Boardman looks to improve rental property standards

Published in the Youngstown Vindicator, October 27, 2014


Township officials consider landlord registration program

By Jordyn Grzelewski


When Zoning Inspector Sarah Gartland went to a rental unit on Shields Road in February, she was horrified by the conditions she found.

There was no heat or running water.

“That’s when we said, ‘We’re going to do something,’” she said.

Getting rental properties — which account for more than 4,000 of Boardman’s 19,000 residences — to meet basic living standards is one of the goals of the landlord registration program Gartland has developed, which she will present for the final time to the board of trustees Nov. 10, when trustees likely will vote on it.

If the board approves the resolution, landlords will be required to register with the zoning department and provide their contact information, as well as pay an annual fee.

The program will cost landlords $40 per rental unit. The cost for property owners who own more than six units will be $150, plus $15 per unit. The fees would be used to cover the costs of the program, which include a salary for one staff person, yearly mailings, abatement of nuisances and legal fees if any cases end up in court, according to Gartland.

The resolution would require rental units to have secure doors, lighting in exterior entryways, a working window in each bedroom, working toilets, hot and cold water in bathroom and kitchen sinks, working heating and electrical systems, working smoke detectors, properly installed handrails, and structurally sound floors, ceilings and walls.

It would require rental units to be free of refuse and debris in exterior and interior areas, broken or cracked windows, and insects, rodents and pests.

It also would allow for periodic inspections by the zoning department.

One factor in the decision to start the program is that the increase in rental properties — many that have out-of-town landlords — over the last several years has changed Boardman’s neighborhoods from single-family home neighborhoods to mixed-housing ones, Gartland said.

That is problematic because mixed-housing neighborhoods create problems for the township, she said.

“We have more zoning complaints, more nuisance complaints and more violations in our mixed housing,” she said.

While the zoning department could issue a citation with a fine for properties not in compliance, Gartland thinks that having contact information should solve most of the problems.

“We’ve had almost 100 percent compliance when we have communication with the property owner,” Gartland said.

Gartland said the program also will benefit landlords by helping protect property values and because it requires tenants to adhere to certain standards. And, if landlords already are maintaining their properties, it won’t require them to make any changes.

“We’re looking at substandard, deplorable conditions,” she said. “This isn’t aesthetics. This is, ‘Do you have running water?’”

“The vast majority of landlords are wonderful people and maintain their properties very well,” said Trustee Tom Costello. But, he said, there are some who bring down property values and allow unsafe living conditions in their units.

“We want everybody safe. So we’ve got to do it,” he said. “And at the same time, it should protect the value of the homes and the neighborhoods and make everyone happier.”

If the resolution is adopted by the board of trustees, landlords will have to register in January.

Gartland can be reached at for questions or concerns about the program.