Rochester City Council passes new housing legislation, landlords face higher fines

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester City Council on Tuesday night voted on three important pieces of housing legislation introduced by Mayor Malik Evans in April.

The legislation aimed at addressing the housing issues in Rochester. The new package includes a variety of code enforcement changes, including fines of up to $5,000 a day in some cases, a registry for owners of vacant properties, and a tenant-landlord bill of rights.

City Council members voted unanimously for these proposals to help improve and ensure safe, quality residential housing in Rochester. This is something Mayor Evans and his administration vowed to improve more than a year ago.

Advocates with the City-wide Tenant Union say they’re happy the city is taking these steps but say more needs to be done to hold landlords accountable and to enforce it.

“I’m glad the city is working on it but I think these things have been happening for a long time in our community and we have some really really bad actors,” Elizabeth McGriff said.

Landlords will face fines and penalties for any building code violations. The first offense is $100 and then it goes up to $200.

A health and safety violation will cost $500 and a hazard violation up to $1,000. Any demolition done by a landlord without approval will be subject to a $5,000 fine.

“We’ve also shortened the time frame for code violations from 60 days to 30 days,” said Michael Patterson, council member for the Northside District. “And we’ve significantly increased the penalties. And we did that because we had folks out there that had no interest in fixing their rental housing but they had every interest in collecting the rent.”

One of the biggest items included in this legislation is a new vacant housing property registry so the city can keep track of all the vacant properties.

It also requires the landlord to put together a plan to address property issues. There is also a new tenant landlord bill of rights.

“We are going to create this easy to understand landlord-tenant bill of rights that lays out everyone’s rights and responsibilities,” said Corporate Counsel Linda Kingsley.

Some of the new laws go into effect as soon as August 1 and the others in 2024.