Keene landlords speak out against proposed disorderly houses ordinanceBy MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent
October 12. 2017 11:13PM
KEENE — City landlords pushed back against a proposed ordinance that would fine property owners for disorderly residences at the municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee Wednesday night.
The committee took up the proposed ordinance at the request of Mayor Kendall Lane, who suggested it during a recent City Council meeting at which the Keene Pumpkin Festival was discussed — which brought up the issue of disorderly Keene State College students at off-campus housing.
The proposed ordinance would fine a property owner if police responded to a residence multiple times.
But the city’s landlords, who turned out in numbers at the committee’s continued discussion of the proposed ordinance Wednesday night, said the discussion was not specific enough on what problems the landlords could address to avoid getting the proposed fine.
“I brought forward this ordinance to try to spark a discussion that I think is appropriate that the city begin to have regarding certain residences within the city, not many, three or four at the most, where certain activities are going on,” Lane said. Those activities include large loud gatherings, Lane said.
Lane said a similar ordinance was considered about five years ago, but was too broad and included fire and safety code violations. This proposed ordinance would stick to police response and would steer clear of domestic violence calls so as to not discourage people from reporting domestic violence to police.
Toby Tousley, a longtime city landlord, said the proposed ordinance is frustrating landlords since Lane himself says it is needed because of three or four properties in the city.
“Do we normally make ordinances for three or four houses? If we know the three or four houses, well which ones are they, let’s talk about it right now.” Tousley said. “What are we trying to get at. … that I’m supposed to know what all 140 tenants of mine are doing at all points of the day is absolutely absurd.”
“This looks like it’s geared toward students,” Many landlords, including Bill Beauregard, said police do not contact them if there are problems at one of their properties.
Beauregard said he is happy to give his cell phone number to police to call him if there is an issue with one of his properties, but police have no database of landlord contacts or a process in place to notify owners of problem properties.
Beauregard said if police respond to one of his properties in the middle of the night, how would he know until he is fined.
“We really need to know what is the issue here,” Regina Wright, another city landlord, said to the committee.
Lane said the ordinance isn’t even drafted yet, bu he hopes the discussion will lead to the city putting a mechanism in place that would give the city and landlords a way to deal with problem residences.
The committee said there are a lot of unresolved issuesm, especially regarding police communication with landlords, and voted to continue the discussion at its next meeting.