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Category: PGPOA

Best Practices Sought to Improve City’s Rental Property Stock

In an attempt to improve the quality of life related to city’s rental properties, the Neighborhood Stabilization and Quality of Life group came up with a few recommendations such as opting for smart siding. For siding Lynchburg, call Sunburst Vinyl Supply. They include establishing an accrediation program for the rental property owners (landlords), start an annual orientation program, and require them to live close to College Park. Please see below for details.

(1) Create an accreditation program for rental house property owners/managers. Accreditation would indicate that property meets specific standards and that the property owner commits to certain actions that will address core quality of life issues in the neighborhood.

City could inform property owners about Accreditation program during the rental license renewal process.

Some suggested incentivizing participation by reducing frequency of inspections to every other year for accredited rental property owners and stated that other municipalities do inspections at 2-3 year intervals. A reputable inspection company like https://snagging-lists.co.uk/ will have a reliable snagging checklist. A reduction in hours needed for inspections may free up time for other duties (i.e. more hours on Noise Enforcement). The advantage of having an expert assessment cannot be understated. Employing a thorough inspection service early on can save a significant amount of time and expense by catching issues before they escalate, ensuring a smoother transition into your new home. Public Services staff responded that an annual compliance inspection seems minimal to insure renter safety, health, and welfare and that inspections can help compliant property owners prove due diligence if sued by tenants for alleged deficiencies. One member commented that such a program should avoid providing City benefits that are not directly administered by the City, and should not require rental property owners to join, support, participate in, or seek approval from any private association as a condition for their entitlement to full benefits under the program.

Public Services staff suggested a tiered approach (Gold, Silver, Bronze) to reflect life safety standards. PGPOA representatives thought that a tiered system would be too complicated for them to administer in the initial implementation phase but would be good to consider for the future.

(2) Require property owners (or their agents) to participate in annual orientation, in order to receive rental license/permit, that has the follow elements:
• Enrollment in electronic notification system with name of person with relevant contact information.
• Explanation by code enforcement with a focus on new and enhanced expectations.
• Mandated viewing of a video to highlight the challenges the community faces renting to the student population and outline best practices.

(3) Require property owners or agent/manager to be within 75-mile radius of College Park.
Streamline the rental licensing process, including the following:
• Automate rental license renewal process.
• Provide one rental registration deadline for ALL rental properties (early in the year) when the permit fee is paid and all paperwork is completed. Inspection occurs throughout the year (as it is done now).
• Offer orientation program on three different dates around the registration deadline. All stakeholders (University, Policy, Fire, Resident, IFC, SGA, PGPOA, etc.) could be invited to participate.
Create a clearinghouse for complaints against rental property owners and attempt to solve problems that are reported.

Please note, current permitting process only requires a local agent, not manager, to receive notices; the local agent does not have to address any problems that may arise at the property. PGPOA will provide a sample statute for the City to consider.

(4) Streamline the rental licensing process, including the following:
• Automate rental license renewal process.
• Provide one rental registration deadline for ALL rental properties (early in the year) when the permit fee is paid and all paperwork is completed. Inspection occurs throughout the year (as it is done now).
• Offer orientation program on three different dates around the registration deadline. All stakeholders (University, Policy, Fire, Resident, IFC, SGA, PGPOA, etc.) could be invited to participate.

Streamlining the licensing process could free up City staff to focus more time on issue reduction. Public Services staff commented that City Finance and IT staff would need to develop new protocols and software. Such a program should include enhancements to property owner contact information (e.g., adding email addresses, identifying type of phone (cell or landline), and indicating if phone number can receive text messages. Penalties could be imposed if the information provided is not accurate.

(5) Create a clearinghouse for complaints against rental property owners and attempt to solve problems that are reported.

PGPOA Referendum Petitions – How the Council Should Vote?

A sample of PGPOA petition paper - Source: College Park Board of Election Supervisors

In tomorrow night’s regular Council meeting, the City Council will vote on two referendum petitions that Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association (PGPOA) submitted to the City recently.

