy and the landlord's rental permit temporarily revoked. The unit cannot be rented again until the cited tenants have been evicted. City officials assert that the purpose of this law is to prevent disruptive tenants from impeding the peace and quiet of their neighbors, but landlords in Harrisburg are considering a lawsuit.
According to the city, disruptive conduct is considered any violation that disturbs the peace of neighbors or causes damage to neighboring properties. This can range from using firearms to playing music too loudly. Because the term “disruptive conduct” is subjective, even traditionally good tenants could be labeled disruptive.
This grey area would force landlords to go through the long and expensive eviction process, followed by a costly vacancy, and then the tedious process of re-renting the unit. Attorney Dave Lanza argues that this ordinance goes beyond the city’s scope of power, and Harrisburg landlords have been objecting to the very notion that they should be liable for their tenants’ behavior.
State officials explain that the purpose of this law is crack down on tenants that truly disrupt the community, and will make them accountable for their actions. Mayor Linda Thompson stated that property owners who rent to quality tenants should not have to worry about this law. The city hopes that the law will act as a deterrent for “slum landlords” who do not properly screen their tenants and neglect their properties.
A similar law was passed in Watertown, NY just last year, allowing the city to fine landlords up to $500 for each disorderly conduct citation that a tenant receives. East Syracuse, NY has also enacted a similar ordinance, and the spread of laws such as these is starting to concern both landlords and tenants across the country.
These laws can have a serious impact on landlords’ bottom line, and serve as a reminder that landlords and property managers must thoroughly know and understand their local rules and regulations. Especially, it seems, as ordinances like this one become more popular.