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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

District Court Judge Urges City to Adopt Uniform Landlord-Tenant Act

Campbell County District Court Judge Cameron Blau addresses Fort Thomas City Council to urge adoption of uniform landlord-tenant law.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Campbell County District Court Judge Cameron Blau has expressed concern that the city of Fort Thomas is the only municipality in the county that has not adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (URLTA). Kentucky statutes allow the provisions of the URLTA to be adopted by individual communities, and several communities in Kentucky have done so although there have been efforts to make the act statewide.

He addressed city council at its last meeting to outline the act’s usefulness as a tool that protects both landlords and tenants when a lease is not in effect or if a lease doesn’t cover certain areas of concern. It is fair, he said, because it lays out clear protections and procedures for all.

Blau said he would like to introduce the act to cover unincorporated portions of Campbell County as well. It just makes sense, he said, to have everyone on the same page.

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Seeking clarity for all

"Uniformity in our community, uniformity throughout our state, is important. It makes it more efficient. It makes it nice for tenants who know what their rights are going into each community, and it’s fantastic for our landlords who usually don’t own property in just one city," he said.

He explained why the act is a good thing for all involved. "First and foremost, it outlines the tenant’s responsibilities...This spells out very clearly what the tenants obligations are to that property. And in the same vein it also spells out very clearly what the landlord’s responsibilities are...They have to comply with local ordinances about habitability, but the real important part is they must provide a nice, clean, safe environment," he said.

"That’s what Fort Thomas stands for and that’s what a landlord should stand for. Because when you have a clean, safe environment for a child to go home to, they are more productive. They are more likely to learn in your school system, and that’s why people want to come to Fort Thomas. Everyone knows it’s one of the number areas for education.

Judge Blau's concerns

Blau presides over eviction and related cases in Campbell County, and says he’s seen first-hand the burden this lack of uniformity can bring.

"It causes a burden on the court system, it causes a burden on the landlords, and it causes a burden on the tenants because they don’t know what they are walking into...It would nice to be able to give that uniformity to those defending themselves in an eviction proceeding, those moving forward with it, those that have legal representation, that they know what they are dealing with...[The act] is spelled out very plainly and very clearly on its face."

He went on to list the types of situations covered in the act that would be addressed if there was no contract or lease. He said the law covers how security deposits are handled, one of the main issues that come to his court. The act outlines how the money is taken in, where it is kept, the requirement of tick lists for moving in and out, and rules about how and when a security deposit is returned.

The law also makes clear that landlords have access to their property and outlines what constitutes proper notice. Without clearly outlining this in a lease, some landlords have had to obtain a court order to gain access to view their property and address issues of concern, he said. The act also clearly lists tenants obligations, landlord’s responsibilities and protects against retaliation.

Addressing the number one issue

Nonpayment of rent is the number one reason people get evicted in this community, he said. Having clear rules helps both landlord and tenant avoid problems. Under the act, the landlord must give seven days’ notice posted on the tenant’s door after they are non-compliant. If a tenant pays within that seven days, the eviction proceeding is canceled.

He warned that some landlords are not aware of the eviction rules and procedures in place if not covered specifically in a lease. Once an eviction starts, he said, if the landlord accepts even a partial payment, the clock on the process can start over. In some troubling instances, an eviction can be strung out for months, and the landlord ends up losing months of revenue.

Generally, if the landlord and tenant have a signed lease agreement that covers the issues mentioned above, the agreement stands and will usually supersede the provisions of the URLTA, he explained.

Blau ended by urging city officials to adopt URLTA in Fort Thomas. Mayor Eric Haas and council agreed to ask the city’s Law, Labor and License Committee to examine the bill and consider making a recommendation to the city.

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