Consumer Alert: Tenants will be able to help rate rental properties in Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Renters: here’s a question for you. How would you feel about getting a chance to rate the home you’re living in?

You’ll be able to do just that before the end of the year. That’s one of the many things discussed at Rochester’s annual landlord summit Wednesday.

News10NBC’s Deanna Dewberry has been investigating Rochester’s rental crisis for over a year. Last February, Mayor Malik Evans created a task force that came up with recommendations, many of which are now law.

The summit was held to educate landlords about all those changes. But there was one change that raised the ire of many of the 600 landlords in that room.

There will now be a scoring system for rental properties and it will be posted on the city’s website.

When News10NBC interviewed a renter last spring, the home she was living in had a hole in its roof for more than a year. That’s among the problems the city hopes to address with higher fines for code violations.

“Now we have a baseline violation which is $100. If it’s a health and safety violation, that’s now gonna be 250. And if it’s a hazard violation, it’s now gonna be 500,” said Mike Furlano, city housing attorney.

Those changes went into effect on Aug. 1.

Landlords with whom News10NBC spoke didn’t object to the higher fines.

“Well, I think it’s long overdue — some of the changes should have been in effect a long time ago, but I think now they’re going to make some changes to help the landlords that are doing the right thing,” said landlord James Wynn Jr.

But when the commissioner of neighborhoods and business development, Dana Miller, told landlards their properties would be scored — in part by their tenants — the room got pretty tense.

“You had a lot of folks really upset about that,” he said. Did he expect that reaction? “I did. When people are told they are gonna be scored, whether it’s a grade in class or a property management scoring system, people often wonder how is this gonna be determined.”

But some landlords insisted the tenants should be scored as well. One landlord told the audience she had a renter who pulled a gun on her. The commissioner tried to assure them the scoring system would be fair.

“We will be using all of the information that at our disposal — code enforcement, current tenants, previous tenants — and we will generate a score that will be calculated and then published on our city website,” Miller said.

Jacob Thorp is a landlord who served on a panel that created the new property scoring system.

“I think it’s gonna help achieve the city’s goals of improving housing quality and encourage good landlords to do the right thing in the right parts of the city,” Thorp said.

Landlords were also worried that a disruptive tenant might give a property a bad score out of spite.

The scoring system tries to address those situations by allowing landlords to report a disruptive tenant, thereby making that property exempt.

The city hopes to roll out the property rating system by the end of the year.