Fresno's slumlords face stiffer penalties for neglecting properties

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The Fresno City Council has decided to get tougher on the owners of substandard rental properties and impose substantial penalties for code violations. (KFSN)

The Fresno City Council has decided to get tougher on the owners of substandard rental properties and impose substantial penalties for code violations.

City Manager Bruce Rudd said fines will be steep.

"The first citation is $800, the second citation is $1,200, and the third citation is $1,600, and for an egregious property owner as defined by the municipal code, those citations will double for those individuals."

These levels are two, three, and four times higher than the current fines.

Those fines will be imposed only for serious health and safety violations, like holes in the roof and structural problems.

The increases won unanimous council approval.

"Having the ordinance is no good unless you have the penalty to match and the ability to prosecute and enforce it," said Fresno City Council Member Lee Brand.

The city has been pushed to get tough on the owners of substandard housing since hundreds of residents were left without heat at the Summerset Village complex last year. The owner of the place was recently assessed $200,000's in fines.

Housing advocates said upping the fines is a good move, but not nearly enough.

"It's a positive step forward and we are glad it's happening, but we also understand until there is a baseline interior inspection program the city has no idea how many substandard properties there are and until then we don't know who those fines are going to go to," said Lety Valencia, Faith in Communities.

Housing advocates are encouraged because Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin has promised to bring a rental housing inspection plan to the council before the end of the year.

It remains to be seen if the City Council will approve it.
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