On Monday, two college landlords in Brockport, Pat Doherty and Donna Barrows, tried to outdo each other in coming up with the most nonsensical excuse for violating the Village Code.
The two landlords, who own rental houses directly across the street from each other, both claimed to be good landlords. But neither one accepted responsibility for their actions.
For both of them, there was some outside, mitigating circumstance that made it okay for them to break the law. It’s never their fault. Someone else is always to blame.
One of the landlords, Pat Doherty, said that he hasn’t fixed the outside of his rundown rental house for more than three years because he was in a motorcycle accident in June.
Of course that doesn’t explain why he has failed to repair the outside of the house even though the house has been an eyesore since at least January 2010 when the photo accompanying this article was taken. It hasn't changed much since.
The same rundown house was also featured in an examiner.com article - Brockport collected only $250 from property code violation fines - published on February 14, 2012.
Pat Doherty is a nice guy, but he is a terrible landlord, who will come up with an excuse for what he does and doesn’t do.
Doherty also claims poverty as an excuse for not maintaining his property. He says that people think he makes money from his rental properties, but he doesn’t, and besides he just spent $10,000 on the other rental property he owns at 172 Erie Street, and therefore he has no money to spend on his rundown rental property at 176 Utica Street.
That doesn’t make any sense for a couple of reasons, and Pat knows it.
First of all, Pat is a truck driver, and he knows that if you own two long-haul trucks, you have to register and maintain both of them to the same standards. If the State Trooper pulls you over because your tail lights don’t work, he isn’t going to accept the excuse that you just spent $10,000 repairing your other truck.
So there is no reason why he should be allowed to pour money into one rental house while he neglects the other.
Second, another college landlord in the neighborhood says Pat Doherty is making, “A pile of money” from his rental properties. The evidence seems to indicate that he may be right.
According to the Brockport Student Government Housing List, Doherty has two properties: one with seven singles and one with three doubles.
Using the rent figures provided by SUNY Brockport, Doherty brings in anywhere from $39,050.00 to $91,000 annually from those two properties, depending on whether he charges his rent by the semester or monthly.
If he is grossing $39,050 a year in rent, then he has more than enough money to repair his ramshackle property at the corner of Maxon and Utica Streets.
He has enough money to drive a shiny black, newer model pickup truck, and he has enough money to own a matching shiny black enclosed trailer to haul his tools around in when he does chose to work on his rental property.
A new Chevy Silverado cost about $22,000 and the matching enclosed trailer costs about $2,550.
Doherty has the money to buy himself a nice pickup truck and a nice trailer, but claims he doesn’t have the money to repair his rental property.
What a load of bull.
Section 58-35.5.C of the Brockport Village Code is quite clear about what the rules are for maintaining the outside of a house in Brockport:
- § 58-35.5. Exterior standards.
The exterior of the premises and the condition of structures shall be maintained so that the premises and buildings shall reflect a level of maintenance in keeping with the standards of the community and shall not constitute blight from adjoining property owners or lead to the progressive deterioration of the neighborhood. Such maintenance shall include, without limitation, the following:
The problem is; the village doesn’t enforce the code.
In 2011, former Village Trustee Dan Kuhn was served with a compliance order for failure to maintain the exterior of his house in compliance with the Village Code.
Kuhn’s house was in a thousand times better condition than Pat Doherty’s house, so you have to ask yourself, “Why hasn’t Doherty been served with a compliance order?”
Only time will tell.
The other landlord, Donna Barrows, said that she didn’t know that it was illegal to put garbage out in front of the rental house until 24 hours before trash pick-up. She said she doesn’t live in the village and since her trash pick-up is on Tuesday, she figured trash pick-up at the rental house was also on Tuesday.
Of course that doesn’t explain why last month she put a huge pile of garbage out by the curb in front of the house on a Saturday.
At the time, the tenant said that he didn’t think that the load of trash came from that property. He thought Barrows brought it in from somewhere else.
He might be right. Landlords have been known to haul trash from one property to another so they only have to lay one trash bill. It’s sleazy, but they do it anyway.
Section 21-5 of the Village Code is quite clear about when people can put their trash out.
- “…in no event shall said garbage or refuse be placed ready for collection more than one day prior to said collection.”
But the Village has been woefully inefficient in publicizing the rules. If you don’t read the Village code, how do you know when it is permissible to put you garbage out at the curb?
One solution might be for some good landlords to take it upon themselves to let all the landlords know what the rules are, so landlords like Donna Barrows don’t violate the law because nobody bothered to tell them what the rules are.
Granted, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But that won’t get the job done.
Perhaps the way to get the job done is for newly elected Trustee Val Ciciotti, and Pro-Brockport president Pam Ketchum to grab the bull by the horns and deal with it.
Ciciotti and Ketchum both have the reputation of being a good landlord, so maybe they can spread the word and help create more good landlords. All they have to do is follow the lead of one of the local pizza shops.
Yesterday, a small blue car drove through the village, stopping at some houses and passing by others. Each time the car stopped, a young man got out and placed a blue door hanger on the front door of a house.
The SUNY college students are coming back to town, and the driver was obviously using the Brockport Student Government Housing List to identify the rental houses because he only stopped at student rentals.
Couldn’t Val Ciciotti and Pam Ketchum do just about the same thing to spread the word to both landlords and students that the village has rules about garbage and refuse?
Then they could follow that up with a flyer about the noise ordinance. Let’s be realistic. There is currently no easy way for the college students to know that it is unlawful to play their music loud enough to be heard over the property line.
What are they supposed to do, find it magically be reading the Village Code?
The Village government has a long record of being incapable of spreading the word about the property maintenance ordinance, the trash ordinance, and the noise ordinance.
Perhaps it’s time to try something new.