[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Watertown as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Article I Registration, Inspection, and Maintenance of Residential Properties
[Adopted 10-3-2016 by L.L. No. 3-2016]
Residential properties are significant assets and represent a critical investment in the City of Watertown because of their impact on community character, property values and overall quality of life. To maintain the quality of City neighborhoods and facilitate effective code enforcement, the City must be able to efficiently communicate with property owners regarding maintenance and property conditions.
In instances when residential properties are rented to others, rather than owner-occupied, the City Council has determined that accurate and current contact information is needed to facilitate timely communication with property owners regarding potential issues related to property conditions and/or violations of the City Code and/or the laws of the State of New York. The City Council has also determined that an inability to make timely contact with the owners of such residential rental properties may result in extended physical deterioration of housing stock and/or substandard living conditions for City residents. The City Council finds that establishing registration and voluntary inspection requirements for rental properties is in the best interest of public health, safety, and welfare and that the good order and governance of the City will be promoted and enhanced by the enactment of registration and inspection requirements for such rental properties and their owners through the adoption of the provisions set forth in this article.
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- A. The Code Enforcement Official shall be the City's Code Enforcement Supervisor as described at Article II of Chapter 120 of the Code of the City of Watertown, as the same may, from time to time, be amended. Such official shall have additional duties of registration and inspection, and issuance of certificates of inspection and maintenance compliance pursuant to this article, and is hereby authorized and directed to enforce the provisions of this article.
- B. The Code Enforcement Official shall have the authority to render interpretations of this code and to adopt policies and procedures in order to clarify the application of its provisions. Such interpretations, policies, and procedures shall be in compliance with the intent and purpose of this article, but shall not have the effect of waiving requirements specifically provided for in this article.
- Bureau of Code Enforcement.
- DWELLING UNIT
- A structure or building, or any part thereof, equipped with bathing room(s), and areas or rooms for cooking, dining, living and sleeping, occupied or to be occupied by one or more persons as a home or residence.
- The person, persons, or entity that has fee simple title or comparable rights to a dwelling unit or of a property including one or more dwelling units.
- A return, in money, property or other valuable consideration (including payment in kind or services or other thing of value), for use and occupancy or the right to the use and occupancy of a dwelling unit, whether or not a legal relationship of landlord and tenant exists between the owner and the occupant or occupants thereof.
- RENTAL DWELLING UNIT
- A dwelling unit established, occupied, used or maintained for rental occupancy in a one-, two-, or multifamily home, equipped with bathing room(s), and areas or rooms for cooking, dining, living and sleeping, occupied or to be occupied by one or more persons as a home or residence.
- RENTAL OCCUPANCY
- The occupancy or use of a dwelling unit by one or more persons other than the owner as a home or residence under an arrangement whereby the occupant or occupants thereof pay rent for such occupancy and use. There is a rebuttable presumption that any occupancy or use of a dwelling unit is to be deemed a rental occupancy if the owner of the structure or building containing the dwelling unit does not reside in the same structure or building.
- RENTAL PROPERTY
- A property upon which is located a building or buildings or structure or structures which include one or more rental dwelling units.
Rental registration and inspection exceptions. The rental registration and inspection requirements of this article shall not apply to owner-occupied one-family dwellings, hotels and motels, nursing homes, hospitals, adult homes, assisted living facilities, hospice residences, and other licensed residential health care facilities. Otherwise, all other dwelling units rented that are equipped with bathing room(s), and areas or rooms for cooking, dining, living and sleeping, occupied or to be occupied by one or more persons as a home or residence, must be registered with the City.
Voluntary inspection exceptions. The voluntary inspection aspects of this article shall not apply to owner-occupied dwellings; multifamily dwellings owned by a duly established public housing authority or leased directly to the U.S. government; any federal, state, or locality-owned or -managed buildings, Section Eight, and other subsidized housing subject to other inspection requirements; and any newly built and renovated housing receiving a certificate of occupancy within the preceding five years that has been approved for occupancy by the Code Enforcement Official.
Scope. This article shall apply to all rental dwelling units located within the City, with the exception of those delineated in § 177-3B.