According to City Charter, the Council last month referred the petitions to the Board of Election supervisors (BOES) to get them verified. The BOES looked into all of these petition signatures and found that they did not conform to the standard set in the Charter. The City’s attorney also chimed in with her own opinions saying the petitions were “legally insufficient”.

You can read the background of this petition saga in my previous post here.

At stake in tomorrow night’s vote is the fate of several thousand signatures that ordinary citizens put on the petition paper. It appears that whoever designed the petition paper did not carefully look into the City charter about the required format of such petitions.

That said, can we hold the ordinary residents responsible for the omission of their district numbers, when there was no space or column on the petition paper they could write on? Also, how things would have been different if these residents did not willfully write their district numbers, even when the petition papers had a space for a district number? I wish our City code was a bit more clear to distinguish between these two scenarios.

Interestingly, I came across a similar case in New Mexico, where the Supreme Court judges debated the ambiguity of their own election law. Last month, the Court okayed the petitions despite the lack of district number on petition papers.

Please let me know how the Council should vote at tomorrow’s Council meeting.

Regardless, I do think the PGPOA petitions themselves are either unnecessary or they may potentially harm the City in long run. If enacted, the City may not be able to provide an expanded quality service through potential new revenues it may generate from new developments and new businesses. But this is  a subject that I’d like to keep separate from the issue of validating petition signatures.

PGPOA Petitions “Legally Insufficient” – City Attorney Says

Letter showing City Attorney’s opinion on PGPOA petitions

At last night’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Ms. Suellen Ferguson reported that the recently submitted petitions by the Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association are “Legally insufficient”.

The City received two charter referendum petitions on March 22, 2012 meeting, when the Council referred the petitions to the attorney for a legal opinion whether the subject matter of each petition is appropriate for a proposed charter amendment placed on the ballot.

Ms. Ferguson said her opinion was based on a number of reasons.

She said the form of a petition does not comply with the requirements of the City Charter, as they do not include each signer’s City district. Board of Election Supervisor Jack Robson also spoke later to the Council on this ballot format issue.

She also said, according to the City Charter, the amendment must embrace only one subject, whereas the PGPOA petitions were based on two subjects.

Finally, she said the amendment has the effect of transferring the Council’s ability to set the tax rate to voters and this is an unreasonable limit on the Council’s legislative power. The tax revenues would eventually hamper the City government that it would be unable to perform the duties required by state law, she added.

You can see the reports from Ms. Ferguson and the Board of Elections Supervisor here and here respectively.

City Attorney to Present Report on PGPOA Rent Control Petitions

PGPOA petition letter

The Prince George’s Property Owner Association (PGPOA) recently submitted a series of two proposed Charter amendments, which, if legally valid and if they include the appropriate number of valid signatures, will appear on the ballot for an upcoming City special election.

At the April 10 regular meeting, the Council approved these petitions so that they can be reviewed by the Board of Elections Supervisors and the City attorney.

Accordingly, the City Attorney Ms. Ferguson is currently reviewing these petitions to determine whether they meet the legal requirements under State law for a municipal Charter amendment, including both the requirements of Article 23A of the State Code and case law interpreting these provisions.

Ms. Ferguson will report on the results of her review at tomorrow night’s council meeting. The Council will not vote on Ms. Ferguson’s report.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

City to Formally Acknowledge PGPOA Petitions

Prince George's Property Owners' Association

In tonight’s regular council meeting, the Council is set to pass a resolution to  formally acknowledge two petitions submitted by the Prince George’s Property Owners Association.

Since last year, PGPOA has been collecting petition signatures to amend the City Charter in two ways:

1) To limit the total amount of revenue collected through real property taxes to the amount collected in FY 2011, and

2) to prohibit any distinction in the way the City regulates housing based on a variety of factors, including type or size of housing.

The City needs to pass a resolution to acknowledge receipt of these petitions, which were submitted a couple weeks ago.

