Landlord ordinance to target gangs, drugs

Trying to find ways to combat the city's gang violence and drug activity, the Sunnyside Police Department is proposing a new crime-free rental ordinance that would target just that.

Several Sunnyside landlords turned up to last night's meeting held by Sunnyside Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck to discuss the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance would require landlords in the city to apply for a license and would also require landlords to evict any tenant suspected of gang or drug activity.

If the ordinance passes city council muster, no landlord would be able to rent, lease or let any residential dwelling without the required rental license, which will be issued free of charge.

Modeled after several similar ordinances in other cities, Schenck said landlords would also need to add an addendum to any new lease or lease renewal.

The addendum would state that the residents of the rental property or any guests could not engage in illegal activity on the premises. This includes activity by the renter at other properties as well. For example, if a renter of one property engages in any illegal activity described in the ordinance anywhere in the city, then the landlord would be required to evict that tenant.

The new ordinance would give landlords the right to evict their tenants within three days of being notified.

To help landlords monitor their properties, the Sunnyside Police Department would provide public records of activities occurring on their rental properties at no charge. Local record checks would also be provided without costs.

Schenck said juvenile records cannot be included in that but he offered landlords a way to get around that. He said they could require prospective tenants with juvenile children to come to the police department and request a records report on the said juvenile. The landlord could then require the prospective tenant to show them the juvenile records. If the prospective tenant refuses to do this, Schenck said the landlord could then turn them down for the rental.

If the ordinance is passed a workshop will be held for landlords that will train them on rental applications and agreements, tenant screening, section 8 housing, working with the police, criminal background checks, drug use in rental properties, gang activity identification and crime prevention through environmental design.

The landlord would then be required to attend and complete the police department's crime-free rental housing workshop every two years or show evidence of completion of an equivalent program conducted by a Washington State law enforcement agency. The workshop could range anywhere between four and six hours.

Violations by landlords of this ordinance would result in a fine of up to $500 for the first offense and a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail for each subsequent offense.

The ordinance got almost full backing from the landlords in attendance at last night's meeting. A few didn't think the required attendance of the workshop every two years was fair to landlords but the majority of them did so it was left in the ordinance.

Schenck took notes on suggestions from the landlords and said language in the proposed ordinance would be tweaked before it is sent to the city's legal department for review.

Sunnyside Mayor Jim Restucci was in attendance at last night's meeting and said he would study the ordinance carefully but indicated he was in support of the proposal.

The proposed ordinance could make its way to the city council within the next two months.

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