Applicability. The provisions of this article shall be deemed to supplement applicable state and local laws, ordinances, codes, rules and regulations, and nothing in this article shall be deemed to abolish, modify, limit, impair, supersede or replace any existing requirements of, or remedies under, any other applicable federal, state or local statute, laws, ordinances, codes, rules or regulations. In case of conflict between any provision of this article and any applicable federal, state or local statute, law, ordinance, code, rule or regulation, the more restrictive or stringent provision or requirement shall prevail. The acceptance of any registration, the filing of any application under this article or other compliance with the requirements of this article shall not cause, or be deemed to cause, any circumstance, condition, status, action, or statement of facts that is otherwise illegal, unlawful or noncompliant under any federal, state or local statute, law, ordinance, code, rule or regulation, including, but not limited to, the City Code, to become or be deemed to be lawful, legal or in compliance.
It shall be unlawful and a violation of this article for any owner of any rental property or rental dwelling unit in the City to establish, maintain, use, let, lease, rent or suffer or permit the occupancy and use thereof as a rental occupancy without first obtaining and thereafter maintaining in full force and effect a certificate of registration from the City, as herein provided.
Application for a certificate of registration of a rental dwelling unit shall be made, in writing, on a required form provided by and to be filed with the Department for that purpose. A separate application shall be made for each building or structure containing one or more rental dwelling units. In the event that any rental dwelling unit or rental property is owned by more than one person, the application shall be executed by each such owner. In those instances in which it is owned by a business entity, the application shall be executed by the chief executive officer of such entity (e.g., president, general partner, managing member). Such application shall contain the following information:
The name, address (both street address and any post office address), telephone and facsimile numbers, and e-mail address, if any, of each owner.
The street address of the rental property, including the apartment or unit number of the rental dwelling unit(s), if any.
If the rental dwelling unit is occupied as of the date the application is filed with the Department.
A description of the building or structure, including the number of rental dwelling units in the building or structure.
Designation of a managing agent. If the owner of the rental dwelling unit does not live within and/or maintain an office or a place of business within Jefferson County, a managing agent must be designated. The name, address (street address and any post office address), telephone and facsimile numbers and e-mail address of the local managing agent or agents or operator of each such intended rental property shall be provided. The agent shall be a person 18 years of age or older, who resides within the County of Jefferson, New York, or conducts a business, the main office or branch of which is located in the County of Jefferson. The agent shall be designated by such owner as in control of and responsible for the maintenance and operation of such dwelling and who shall be designated as the person upon whom process and other notice may be served on behalf of the owner.
Conditions to be met; acknowledgement.
Such application shall include an acknowledgement by the owner affirming that rental dwelling unit(s) meet the following conditions:
Rental properties and all rental dwelling units thereon shall comply with all applicable federal, state or local statutes, laws, ordinances, codes, rules or regulations, including the applicable provisions of the New York State-adopted rules of the International Code Council (ICC), as the same may, from time to time, be amended.
Operational smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as required by the ICC.
Exterior walls, including foundations, shall be maintained. All exterior walls and foundations must be free of holes and crevices.
Exterior doors, windows, skylights and similar openings shall be maintained, secured and weathertight.
Exterior stairs, porches, entrance platforms, fire escapes and the railings thereon shall be maintained in a safe and sound condition.
Roofs shall be maintained in a weathertight condition, secured by normal means.
Roof drains, gutters and downspouts shall be maintained in good repair and free from obstructions.
Exterior surfaces shall be maintained in good condition.
Interior living spaces, including kitchen(s), bathroom(s), and bedroom(s), are in compliance with the ICC.
Operable heating system.
The acknowledgement will also affirm that the owner has received and read the following portions of the City Code and understands the obligation and responsibility to comply with all applicable state and local laws, including but not limited to:
Such application shall be signed by the owner(s).
In addition to any other responsibilities of occupants referred to in this article, the occupants shall be required to comply with these provisions:
Maintenance of property in sanitary condition.
