MOUNT CARMEL - One of Mount Carmel Borough's biggest problems is landlords' failure to obtain license and occupancy permits.

According to borough officials, that is about to change.

Mount Carmel Mayor J. Kevin Jones and Robin Williams, code enforcement officer, said the borough plans to crack down on landlords who don't follow the rules.

"In dealing with all these rental properties, I know that Robin has been overwhelmed," Jones said Friday. "This effort will help provide renters in Mount Carmel Borough a safe place to live."

Williams hopes tenants will come forward with any problems they are having with renters.

"We have discovered places that have open sewer drains with the sewage running into the basement, and back porches falling down," Williams said. "Tenants shouldn't have to live like that."

Mount Carmel Borough passed an ordinance in 2008 requiring a landlord to get a license.

The fee for a license is $100, whether the landlord rents out one unit or 30, but there is also a fee for inspections, which is required to obtain the license.

Williams gives each licensee a copy of the 70-point checklist he goes through to inspect a property.

The license also requires landlords to purchase fire insurance, but Jones says some landlords purchase policies and then cancel them after three months, just to stay legal.

"We are not trying to come down on the landlords, that's not what this is about," Williams

said. "We want to give residents who rent in Mount Carmel Borough safe places to live."

The same reasoning goes for giving the borough the names of residents for an occupancy permit.

"In the case of a fire, the occupancy permit will show who is living in the building and the fire officials can check if everyone is accounted for and safely out of the structure," Jones said.

Hearings continued

Williams' enforcement takes place not only in the streets, but in the courtroom.

"I've worked to prepare for cases and had witnesses and tenants take off work to testify," Williams said. "We are all set to go and then we hear the word 'continuance,' and we have to wait again."

"We don't have problems with most of the local landlords. The out-of-towners are the problem ones," Jones said.

"They can be very evasive, and they are very good at it," he continued.

With this renewed effort and cooperation from landlords and tenants, Mount Carmel Borough is ready to fight the good fight.

"This is another way we are going to fight blight in Mount Carmel," Jones said. "The bottom line is that through a concentrated effort, we are going to be more aggressive in targeting these landlords and get everyone on the same page to make it safe to live in Mount Carmel."