The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 1, 2013

Ordinance wording gives 13 a break

Rental registration exempt in 2012, judge finds

By Karen Blackledge
The Daily Item

DANVILLE — Borough officials will be discussing a district judge finding in favor of 13 landlords who appealed citations for failure to pay fines to comply with a Danville new rental property registration ordinance.

“I was not contacted,” said borough code enforcement officer Jackie Hart Friday morning of the ruling handed down late Thursday afternoon by Montour County District Judge Marvin Shrawder. The ruling was dated Feb. 27 and released Thursday.

Hart planned to discuss the decision with borough solicitor Michael Dennehy.

Dennehy could not be reached for comment Friday.

Other hearings are pending before Shrawder against landlords also cited for failure to comply with the ordinance adopted by Danville Borough Council.

The ordinance required landlords to register their properties with the Hart’s office and pay a registration fee in 2012.  

Hart didn’t have a figure on how many hearings are pending. At one time, she had issued about 100 citations, with some landlords paying fines. She filed citations for individual properties and in some cases, one landlord may own 15 units, she said.

There are about 1,000 rental properties in Danville.

Ordinance language

Shrawder explained he didn’t rule landlords didn’t have to comply with the ordinance by registering and paying a fee, but the section he cited in the ordinance states 2012 is excluded for citing landlords for violating the ordinance.

The district judge found the language of Section 141.7 Subsection 2B of the ordinance precludes filing a citation for failure of an owner to register and pay the registration fee for 2012. The subsection states “upon application for a rental occupancy license and prior to issuance or renewal thereof, each owner applicant shall pay to the borough an annual license fee…” The fee is to be paid by July 31 each year. Fees received Jan. 1 to March 31 will be set at face value. A late fee of $10 will be lodged from April 1 to May 30 and a $25 late fee will be assessed for June 1 to July 31.

Shrawder concluded the last sentence in Section 141.7 subsection 2B clearly states “after July 31 except for the year of 2012, non-registration will be deemed a violation of this ordinance at which time a citation will be filed including the cost of the license and late fees.”

Since the allegation on the citation is for non-registration for the year 2012 and the section and subsection exclude by exception non-registration for 2012 as being deemed a violation of the ordinance for which a citation may be filed, he found the landlords not guilty.

Shrawder held hearings Feb. 21 on the landlord appeals. The borough was seeking a $100 fine for each violation to take care of the 2012 registrations.

During a two-hour hearing for landlord David Hoyes, who had been temporary president of a Danville property owners’ organization, Hoyes said the council was “intentionally ignoring landlords and tenants.”

Reached Friday, Hoyes said he hadn’t seen the decision and couldn’t comment until he had read the ruling. “If that is the reasoning, I will probably end up there again. This time I won’t forget to subpoena Dennehy,” he said, indicating Shrawder’s office.

For his hearing, Hoyes subpoenaed Danville council members along with Police Chief Eric Gill, Borough Secretary Tom Graham and Finance Director Shannon Berkey.

Other acquitted landlords included Michael Currid, Jon Ferguson, Anthony Knight, Matt LoDuca, Marc Vansickle, Deb Sori, Judy Brandt, John Wetzel, Mark Leiby, George Kitchen, Pamela Gilbert and Kathleen Styer.