Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Building department could be asked to keep an eye on unregistered landlords

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
November 21, 2006

VERNON - The town's building department would be responsible for ensuring that landlords register with the town under a new ordinance being considered by the Town Council, which previously had placed the burden on the assessor's office.

A public hearing is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. today on the ordinance, which requires any owner of occupied or vacant rental space in town to keep their residential address and telephone number on file with the town.

The public hearing will be in the Vernon Senior Center on Park Place.

If approved, the building department would be responsible for issuing penalties to landlords who failed to comply with ordinances requiring them to file their contact information with the town assessor's office.

Earlier this year, the Town Council enacted an ordinance requiring landlords to keep contact information on file with the town assessor, but to permit greater enforcement capabilities, the council wants to shift the filings to the building department.

In addition to an address and primary telephone number, a landlord may also be required to keep a cell phone or fax number on file, if they have one, according to the proposed ordinance.

If a building is owned by a corporation, partnership, or trust, the address, telephone, and cell phone number of the agent in charge of the building must be filed with the town.

Failure to comply with the new law could result in $250 fine for the first violation and fines up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.

Republican Councilman Mark S. Etre, who helped craft the ordinance along with other Town Council members and town officials, said registration makes it easier for town officials to contact landlords in emergency situations.

Possible emergency situations include fires, damage for severe storms, or possible violations of property maintenance ordinances, officials said.

"If a landlord is going to own property in town, they can't just say it's a P.O. Box in Peoria," Etre said. "You want to be able to get in touch with the person who owns it."

The town's tax assessor would be responsible for providing the town's building department with a list of non-compliant owners or agents. And if the owner or agent fails to maintain information as required by the ordinance, the address to which the town mails property tax bills would be deemed to be the owner or agent's current address.

And the town clerk's office would be responsible for providing notice of the new ordinance to local landlords.

If addresses or ownership changes, new information would have to be provided to the tax assessor not more than 21 days after the date that address change occurred.

While the majority of the town's landlords are responsible and conscientious about their properties, Etre said there is a small percentage of problematic property owners who make these types of ordinances necessary.

"We need to be able to contact somebody," Etre said."

©Journal Inquirer 2006