Every occupant of a dwelling or a dwelling unit shall keep in a clean and sanitary condition that part of the dwelling, dwelling unit or premises which he or she occupies and controls.
None of the responsibilities of occupants specified in this section shall relieve the owner of his or her responsibility to maintain those parts of a rental unit which are part of the permanent or semipermanent construction of the unit or dwelling, in whole or in part, in a clean, orderly and sanitary condition.
Liability for violations.
Every occupant of a dwelling unit shall be liable for a code violation as well as for any damage caused by his or her own willful act, omission, assistance, or negligence or that of any member of his or her family, or household guests if such damage results in, or contributes to, a violation of the regulations of the ICC or provisions of the Code of the City of Watertown.
In addition to any other penalty provided by law, a judge may, at the time of sentencing, upon plea or conviction, order restitution pursuant to Subsection B(1) of this section as a condition of any sentence imposed. If such restitution is ordered, except for good cause shown, it shall be paid within 30 days of the date of the sentence.
Nothing in this section shall be interpreted so as to diminish any other lawful remedy to recover for damages.
Every occupant of a dwelling unit shall keep all plumbing, cooking, electric, and all other fixtures and facilities required by this article in a clean and sanitary fashion and shall also be responsible for the exercise of reasonable care in the proper use and operation of such facilities.
Every occupant shall keep exits from his or her dwelling unit clear and unencumbered.
Retaliation against occupants.
No owner, occupant, contractee, mortgagee, designated manager, or any other person, firm or corporation, directly or indirectly in control of a building governed by this article, shall threaten or otherwise retaliate against any occupant who has not committed a breach of the lease of contract of rental, for reporting in good faith of the existence of any violation of the provisions of this article or any other applicable laws, statutes, ordinances or regulations, or for, in good faith, availing himself or herself of any legal remedy to secure or enforce rights under his or her lease or agreement, or provided by law.
No owner, occupant, contractee, mortgagee, designated manager, or any other person, firm or corporation, directly or indirectly in control of a building or a part thereof, shall threaten or otherwise retaliate against any occupant who lives in a dwelling or dwelling unit where the Department has initiated action by giving notice to the owner or persons responsible for the dwelling because the Department believes there has been a violation of any provision of this article.
No owner, occupant, mortgagee, designated manager, or any other person, firm or corporation, directly or indirectly in control of a building or a part, shall threaten or otherwise retaliate against any occupant who has exercised any of his or her rights as described in this article.
The defense of retaliatory action may be raised by the occupant in an eviction action, summary proceeding or other action relating to the right of the occupant to remain in possession of premises.
Registration application fee. A nonrefundable registration application fee shall be paid to the City upon filing each application for a certificate of registration of a rental occupancy and/or for a rental dwelling, in an amount to be set from time to time by the City Council by resolution. The City Council resolution may, in its discretion, but subject to applicable law, establish a schedule or schedules setting different application fees for different categories of applicants or properties.
The fees required by this section shall be waived for any applicant that demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Code Enforcement Official that it is a not-for-profit housing development corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York and that it is providing housing for senior citizens or other designated special populations subject to income guidelines established by either federal or state regulation.
The Code Enforcement Official shall review each application for completeness and accuracy. The Code Enforcement Official shall also review all available information to confirm that the rental property and all rental dwelling units thereon are in compliance with the ICC or provisions of the Code of the City of Watertown at the time the application is made. The application shall be accepted and a certificate of registration shall be issued if, based on all such available information, such application is found to be complete and accurate. Notice to the owner of acceptance or rejection of the application shall be made in writing.
A certificate of registration, pursuant to this article, shall be valid for as long as the information in the application remains complete and accurate, but in no case for more than a period of three years from the date on which the certificate is issued. The owner shall file with the Department a new application in accordance with the requirements of this article:
It shall be the duty of the Code Enforcement Official to maintain a record of registrations pursuant to this article. Such register shall be kept by owner name and by street address, showing the name and address of the owner, the number of rental dwelling units at such street address, and the date of expiration of registration for such property. Each application shall be maintained in accordance with all record retention requirements applicable to the City and shall be subject to public disclosure, inspection and copying in accordance with the requirements of the applicable law of the State of New York.
