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City effort aimed at increasing accountability of local landlords


The people in the apartment across the street are still partying, music blaring, at 2 a.m. The next-door neighbors moved out in the middle of the night and left heaps of trash at the curb.

These are familiar scenarios for residents in some city neighborhoods, and they're often left scratching their head and asking: where is the landlord? Who's the property manager?

Last month City Council passed a law last month that will soon make it easier for anyone to find that information. The city's Building Owner's Registry was amended, and property owners who live outside of the areas with zip code prefixes of 13 and 14 must designate someone living in Monroe County as their person to contact. The law also requires owners to provide a working phone number that will be accessible to the public.

All of that information will be available on the city's property information website: www.cityofrochester.gove/propinfo.

The new law is intended to minimize the problems sometimes associated with absentee landlords that can adversely impact neighboring property values, as well as quality of life for residents.

"One of the things that people like is having somebody nearby a rental property that can be reached if there's a problem," says City Council member Jacklyn Ortiz. She worked on the ordinance after talking with residents and landlords.

More than 60 percent of Rochester's housing is rental property, Ortiz says. And about 4,100, or nearly 20 percent, of those properties are owned by people with addresses that are not just outside of Monroe County, but well beyond the Western and Central New York area, she says.

When residents have a complaint involving a rental property, they often call the police department, City Hall, or one of the city's neighborhood service centers, says Gary Kirkmire, director of the city's Building and Zoning Department. Making the property owner's contact information available to the public allows residents to make their first call to the owner, Kirkmire says.

"I think everybody has experienced a time when they wanted to talk to a property owner," he says. "Some landlords don't know about a problem. It's a matter of getting the information to them, and most often they are cooperative."

If the resident doesn't get a satisfactory response after initiating that call, they should then call the appropriate city department, Kirkmire says. "But don't call here first," he says.

The new law is partly the result of a 2016 study of the city's Nuisance Abatement Point System. The city's property information website, which includes an interactive geographic map, provides data like ownership, taxes, and water bills. The new data shows nuisance points, the kind of nuisance, and what kind of action the city may have taken to resolve the matter.

Most of the complaints concerning a property involve drugs, loud noise, or neglect.

While the purpose of the new law is to increase landlord accountability, city officials are trying to strike a collaborative balance – one that strengthens neighborhoods and supports property owners, too, officials say.

A 2007 City-Wide Rochester Housing Market Study developed by the city, described rental property owners as the city's largest small business.