There have been a a number of concerns about these petitions and the impact that they would have on the City, by preventing the City from obtaining revenue from new developments that come into the City or from allowing its revenue from keep pace with inflation, and seriously hamstringing the City’s ability to regulate rental housing.

The City attorney will be reviewing the proposed Charter amendments and the petitions to see if they meet the legal requirements to require a referendum under State laws and the City Charter.

We will keep you posted.

PGPOA Objects Rent Control Enforcement, City Responds

Prince George's Property Owners' Association

Recently, the City of College Park started to enforce the rent control ordinances on the rental housing units in the City. This came after a long legal battle between the City and the PGPOA – the Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association. The City finally won the case.

Once the enforcement started, the PGPOA started to complain, alleging that the City failed to establish a process for challenging the rent stabilization violation notices. Here is a letter they sent to the City with those complaints.

In response to that letter, the City also sent  a letter, which the Council approved in last Tuesday’s Council meeting. Please see that letter here.

PGPOA Petition is Dead, For Now

Prince George's Property Owners' Association

The petition drive by PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) that wanted to impose two amendments to the City Charter has failed to submit the required signature by last Monday’s deadline.

This means that the charter amendment questions will not appear in the upcoming November Mayor and council election.

The PGPOA had to obtain the signatures of 20% of the qualified voters of the City to make these amendments on the ballot.

Commenting on the petition, District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn said :

“(the) proposed (amendments were brought) to essentially disable the City’s ability to provide necessary services to residents and regulate rental housing”

Reacting to Mr. Wojahn’s statement, PGPOA board member William Chicca said

“I would vehemently dispute Councilman’s Wojahn’s assessment of the intent of the petitions as typical politician’s hyperbole and posturing. In addition, if the deadline for submission for inclusion on the November 2011 ballot has passed, that does not prevent the petition from being submitted for inclusion on the 2013 ballot. “

Should the City Oppose a Referendum Petition?

William Chicca of PGPOA at NCPCA

The PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) representatives came to NCPCA meeting last week to make their case to north College Park residents.

The residents passed a motion against the proposed changes that the PGPOA wants to make to the City’s charter. I also personally felt that the petition has languages that may pose problems to the City, if the referendum passes in November ballot (more on that later).

The residents have every right to make their opinions about the petition, but the whole discussion made me thinking of an important question – should the City of College Park, as  a government entity oppose the PGPOA petition, or any petition, for that matter?

Let’s set aside the details of the petition language for now. The City allows any group of residents to put a referendum question to its Mayor and Council election, provided that group is able to collect signatures of 20% of total registered voters. The subject of putting an issue to referendum was given by the City, thus shouldn’t the City allow any group to campaign for any change they want to the City charter?

I think the City should have taken a neutral role on any referendum petition, instead let the residents debate and decide whether they like it or not.

It’s like a judge allowing a citizen to bring any case to his court as long as that citizen fulfills the procedure to submit that case. Until the case is brought and heard in his court room, he stays away from giving his verdict on the case, nor does he allow his jury to make an opinion in the case.

I saw a “Dear Neighbor” letter from a group of residents opposing the petition, and I thought that was quite informative in convincing many residents to make their minds why the proposed changes are bad for the City.

I also think the residents made a good case in last week’s NCPCA meeting against the Charter amendments.

Personally, I didn’t like the way PGPOA handled the petition business from the beginning. Residents should have been told from the outset that it’s them who are behind those petitions. It took them a few weeks to come forward and solve that mystery. I also think if the referendum passes, it will potentially prohibit the City from collecting revenues / taxes from new developments. Thus, I will most likely vote against the referendum questions, should they appear in November election.

At the same time, I think the City should “officially” stay away from asking residents whether they should sign on a petition or not. They should rather stick to verifying 20% signature rule that they introduced to allow others to change City Charter. At the end, the City should let the residents decide the rest.

Resident Group Seeks to Oppose PGPOA Petition

Prince George's Property Owners' Association

A group of concerned College Park residents is asking their fellow neighbors not to sign the petition which is currently being collected by Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association (PGPOA).

