WILKES-BARRE — A day after council took the first step to approve an amendment toughening the city’s rental ordinance, the code enforcement office listed more than 5o citations to property owners over a four-month period.
More than half of the 51 properties have out-of-town owners, a point stressed by Mayor Tom Leighton when he proposed the amendment to crack down on problem properties contributing to the rise in violent crime.
City spokeswoman Liza Prokop said the timing of the release of the list was unrelated to the pending amendment.
In an e-mail Wednesday she said, “It is standard practice for the city to release information on code violations.”
The list was longer than previous ones because it contains citations issued between April and July, she said.
City officials did not return a request for additional information on the citations.
At a press conference a week ago the mayor took aim at problem properties and warned that they could be shut down for six months for crimes involving guns and drugs.
“We will not condone people from outside the city or within the city to erode the safety and security that our residents deserve,” Leighton said. “We have made too much progress in rebuilding this great community to let it falter now.”
City Council on Tuesday night approved the first reading of the amendment and is expected to do the same at its next meeting on Sept. 12, clearing the way for it to become law 10 days later. The planned changes drew a mixed reaction from landlords who attended the meeting.
A total of $46,250 in fines was issued to property owners whom the city said failed to have rental inspections performed and lacked rental licenses or property managers. Some properties were condemned. Others were labeled unsafe and unsecure, posted as unfit to live in.
Some of the owners could not be reached for comment.
The properties cited were located throughout the city, but Sambourne Street, which spans two blocks, had 10 entries on the list. In addition, there was a property posted on Sept. 21, 2012, and another posted as recently as Tuesday. On both sides of the street yellow notices were attached to doors and windows of vacant properties.
A woman, who declined to identify herself out of fear of retaliation for speaking out, said she regularly contacted the code enforcement office to report on a neighboring double-block house.
“I think it should be condemned,” she said. “It’s not fit for human habitation.”