SOUTH PORTLAND — City officials are moving toward enacting a wide-ranging law they say will protect the tranquility of South Portland’s neighborhoods.

The proposed disorderly house ordinance would give police enforcement power to crack down on properties where residents disturb the peace.

If adopted, the ordinance will grant the owner of a disorderly house three chances to curb loud music, rowdy parties, drunken behavior or abusive language generated by tenants before being subject to penalties and possible legal proceedings.

At a Monday night City Council workshop, several landlords said they support the proposed disorderly house ordinance, which is modeled after similar ordinances adopted by Westbrook, Biddeford and Portland. Some said, however, that proposed penalties are too high.

Councilor Thomas Coward said the law would apply to every residence — not just rental units. Coward said a homeowner could be penalized for violating its provisions.

“This is potentially far-ranging legislation which could have a very serious impact on everyone who lives in this city,” Coward said.

The City Council is expected to consider final adoption at its meeting next Monday night.

Councilors approved the ordinance on first reading earlier this month after several residents complained about two alleged disorderly houses on Free Street. Police Chief Edward Googins said the problem is not confined to Free Street.

Googins said there are 16 addresses in South Portland that potentially could have triggered the disorderly house ordinance.

A disorderly house is defined as any building with five or fewer apartment units that the police have visited three or more times within a 30-day period. A building with 11 or more units would have to have five police visits in a 30-day period for the ordinance to take effect.

The number of police visits in a 30-day period is based on a building’s total number of units. The police visits would have to be in response to crimes or civil infractions committed by tenants or owners.

Violators could be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $1,000 or more than $2,000 per day.

City Manager James H. Gailey said the city scheduled Monday’s workshop because it wanted to solicit comment from landlords before moving ahead with the ordinance.

Carleton Winslow, a landlord who owns rental properties in Portland and South Portland, said any “responsible landlord” would not object to the ordinance, but that the penalties were excessive and should be reduced.

Winslow is vice president of the Maine Apartment Owners and Managers Association.

Winslow was joined by Jim Harmon, another landlord who also serves on the association’s board.

“The key to making this ordinance work is police department communication and cooperation with the landlords,” Harmon told the council.

Harmon said police need inform landlords when they visit a rental property, as well as the nature of the call, so that they can deal with disruptive tenants.

The ordinance would also require building owners to register with the city, providing their name, address, ownership interest and a telephone number.

Any landlord who failed to comply with the registration provision would be subject to daily fines ranging from $500 to $1,000. City officials said the registration requirement is designed to identify potential absentee landlords.

“We didn’t come up with the ordinance as a form of punishment. It’s about making peace and making neighborhoods a peaceful place to live,” said Councilor Maxine Beecher.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]