Please see the text of that “alert letter” below, at the end of the post (titled ‘Alert About Harmful and Deceptive Referendum Petitions). I’m also including the language of the petition that seeks to modify two articles of the City Charter:

    TWO PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE CITY CHARTER

    1.    Article XI, Sect. C12-6.  Non-Discrimination in Housing and Rental Laws
    “Any ordinance or other restriction governing housing and rentals shall be applied equally and uniformly throughout the City.  No law governing housing or rentals shall be valid which discriminates on the basis of race, sex, creed, national; origin, sexual orientation, occupation, familial status, economic status or geographical location.  Any law governing housing and rentals shall make no distinction on the basis of race, sex, creed, national; origin, sexual orientation, occupation, familial status, economic status or geographical location of the housing unit, or the size or type of the housing unit.  The City may create appropriate exceptions to this amendment for housing maintained by the State and local governments, hotels, motels, university dormitories, nursing homes and assisted living units, provided such housing does not violate Federal or state fair housing and fair accommodation laws.”

    2.    Article X, Sect. C10-12 Property Tax Limitation
    Notwithstanding any of provision of law, the City Council shall not levee a real property tax which would result in a total collection of real property taxes greater than the amount collected in fiscal year 2011.  In the event that any annual collection of real property taxes exceeds the limits set forth in this section as estimated in the annual budget projections, said excess shall be placed in a contingency fund, and, if not used during the current fiscal year, said excess will be included in the budget estimate for real property taxes in the following fiscal year.”

    Alert About Harmful and Deceptive Referendum Petitions

    Dear Neighbors,

    We are writing to alert you about the efforts of an absentee landlords group to place two City Charter amendments on the College Park municipal elections in 2011. Either one of these two Charter amendments, if it were to pass, would be extremely harmful to the residents of College Park.

    The Prince George’s Property Owners Association (PGPOA), which represents mostly absentee landlords who own rental houses in College Park, initiated the two petitions. The PGPOA hired an Arizona petition gathering firm to run this campaign and misinform residents that the purpose of these two petitions is to prevent housing discrimination in College Park and to “keep a lid on taxes.” In fact, the two referendums, if they pass, would force the city to abandon reasonable and lawful programs to regulate rental properties, increase taxes for homeowners while reducing taxes for absentee landlords, and require damaging cuts to essential city services.

    One of the two Charter amendments would require that “Any [city] law governing housing or rentals shall make no distinction on the basis of… the size or type of the housing unit.” The effect of this would be to prohibit the city from differential treatment of rentals vs. owner-occupied properties or rental houses vs. apartment buildings. This would destroy the City’s ability to enact necessary safety regulations relating to rental properties, or to enforce fire codes, rules against overcrowding, and basic requirements regarding upkeep of rental houses, unless they were applied equally to non-rental properties. It would also prevent the City from applying tax breaks for owner-occupied properties, such as the homestead property tax credit and the homeowners’ property tax credit, which save homeowners in College Park thousands of dollars every year.

    The second would permanently freeze the city’s total property tax revenues (not just the rate) at the fiscal year 2011 level. This means that city property tax revenues would not be allowed to increase to keep pace with inflation, annexations, new construction, or for any other reason. This would strangle the City’s progress and soon force cuts to core services like trash collection, recycling, snow removal, and policing. The absentee landlords group has cleverly worded its ballot measure to sound like tax relief, when in fact it would prevent the city from reaping the benefit of revenues from an expanding commercial tax base. With redevelopment occurring, we are seeing more taxes from developments such as student housing, IKEA, and other projects. The City has wisely used that money to keep homeowners’ tax rates low and to fund additional policing and other areas that increase quality of life. The combination of freezing total property tax revenues while removing the homestead tax credit would result in a significant decline in tax bills for rental properties and a significant increase for tax bills for homeowners.

    We urge you to join with us in opposing this dangerous attack on the city. If you signed one of the petitions and would like to withdraw your signature, you can complete and submit the withdrawal form available online.

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