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Rental go-round 'oppressive' to neighborhood
Rental go-round 'oppressive' to neighborhood
By SUE REID
During a public hearing last week on a proposed ordinance regarding rental occupancy permits, Solon residents Joanne and Michael Behnke made an eye-opening appeal to members of the city's planning commission.
The couple cited "dubious renters" that have surrounded their home in the Thornbury subdivision for the past four years and the "veritable hotel" across the street from them on Flanders Drive. The Thornbury subdivision is between Bainbridge and Aurora (Route 43) roads.
Another home in their neighborhood has had somewhere between five and 10 women living in the house on any given day, the Behnkes said.
"I want you to understand how the quality of our lives has been greatly reduced because of this situation in our neighborhood," Mrs. Behnke said.
She urged commission members to recommend strict legislation for rental properties, specifically in residential areas.
"Given the appearance of these homes and the renters they attract, it has been downright oppressive to live where we do," Mrs. Behnke said.
"We moved in December of 2004. We lived in this house long before these homes were built and occupied," she said.
Mrs. Behnke detailed for the committee a house directly across the street from their home. It originally was rented to four men, who, "without any form of transportation, stayed in the house 24/7, except to come out on the front stoops to smoke," she said.
"Pizza deliveries and envelope deliveries by overnight carriers were made almost daily," she said. "On occasion, very late at night, vehicles would stop by and deliver large collections of plastic gallon jugs and load up jugs that were obviously filled." Mrs. Behnke said she was told that what she and her husband observed had all the characteristics of a methane lab.
"While we were grateful when this group moved out in early 2007, the home then became a veritable hotel," she said.
Mrs. Behnke said she and her husband have logged over 30 license plates of vehicles that have spent more then two evenings at the home. Some of the vehicles had tags from as far away as New Mexico, Florida and Minnesota, she said.
Mrs. Behnke told the commission that, on several occasions, their son asked other children in the neighborhood to come over and play in their yard. She said the parents of the invited children would call and ask if the Behnkes' child could go to their homes instead, because they were not comfortable with the people living in the "hotel" across the street and other homes nearby.
Mrs. Behnke said the people in the rentals are not the target of her disdain. "The people in the home found an opportunity and seized it," she said. "It's not about the landlords. This city has turned its back on the citizens of Solon by blindly allowing rentals without even a permit.
"Our frustration lies with the administration of this city," she said. "You alone have the power to make Solon the great city it has every potential to be. We have confidence you will make the right decisions."
Mrs. Behnke said little is known of the landlords of the properties.
"While some have been listed in indictments for criminal behavior, most are simply taking advantage of how easy it is to be a landlord in Solon," she said. It is easier to be a landlord than to hold a garage sale, the latter of which requires a permit, she said.
Mrs. Behnke said that there are few regulations on renting a single-family home or a room or apartment within a single-family home, and no record of the renters or their background. "We feel our quality of life as well as our privacy is being breached," she said.
Ms. Behnke said that, at such places as the Liberty Hills or Solon Park apartments, the rental office conducts background and credit checks and verifies income and employment.
"This information is obtained to protect themselves, of course," she said. "Solon does not require them to collect it. Perhaps that is what makes single-family homes so desirable to some renters. They are probably not asked for such information from some of our more unscrupulous landlords."
She said a lot of the rental properties are the residual of the mortgage-fraud situation.
Detective Lt. Christopher Viland said the home across from the Behnkes was a mortgage-fraud house, and the people involved were prosecuted several years ago. "We haven't had any subsequent complaints that we are aware of at that house," he said.
Mrs. Behnke said she is not implying that all landlords are unscrupulous. "There are people who own property in Solon and take care of it," she said.
Mrs. Behnke told the commission that landscaping is not being maintained on the rental properties, and one property has a broken window that has not been repaired for months.
"While for the first two years we complained about occupied homes having no lawn, we now deal with overgrown lawns having many weeds, which, of course, force others to use extra products on their lawns as the noxious weeds spread," she said.
"Little things lead to big things," she said. "People will come where they feel welcome. We are welcoming these landlords, because we have no rules. No rules lead to chaos."
The proposed ordinance is not even strong enough, but "some rules are better then none," she said.
"Go drive through places like Hudson and Chagrin Falls," Mrs. Behnke said. "These are nice communities because they have rules."
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