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Dael Chapman: Proposed Amherst rental permitting not effective solution

To the editor:

The issue of registering and licensing Amherst landlords in an attempt to curtail bad student behavior is yet another case of people wanting to do something as opposed to nothing, but offering no effective solution to the actual problem.

The numerous restrictions to be presented at Town Meeting in Articles 29 and 38 can already be enforced under our present bylaws. There is nothing new in this lengthy legislation except that it will require new employees to keep copious records of compliance, officers to collect fees and fines and additional inspectors. The cost to the town will undoubtedly be greater than expected, and the additional cost to landlords will surely be passed on to tenants. The proposed bylaws will further increase the size of town government, and taxes will continue to go up. I know of people who are already planning to sell their properties if either of these bylaws is approved.

The present state building codes and sanitary codes, as well as the existing Amherst rental registration bylaw, already encompass all of the actions proposed in Article 29 as it will be presented to Town Meeting in May. The present laws may be invoked with probable cause and the town may already enforce them as they stand today. Even without new registration or licensing, under the present complaint-driven system the town is well prepared to remedy any and all complaints. Perhaps what we need to focus our efforts on is the enforcement of laws that already exist.

Regardless of whether licensing will affect every rental unit in town or just large commercial rentals, there will be issues of discrimination regarding the rights of single-family homes versus those who rent out a bedroom. The equitable treatment of renters who live in large complexes versus those who live in a room in a private home may also be difficult to guarantee.

Does Amherst really want to invest time, money and manpower into creating a bylaw which is sure to be challenged by local landlords and/or tenants, only to have the bylaw be declared unconstitutional?

Dael Chapman


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