August 17, 2011

Biddeford 'disorderly housing' ordinance in effect

The ordinance holds landlords liable for disturbances at their properties.

By Emma Bouthillette
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — After an emergency vote by City Council Tuesday night, an ordinance holding landlords liable for disturbances at their property is now in effect.

The ordinance, drafted by local property owners and city officials, addresses rental properties throughout the city that police are called to frequently. Reasons for police visits could include anything posing a threat to public health, convenience, welfare or safety and may create a public nuisance — from loud music or drug activity to code violations.

The council passed the ordinance unanimously during a first reading, followed by a motion by Councilor Pete Lamontagne that pushed for an emergency second reading. He cited the health and safety of the community as reason to enact the ordinance immediately. With little discussion, it was passed unanimously and the council received loud applause from residents and property owners who were at the meeting to speak in favor of the ordinance.

"This is a strong step we have to take as a community to revitalize our city, to clean it up. It's going to require stepping on some toes, but it's got to happen," Council Chairman Bob Mills said during the meeting.

The ordinance will allow the city to contact landlords after police have visited their property twice within a 30-day period. Disturbances in excess of three times at a building with fewer than five units, four times at a 6- to 10-unit building or five times at a building with more than 11 units would then allow the city to designate the property as a "disorderly house."

Once their property is designated as disorderly, landlords are required to meet with city representatives within a week to draft a plan to remedy the situation and sign an agreement. Fines of $50 per police response in excess of nine in a 30-day period could be charged if the landlord refuses to address the problem, takes ineffective measures in addressing the problem or fails to implement the plan agreed upon by the landlord and city representatives.

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