Within the context of this article, the presence or existence of any one of the following shall create a rebuttable presumption that a premises is being used as a rental property or a rental dwelling unit:
There exists a written or oral lease or rental arrangement, payment or agreement for all or any portion of any building or structure located on the property by and between the owner and any tenants, occupants and/or other persons or entities in possession thereof.
The property is occupied by someone other than the owner, and the owner represents in writing or otherwise, to any person or establishment, business, institution or government agency, that the owner resides at an address other than the rental property.
Utilities, cable, phone or other services are in place or requested to be installed or used at the premises or any portion thereof in the name of someone other than the owner.
There are separate entrances for segregated parts of any building or structure located on the property.
There are partitions or internal doors which may serve to bar access between segregated portions of any building or structure located on the property, including, but not limited to, bedrooms.
Any occupant or person in possession thereof does not have unimpeded and/or lawful access to all dwelling units in a building or structure.
Two or more complete dwelling units, as defined herein or in the Residential Code of New York State, exist in any building or structure located on the property.
A premises has been advertised in any newspaper, magazine, local advertising publication, or posted or billed as being available for rent.
The presumptions set forth above, subject to the limitations contained therein, shall also be applicable to enforcement and prosecution of illegal residential use and occupancy violations under other articles of the City Code.
Nothing herein shall be construed to prevent persons living together with any owner as a two-family unit as defined by the City Code.
The rental registration portions of this article shall be effective beginning January 1, 2018, for all owners in the City of Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. All owners in the City of Watertown must register their property/rental dwelling unit(s) as required by this section on or before June 30, 2018.
Voluntary inspections. After July 1, 2018, upon the request of any rental unit owner, managing agent, or tenant, the Code Enforcement Official shall have authority to inspect the subject rental property/rental dwelling unit(s). In doing so, the Code Enforcement Official shall be entitled to rely upon the representation of said owner or managing agent that the inspection of any occupied unit is with the consent of the tenant. Upon successful inspection, a certificate of inspection and maintenance compliance will be issued.
Inspection procedures. A certificate of inspection and maintenance compliance may only be obtained after an inspection of the dwelling, including all dwelling units, by the Code Enforcement Official or his or her deputies. Either a certificate of inspection and maintenance compliance or a notice of violation shall be issued within 15 days after the date of such inspection.
If violations are found during the inspection, such violations shall be corrected, or the dwelling unit vacated, within a period of time ranging from 10 days to six months, depending on the severity of the violation and the physical requirements necessary to remedy such violations, as determined by the Code Enforcement Official.
A reinspection may be conducted at any time during the period of the certificate of inspection and maintenance compliance, with a minimum of 10 days' notice to the owner or his agent, if a signed complaint of noncompliance is received from a person or persons renting a dwelling unit, or upon less notice if deemed necessary by the Code Enforcement Official in case of emergency. Such reinspection shall have the same force as the original inspection.
An owner's refusal to permit inspection of a tenant's rental unit shall be admissible as evidence of a breach of the warranty of habitability in any action by the landlord for remedy under the lease or to recover real property in a special proceeding under the provisions of the New York Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law.
Posting of certificate of inspection and maintenance compliance. The certificate of inspection and maintenance compliance issued pursuant to this article shall be posted in a conspicuous place in the dwelling upon its issuance. The certificate shall be valid for a period of three years from the date of issuance unless a reinspection discloses violations. Upon correction of the violations, the certificate shall then be valid for the remainder of the original period of issuance.
Any rental dwelling unit not registered pursuant to the provisions of this article shall not, after June 30, 2018, be offered for rental. Any owner whose failure to comply with the provisions of this article results in legal action by the City to either compel compliance or to enjoin occupancy shall be liable to the City, as part of any judgment obtained by the City, for the City's costs, including reasonable attorney's fees, in obtaining such judgment.
If any clause, sentence, paragraph, section or part of this article shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder thereof but shall be confined in its operation to the clause, sentence, paragraph, section or part thereof directly involved in said judgment.