The StarPhoenix reported this week that a Saskatoon lawmaker is considering a measure that would require officials to track police and emergency calls made to specific properties, and then assess fines against the landlords for excessive calls.
This proposed rental policy is identical to many found in the U.S. Often referred to as “nuisance property” or “three-strikes” laws, these measures have faced challenges because they punish landlords for tenant crime, and could interfere with a tenant’s right to police protection.
Another option, according to the report, is to make the Crime Free Multi-Housing training offered by local police mandatory for rental properties that have been flagged as problematic.
The stated intent behind these rental laws is reducing crime, which statistically is more likely to occur in rental properties. Lawmakers often target “absentee” landlords who are unaware of the condition of their properties, or otherwise don’t care about it.
But the devil is in the details when it comes to drafting such rental ordinances, and local lawmakers throughout the U.S. have learned that lesson the hard way.
In Pennsylvania, a town that passed a rigid three-strikes law agreed to pay out nearly half a million dollars in damages to a woman who was victimized, but feared that a call to police could spark an eviction. In Iowa, state lawmakers are in the process of overriding city officials who pass laws that might discourage tenants in need from calling for help.
In other examples, landlords have challenged the definition of what constitutes an “absentee” landlord. In one city, a landlord who lives within minutes of his rental is deemed absentee because his personal residence is located just outside city limits. He is subject to a rule that requires him to hire a property manager to oversee the property.
It is always in a landlord’s best interests to reduce the risk of crime in a rental property. However, there are other ways to do so without the need for mandatory crime training fines.
For instance, Edmonton Police Services stress the need for a thorough tenant screening policy, including credit checks, employment checks, and contacting at least two to three previous landlords.
In addition to tenant screening practices, frequent rental property inspections can flag problems early on so that the eviction process can be initiated.
Lawmakers are correct in the assumption that curb appeal has a noticeable impact on crime. If the property is well-kept, it is less likely that the criminal element will choose to hang around outside.
In addition, it is crucial to know who is living in the unit at all times, including guests and new occupants.
Finally, introducing yourself to neighbours, and finding ways of introducing tenants to one another can also reduce crime because others will notice suspicious behaviour.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.