While an appeals hearing returned a housing license for a Kutztown landlord, one board member expressed his fury over tenant behavior affecting Kutztown’s quality of life.
During the revocation appeal hearing on March 17, held in-person and virtually via Zoom, the Kutztown Borough Housing License Appeals Board reviewed the revocation appeal of the rental license for 326 W. Walnut St. which had numerous Disruptive Conduct Reports including loud music, partying and shouting.
After returning from a short executive session, the Board voted unanimously to deny the revocation of the housing license with a warning that people are watching and to consider the property rights of neighbors.
Testimony was provided by code enforcement, Kutztown Police Chief Craig Summers and property owner Jason Barkley.
Multiple Level 2 Disruptive Conduct Reports (DCR) were issued to 326 W. Walnut St. between 2016 and January 2021, of which the last four remained open for incidents involving tenants including loud music and noise, shouting, partying, public urination, intoxicated individuals outside and a man exposing himself while outside on the street, according to testimony.
While the earlier DCRs were closed after remediation by the property owner at the time of the complaints, four DCRs remained open for 2020-2021 due to the property owner’s remediation plan being rejected.
According to testimony, the property owner submitted a revised remediation plan, delivering it in person. Solicitors argued as to whether the revised remediation plan was time stamped upon being delivered and when it was reviewed and if it was rejected.
The housing license was revoked in January 2021 as a result of remediation not being approved, according to testimony. Solicitors argued whether there was notification prior to the revocation.
In an effort to prevent further incidents by the tenants, Barkley testified that there was a discussion during a Zoom with tenants discussing their behavior and that changes to behavior were required in order that they remain tenants. Out of 8 tenants, two were evicted in an effort to prevent further incidents, he said.
Addressing the audience, the Board expressed their appreciation for the public being a part of the process, both virtually and in person.
The Board opted to not entertain testimony from neighboring property owners due the hearing being a code enforcement issue and based on the Borough following the housing license ordinance, and that what neighbors observed or what they do not like about tenants was not relevant to the appeal.
“I’m a neighbor. We have a statutory responsibility. The Board is quite limited to what we can legally do and not do,” said Andrew B. Arnold, a member of the Housing License Appeals Board. “However, we are also neighbors and we do this as a voluntary basis…
“Part of our job is to represent the community more broadly, to represent the community not just in terms of statute but in terms of how awful it is to live next to people who don’t care and who disrupt the neighborhood and who don’t value the people around them and destroy our town,” Arnold continued. “When I say that, I’m not referring to the street, I’m referring to your house.”
“What I heard from you tonight is that your house can safely and respectfully hold six tenants, that somehow you are not able to find nine tenants who are going to be respectful,” said Arnold. “If you can’t clean up your act, if you can’t figure out a way to live as a decent neighbor with all of the rest of the people in the town, we’re going to be right back here.”
Arnold noted that the Borough acknowledges doing this process once and understand there are some formalities that need to be taken to protect not only the landlord's property rights but also the properties rights of all of the people that live around him.
“I hope what you can hear in my voice is fury that we are here at all, two hours to talk about this,” said Arnold, pointing out the costliness is not only to property values. “It’s upsetting. It affects quality of life. So I hope that you heard that and I think I am probably saying less than what you would hear from the audience in general if they had the opportunity.”