Wilmington Council ups penalties for landlords who ignore code violations

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The Wilmington City Council ended a five-year stalemate and approved reforms to the city’s housing code that aim to stop landlords from ignoring code violations.

The new ordinance takes effect July 1 in a city where half of the housing stock consists of rentals.

The ordinance had been a cornerstone of Mayor Mike Purzycki’s efforts to improve housing stock in the city.

Under the ordinance, landlords who continually ignore the repair of code violations, as cited by Licenses and Inspections, will be fined $250 a week, per violation, until the code violation is resolved.

The city has struggled for decades with landlords who buy and then neglect their properties.

Landlords and some homeowners claimed that cracking down on code violations would lead to people without financial resources losing their homes and contribute to “gentrification” with rental rates rising and longtime residents being driven out of neighborhoods.

WDEL reported a group representing the city’s landlords says it will pursue reforms in the appeals process and warned that under the revised ordinance tenants could lose their homes if the cost of repairs is too high and the property ends up in a sheriff’s sale.

“This five-year effort to reform the housing code has been about ensuring that landlords are properly licensed and that they respect their tenants’ right to live safely and comfortably,” Purzycki said. “It shouldn’t have taken this long, but finally, we’ve reached a point where the people who choose to be in the business of property rentals have to accept their responsibility to their tenants and to the neighborhoods in which their properties are located.”

“Most of the landlords who conduct business in Wilmington do so legally and are committed to providing decent, affordable housing for tenants,” said Purzycki. “They do not have to worry about this new law, and I applaud them for their efforts. Those, however, who have for years benefitted from an ineffective enforcement system, need to step forward, change their business practices, protect their investment, and protect the people who trust them to provide appropriate housing. We do not want to fine landlords; we want them to comply with the law to help us further strengthen our city’s neighborhoods.”

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