Officials weigh proposal to inspect rental units in Mt. Lebanon

Official says point is to ensure safety

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Mt. Lebanon is considering a new ordinance to establish residential rental property registration and an inspection program. The intent of the ordinance is to mitigate safety concerns while providing some safeguards for landlords and renters, Joseph Berkley, municipal chief inspector/zoning officer, told township commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

The board is expected to vote on the ordinance Feb. 25.

Mr. Berkley said part of the impetus is to ensure apartments and other rental units are "in good condition, no repairs needed" when tenants move into them. Optimally, municipal staff members would conduct inspections when units are between tenants, so as not to have to displace furniture and other items.

"This also works in favor of the landlord," Mr. Berkley said, explaining that documenting the condition of a unit before a tenant moves in might be helpful in an eviction process, should the situation arise.

Mt. Lebanon has about 2,800 residential rental units, and each would be inspected on a three-year rotation.

Commissioner John Bendel questioned the viability of inspecting nearly 1,000 units each year.

"To me, that seems like a high-volume operation," he said, expressing concern about possible imposition on landlords and tenants. "Maybe there are different approaches that you want to consider."

Commissioner Dave Brumfield, though, said he supports any measures to help ensure safety, and perhaps the schedule of inspections could be scaled back if it proved unwieldy.

Mr. Berkley said his department has encountered some surprising conditions at rental properties.

"There are things that I don't want to say in a public setting," he told commissioners.

In other business Tuesday:

• Commissioners discussed revisions to the ordinance regulating skateboards and small motorized scooters.

Under consideration is a proposal to eliminate a provision that prohibits riding skateboards on any streets in Mt. Lebanon.

Police Chief Coleman McDonough said the ordinance would retain its prohibition of "any of these conveyances being used in a careless manner."

Mr. Brumfield said he has been working on revising the ordinance because similar recreational devices, such as bicycles, have been subject to no such restrictions.

"I just didn't see a reason to treat skateboards differently," he said. "This is an issue that has been on my plate for a long time."

Skateboarding still would not be allowed in Mt. Lebanon's larger business districts, including Washington Road and Castle Shannon Boulevard. Commissioner Kelly Fraasch asked that other business areas be included, such as Cochran Road.

The revised ordinance also would ease restrictions on small scooters that run on low-power electric motors. Law enforcement primarily would involve issues of careless operation, Mr. McDonough said.

Commissioners will vote on revisions to the ordinance Feb. 25.

• Thirteen residents were appointed to the municipality's new sports advisory board, established in November. The board's purpose is to make recommendations to commissioners on sports-related matters.

Members were selected from 11 sporting organizations, with two at-large members.

Although future membership will be for three years, term ending dates have been staggered for the first group. The terms of four members will end in March 2014; four will conclude the following year; and the remaining five will serve until March 2016.

neigh_south

Harry Funk, freelance: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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