Jan 18, 2012

Behind The News, rental inspections

Devon Lash of The Morning Call reports on the landlords suing Allentown over last year's 600% increase in the rental inspection fee. As a target and scapegoat, landlords have always been low hanging fruit. Here's some background not known to the public and press. When the Administration first approached City Council, I was told that it was their intention to raise the fee to thirty five dollars. Because Council did not blink or question that figure, the Mayor's office then realized that they had a ticket to ride. Without hesitation, Council agreed to more than double the initial figure, to $75.00 per each apartment unit annually. Rental units are on a five year inspection cycle, making the actual fee $375.00 per inspection. Of course, the public wouldn't care if the landlords were charged $750.00 a year, or even $7,500.00.* This stigmatization of landlords has allowed the Administration to even have a Landlord Hall of Shame on it's official website. Could you imagine a page dedicated to another class of property owners? Homeowners of Shame. Taxpayers of Shame. Citizens of Shame.

disclaimer: I'm a landlord, but not part of the lawsuit.

first comment on The Morning Call website about this article, but it won't be the last: where in the constitution does it say that a slum lord in Allentown cant be expected to pay more on his rental property? I guess when RCN raises their fees its unconstitutional, or when PPL raises fees for basic living needs its unconstitutional? 90% Of landlords are scum, drivin by greed, why else would you own 46 places, Greed American greed!


Anonymous said...

MM -

The comment you added from the MC website is a sad example of where many are in our country.

Instead of looking in the mirror and challenging themselves to do better, I guess it's much easier to tear down those who are working to do better for themselves.

As to the "fee", it's wrong because it's no longer a fee for service, but a de facto tax. To allow City Hall to unequally tax any group weakens us all. With the way this Mayor spends, it won't be long until he gets around to the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Government for profit
Was never meant to exist.
Like the arena debacle, small men with small budgets, presumably for the good of all, are inexhaustible in their search to wrench hard earned money from those of us who have earned it.
Most of these lazy sots have never worked an honest day in their lives.
BUT these self righteous bastards can sure spend our cash.

Anonymous said...


A program that was developed and passed by the residents of Allentown to improve rental housing in the blighted downtown neighborhoods has been turned into a cash cow by a mayor who came to town as a low income housing advocate. Other guilty parties include Alan Jennings who was a member of the original Rental Inspections Committee. Where is his voice of outcry that a program he helped to pass exists only on paper? Allentown’s Rental Inspection legislation was a program that would have made a difference to the downtown neighborhoods and its residents. Ed has other uses for the fees the legislation allows him to collect and Alan looks the other way. Any integrity in that?

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

some background; scott armstrong was a proponent of the rental inspection ordinance in 1998, i was an opponent. although scott is disappointed in how the program has been, or has not been, enforced since that time, i'm not surprised by the status quo. my opposition at the time was based on two factors; i felt that it would stigmatize the business and chase the good landlords away, and that it discriminated against one class of property owner. several landlords who wouldn't join me back in 1998, asked me to met with them two years ago about the increase; i declined. (they are not the landlords who filed the current lawsuit)
landlording in allentown is a hot bottom issue. one only need look at the comments on my post about joe clark, or today's morning call article about the rental fee increase. beyond this post, and some previous ones about the fee increase, i will not be an activist on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Get ready for newly created "fees" upon Allentown residents. They will be needed, together with large percentage increases on existing fees, to cover funding, now re-directed, to pay for the arena complex.

Looking back a few years, one can see regular development of new fees, and increased fees to permit free-spending politicians to boast about not raising traditional city taxes. The greatest example was probably the implementation of a separate fee for garbage pick-up.

Allentown residents might soon see creative new ways to extract more from them, outside basic city income taxation.

Sleight of hand artists flourish in Las Vegas AND Allentown.

Anonymous said...

The only extra fee I would support on rental units would be a per unit educational impact fee to be passed onto to tenants, who generate up to 75% of the students at ASD, but who pay no property tax.

I only support this fee due to the unique housing characteristics of Allentown and that most multi-units pay ridiculously low real estate tax rates compared to the level of services demanded by the residents of the apartments.

This per unit educational impact fee would be collected by ASD so they could buy text books, paper and other general supplies available in normal schools.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:40 -

The problem you cite is not one that is solved with increased fees. It is solved by active enforcement of zoning laws, ensuring that single-family homes are not converted into two or more units, and actively working to see multi-unit properties (that might have been grandfathered in) are brought to the current code standards.

