Landlord: disregarding criminal history is 'egregious'

Possible revisions to Erie County's anti-discrimination ordinance draw criticism

GIRARD, Pa. -- As Erie County Council considers ways to better protect residents from housing and employment discrimination, discussions are raising the concerns of some landlords.

Joel Miller, president of the Apartment Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania, said, "It's sort of an egregious thing to ask the landlord to do, as well as an unfair thing to subject the tenants to.

Residents and real estate investors were fired up at Tuesday night’s Erie County Council meeting, which was held at the Pleasant Ridge Manor in Girard. It was the first reading of an ordinance to grow the list of unlawful discriminatory practices in housing and employment to include gender identity, source of income and criminal history, which drew criticism at the meeting.

Harborcreek Township resident Nick Marinelli said the ordinance would restrict his ability to maintain and manage his properties.

"You continually take away our rights to investigate the people that want to live in our investment properties; but then, you complain about us not having control over our tenants or why we are renting to bad tenants," he said.

Some people referenced the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s guidelines and the Fair Housing Act. They said federal legislation is already in place to help make these decisions.

"I abide by all of these rules. So, I don't find any for us to have any kind of local ordinance that's different,” said Sandra Franco, who owns real estate in the county.

Council members said they will review the recommendations and feedback, but strive to provide residents freedom from discrimination.

"We are reviewing a potential update, which includes certain classes and also considering whether criminal history should be looked at,” said Jay Breneman, chairman of Erie County Council.

Councilwoman Carol Loll said she supports removing language regarding criminal history from the proposed amendment.

"It is curtailing, and it's holding the landlords at bay on anything that they can discriminate against,” she said.

Pete Kloszewski and his family reside in a house situated between two renters. The Washington Township man said, "First and foremost, when we're making ordinances (and) when we're making laws, we need to use common sense first."

The council notes that the county ordinance does not trump any existing state or federal laws.

Ordinance Number 87, 2017, will have its second reading at the next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 19.
 


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