Renata Shepard: Amherst rental permitting won’t solve tenant problems
AMHERST — As a small landlord and Amherst resident, I would like to address some of the claims stated by Priscilla White in her guest column April 29.
I appreciate White’s concern and experience with out-of-town landlords and corporations and some local management companies that rent properties in single-family neighborhoods. I would not like to live near a nuisance home myself.
However, requiring all landlords to comply with Amherst’s proposed bylaw will not only be a burden to current small landlords and current owners who may need to rent their homes later, but also will not resolve the nuisance problem.
Laws are already in the books (both town and state) to take care of health and safety standards. If the town is concerned about that, then sending out information to all residents (renters and owners) about those regulations would tackle that problem.
Many owner-occupied homes have health and safety issues — probably more so than rentals, since Massachusetts General Laws are very strict when dealing with rental properties. Chapter 186 has 22 sections (some of which are subdivided). Section 14, for example, spells out all you would want in terms of a healthy and safe property.
The parking problem described by White could be seen in owner-occupied homes as well. If a rental property is next to an owner-occupied property that has two or three teenage drivers plus their parents’ vehicles, they should both technically abide by the same parking rules, which is, by the way, already in Article 7 of the Amherst Zoning Bylaw.
The voluntary rental registration that White refers to in her column is actually a Board of Health mandatory registration since 2003. The Board of Health has two full-time inspectors to handle any complaints. The code enforcement officer recently hired by the Inspections Services to help alleviate the load and deal with rental properties can also count on three building inspectors plus a building commissioner who would help if necessary.
Paying $100 per year for a permit, in addition to all the accompanying paperwork, which includes a self-inspection list that a layperson is not qualified to sign under the pains and penalties of perjury will not resolve the nuisance issue White wants to avoid.
The proposed rental bylaw will not resolve her issue of needing to pay for private patrols — only more police officers would be able to take care of party houses. A landlord has little control of tenants’ behavior. Even experienced landlords with iron-clad leases and plenty of supervision are bound to run into tenants who violate leases, are hard to evict and may even cause unrecoverable damages due to the protective state laws and subjectivity of courts on the side of tenants.
When landlords can count on full, committed university involvement, on courts to expedite evictions and recover damages, and on towns to enforce current noise and nuisance bylaws, only then the situation everyone is complaining about will change.
That will not be accomplished with the proposed rental permitting system.
Renata Shepard lives in Amherst.