Kulpmont delays $120 fee that landlords call 'excessive'
KULPMONT - About a dozen landlords attended Tuesday's borough council meeting, determined to make a change in a $120 landlord registration fee that applies to each unit.
At the end of a 30-minute discussion during the public comment portion of the meeting, council unanimously approved a Joseph Winhofer-Nicholas Bozza motion to push back the Dec. 1 deadline to March 1 and to continue discussing the issue.
The board also voted 7-0 to have any fee money already collected placed in escrow until the matter is settled.
Kulpmont officials are meeting with several landlords on a regular basis to try to revamp the rental property ordinance, which was passed in May and set to take effect Jan. 1.
Steve Matzura, of Kulpmont, one of the landlords on the committee, said, "Many think the fee is a little excessive." He told the board, "every other municipality in the area is charging between $25 to $30 a unit. We cannot see justifying $120."
Council members said the money is needed for the salary of code enforcement officer Russ Moroz, but Matzura said it only takes about a half-hour at the most on the borough's behalf to register a landlord.
Meanwhile, "I have to provide four pieces of information for the registration: the form you send me, my paid tax bill, my paid sewer bill and a copy of my liability insurance," Matzura said.
Other landlords, like Nicholas Nestico, were more vocal.
"Why do we have to pay a fee to operate a business when no other business in Kulpmont does?" he asked. "We are taking rundown properties, fixing them up and giving you a tax base, and this is how you treat us?"
An information sheet distributed by councilman Stephen Motyka said the fee was based on each landlord receiving $500 in rent per month.
"There is no landlord that gets $500; $400 a month is elite and many of us are lucky if we get paid each month," Nestico said.
"We understand that you have to have a code enforcement officer," said landlord Bill Maher, "but $120 is excessive."
Winhofer spoke up for council and fired off an idea.
"What if we would say a fee of $100 for the first four units, and then $25 for each unit after that?" he asked.
Many of the landlords in attendance, who own multiple properties, seemed happy with that possible compromise.
Because of the cooperation, council approved delay of the enforcement.
Voting for the delay and the escrow arrangement were Winhofer, Bozza, Motyka, Bruno Varano, Clarence Dietrick, Phil Scicchitano and Stephanie Niglio.