It is also solved by electing people who realize this and will not promote additional high-density housing in the city.

Loft apartments and "luxury" townhomes sound great when proposed, but the reality is they quickly affect the school district in a negative fashion. In his six years as Mayor, Pawlowski hasn't met a housing proposal that he hasn't liked.

This has put a great strain on the School District and its taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Anonymous 10:40am is RIGHT ON THE MONEY!

Allentown's tax assessments do NOT reflect what has happened to its housing stock over the past decade.

I spent considerable time looking into individual tax records, particularly an 80 square block area of what would be considered downtown. There are NUMEROUS multi-family units still paying single- family rates. Or, at least, paying minimally more than the single-family rate of a property next door. Makes no sense.

Lots of kids are flooding Allentown schools from taxable units that don't come anywhere near covering the local cost to educate them.

Here's the kicker. When such units are funded by Section 8 grants, the individual tenant would have NO objection to a rent increase to make all things equal. It's all passed along to someone else!

It's past time to tighten up. Not time for city leaders to find new spending targets (like the arena).

These same multi-family conversions make demands beyond the school district. They also drain city services.

Anonymous said...

The first comment added from The Morning Call is a proud and shining example of what a little, effective Class Warfare Propaganda can do in a clearly dumbed down American Society.

Well done, Lame Stream Media and Liberal College Professors. You have achieved what we in the Soviet Union tried so hard for so long to accomplish but, sadly, could not.

Now, if the Chairman and the Rubber Stamp Council of Apparatchiks could just find a good reason to get this Molovinsky guy hauled off to a Siberian gulag then things could REALLY Progress along in Allentown rather nicely.



Anonymous said...

anon 11:50 Loft and luxury apts Do Not negatively impact the school district.Call Auburn Station Lofts or Regency Towers and ask how many under 18 reside in there.Your point lacks truth however multi units in row homes with low end rents are the problem.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 4:37, generally speaking, i do not wish to participate in this discussion, however, as a landlord for 35 years, perhaps you will defer to my experience. it's hard for all the projects to hit their target demographic. as the project ages, it becomes more difficult. furthermore, it's illegal to discriminate against family status; marriage, children, etc. there are school age children everywhere, including the regency. in my opinion, allentown would benefit from discouraging more apartment units, regardless as to how the developer promotes them, i.e. loft apartments. ironically, allentown recently changed their zoning, making loft apartments in former commercial buildings easier to gain approval. many new "loft" apartments have been created, which are occupied by school age children. for the record, the auburn station is a top notch project.

Monkey Momma said...

Is the picture from your archives? It is so cool - where was it taken (if u know).

What is the compliance rate, do you think, with rental inspections?

michael molovinsky said...

monkey momma, i differ with people about the number of illegal units, i believe that there are very few. there is, however, higher density in those units than years ago. i know of no building (out of hundreds owned by dozens of landlords) which has not been inspected.

i agree that the photo is a compelling image, but i don't know anything about it. my guess, nyc, 1938+ or -

Guy Williams said...

For the life of me could never under stand why across the country, over 55,deed restricted and gated communities exist and prosper but not in the Lehigh Valley.Happen to know that all three are strict and supported by the courts.

Anonymous said...

I own a 2 unit building in downtown Allentown. I live in one unit and have a tenant in the other. A few years back I had a rental unit inspection. I had to do some some pretty reasonable maintenance and repairs, such as adding a GFCI (due to a change in the code), deal with some peeling paint on my tenants ceiling, and repair or replace some original windows (I chose to replace as it was something I wanted to do anyway to help with heating costs). I also had to paint the front of my house because peeling a chipping paint is not acceptable on a rental unit. I for the most part happily obliged and made proper lasting repairs. I also watched as many of my neighbors had to make similar repairs, paint the fronts of their houses, fix railings ect. I watched them slap one coat of paint over their peeling paint in an hour while a scraped, caulked, primed and painted my place over many days. Now... a few years later, my place still looks great, and my repairs are holding up. The places around me the paint is peeling again and their repaired railings have long since fell down again. There will not be another inspection for a few more years. So, unfortunately this system, which sounds good in theory doesn't work and I am seeing it first hand.