The proposed changes to the State College borough’s nuisance property ordinance for rental housing — colloquially known as the point system — is currently under consideration by the State College Borough Council, State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham said.
This ordinance is meant to enforce civil behavior in neighborhoods so residents can live together in harmony, borough council member James Rosenberger said.
The ordinance assigns points to the owner of a property that has received visits from the police due to disturbances, Rosenberger said.
The disturbances, which include noise violations, parking on grass and serving alcohol to minors, each merits one to three points, Rosenberger said.
Currently, once a property accumulates five points, the owner is notified that they need a plan for making changes and at 10 points, the owner is notified that the tenants must be evicted, Goreham said
At the beginning of each calendar year, the number of points a property has accrued gets re-set to zero, Goreham said.
The proposed changes would decrease the maximum points for eviction from 10 to nine, council member Peter Morris said.
“Now, if you get three violations, you’re close to being out, but you have a chance to make changes,” Morris said.
The changes will also increase the number of points assigned to certain violations from two to three, Morris said. Specifically, noise violations and serving alcohol to minors will merit three points rather than two with the changes to the ordinance, Morris said.
Additionally, the points a noise violation accrues will be changed to be equal to a sexual assault, Borough Council Representative for University Park Undergraduate Association Laurel Petrulionis said.
Many landlords and students are opposed to the changes to the ordinance, but the Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, who originally submitted complaints and suggested changes to the council, support the changes, Morris said.
One of the main complaints, Petrulionis (sophomore-political science and agricultural science) said, is that a noise violation is entirely subject to what the police officer at the scene decides.
Also, the calendar for accumulation of points is tied to the calendar year instead of the lease year, Petrulionis said. A lease year usually runs from July to July, so new tenants can move into a property that has accrued points previously and be evicted with only one violation, Rosenberger said.
Though legally any rental housing can accrue these points, in practice it is usually always students, especially those living in areas bordering non-student residences such as the Highlands, Holmes-Foster and College Heights, Morris said. It does not occur in high rise apartments or downtown, but rather in houses that have been converted to accommodate students and sometimes fraternities, he said.
“The laws ought to address behavior, not people involved,” Morris said. “I think that’s often forgotten in this town. People identify bad behavior with students and that’s not a good thing.”
The point increase for noise violations and the maximum number of points will have the most effect on fraternities, Interfraternity Council President Chip Ray said. They have participated in several discussions with the borough staff who are crafting the proposal and would like the point system to stay the same, Ray said.
Council had a meeting for all of the interested parties, including UPUA, Off- Campus Student Union, neighborhood associations and property owners, and will be inviting them to another upcoming roundtable, Petrulionis said.
“I will be speaking at a public hearing on this issue and I am encouraging other students to come too because the more we turn out the more our voices will be taken seriously,” Petrulionis said.
If these discussions do not produce a conclusion by May, the issue will be tabled until the fall when students come back to school and are able to participate in discussions and public hearings, Rosenberger said.