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Mayor Says City Needs To Get Tougher On Landlord s

Charlie Schlenker/GLT News
The Gettysburg Apartments had 226 housing code violations at the time it caught fire on Feb. 10.

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said the city might need to get tougher on landlords who fail to make required repairs.

Renner said he was disturbed that a landlord whose building caught fire last month was given five months prior to the fire to address more than 200 code violations. Those violations included inoperative smoke detectors in several units, structural damage, leaks and roach infestation.

The mayor said the administrative court process used to crack down on code violations in rental units might be moving too slowly.

“When you have a violations as a landlord that is that serious to health and safety, then we need to take a sledge hammer to their teeth, or else shut them down,” Renner told GLT News.

The city’s administrative law court had filed a complaint in December to have the Gettysburg Apartments on Bloomington’s east side demolished after its owner failed to make the required repairs. But the demolition complaint had yet to be set for a full hearing when the building burned February 10.

City inspectors first cited the building for 262 violations on September 6. The owner, Wayne Pelhank, was given to November 28 to fix them. The compliance date was later extended and at a re-inspection in December, city officials found only a few of the problems had been addressed.

At yet another inspection in January, eleven days before the fire, inspectors found 226 violations, including inoperative smoke alarms, missing doors, water and structural damage.

Renner said the city began using an administrative law court two years ago to speed up the process for handling code violations.

He said the city might need to provide more resources for the administrative court, and rewrite its ordinances to reduce the time landlords have to address violations.

He said he also wants to discuss with the City Council hiring an additional housing inspector.

The city currently has two inspectors to monitor nearly 10,000 rental units.

Gettysburg Apartments owner Pelhank has other rental properties in the city where inspectors found hundreds more violations.

“If our main goal is public safety, which is police fire and 911 service, public safety also includes making sure that the buildings you are renting are safe and have basic things like smoke detectors,” Renner said.

The cause of the Gettysburg fire remains under investigation. Twenty-nine people were living in the apartment building at the time.

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