Watertown's Landlord Law is more bureaucratic overkill...
This is another case of a sitting elected body re-inventing the wheel. All the laws and regulations needed to keep track of rental properties in the hopes of controlling blight already exist.
The registration requirement of the new law is completely unnecessary and will do nothing but create another expense for folks engaged in a business already encumbered with high operating expenses in terms of both time and money.
I will never be convinced the idea of creating a new data base of apartment registrations is needed so, in the words of Councilman Steve Jennings, “We’ll know where rental properties are, who owns them and who to contact about them.”
You already have the lion’s share of the information you want in your possession Councilman. Simply consult the tax rolls. As for ascertaining the number of rental units in a given building, simply count the electric meters or mail boxes.
Now it could be argued the cost of counting meters or mail boxes is an expensive proposition. Not necessarily. If the city would reinstitute the practice of sending firefighters into neighborhoods to do visual inspections of all properties as well as the common areas of apartment buildings then, in a matter of a few months, an accurate count of the number of rental units in Watertown would be in the hands of city officials. There’s a term for this sort of positive action. It’s called synergy.
For 65 years, from 1946 to 2011, city firefighters were sent out from their stations to do inspections. I wonder why these inspections were stopped? It was a mistake. Deputy Fire Chief Russ Randall, during the public hearing on the Landlord Law, made a troubling observation. He speculated there is a correlation between the halting of the firefighter inspections and the spread of blight.
Again I ask, why were these inspections halted?
The Watertown Police Department recently reinstituted foot patrols. This practicewill lead to improved relations between officers and the citizens they are sworn to protect, making the jobs of those officers easier and the citizens safer. Another bonus will be the respect each will gain for the other on a personal basis.
Council needs to learn from the positive example of the police department and put our knowledgeable firefighters back in the business of searching out the fire and safety issues in our city. For generations they did it in a caring, unobtrusive manner. Let them do it again. We’ll all benefit with a safer Watertown, an improved quality of life and reduced blight.
We live in the real world where blight will never be eliminated completely. We need a common sense approach to combating it, not MORE expensive and heavy handed government.