Proposal would hold North Adams landlords liable for ignoring drug activity

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NORTH ADAMS — Landlords who turn a blind eye to drug activity on their properties could face sanctions from the city under a proposal introduced this week by Councilor Keith Bona.

The ordinance, which was referred to the council's public safety committee for review, would levy fines upon landlords who do not take immediate action to evict a tenant arrested for drug-related crimes.

"If they do know and don't care, a hefty fine and their name attached to the illegal activity of allowing it to continue may be the persuasion they need to remove those tenants," Bona wrote in a letter to the City Council.

Under the new ordinance, landlords would also receive official notification of the drug activity allegedly happening on their property. Bona said he was not looking to "throw landlords under the bus," but wanted them to be aware of the situation.

"When police make an arrest at one of these homes, the property owner may never know it happens," Bona wrote. "If the address isn't listed in the media, or the owner is out of the area and don't have constant communication with people in the city, how would they know?"

The most important aspect of the proposal, Bona said Tuesday, was the notification of the property owner.

"[Unless they are notified] the landlord can use the excuse that they don't know that it's happening, and the thing is that is actually a protection of the landlords," Bona said. "Once they're aware of it and allow it to continue they can become actually liable."

In addition to the general safety of the neighborhood, Bona also argued such an ordinance can protect other tenants on the same property.

Bona said although there were similar laws in communities such as Buffalo, he had not come across evidence of fines ever actually being levied.

Councilor Lisa Blackmer noted that there is a significant difference between an arrest and a conviction. But Bona responded that in many situations the landlord not even require a conviction to evict a tenant.

Bona noted that he was uncertain to what extent the council was legally allowed to impose fines in the scenarios he laid out.

"We will need some good input from the solicitor," Bona said.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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