Monday, August 16, 2010

Ogden, Utah's "Good Landlord" Program Creates A Dilemma; Reduces Crime, But Inhibits Societal Reintegration For Ex-Cons And Parolees

A program in Ogden, Utah designed to reduce crime by keeping known troublemakers out of rental housing is accomplishing its primary goal, but there's a side effect; a number of ex-cons who are genuinely trying to re-integrate successfully into society have become casualties.

In October 2004, Ogden introduced the Good Landlord Program. Its purpose was to encourage the elimination of code violations and public nuisances while controlling and preventing illegal activity on rental properties that affect the quality of life within various neighborhoods. The program provides powerful financial incentives to landlords who keep their properties free of criminal activity and maintain their properties free of code violations. It also authorizes a discount toward disproportionate impact fees assessed against rental dwellings under the city’s business licensing regulations. Disproportionate impact fees are assessed based on the amount of police and fire services provided to rental dwellings; the discount is offered to landlords who help the City reduce the occurrences for such services required on rental properties. Property owners can qualify for as much as a 90 percent discount on their annual business license fees. Participating landlords also saw an average reduction in crime at their properties of 11.6 percent in the first year of the program. Eighty-three percent of licensed rental units participate.

A landlord can still choose to rent to ex-cons or parolees, but such a landlord cannot qualify for the program. A 90 percent discount on business license fees can be an irresistible incentive for participation.

A six-page document lays out the details. Here's the applicable portion:

The landlord does not knowingly rent to any person who has been convicted of any crime involving any threat or damage to property or person, nor for any crime which had it been committed on the landlord's premises would have disturbed the peaceful enjoyment of other tenants, this shall include the sale, manufacture or distribution of any controlled substance. (Program compliance is based on whether the conviction, or release from probation or parole, occurred within 4 years of the date of a rental application.)

This means a landlord can not only legally refuse to rent to an ex-con or parolee within four years of conviction or parole, but has a financial incentive for refusal. One tenant caught up in the net is a parolee, Joseph Sambrano. Not only was Sambrano following the rules of his parole, he was doing so well he received a job as a security guard at his apartment building. Sambrano would ensure that visitors to Park Avenue Apartments had escorts, told tenants to turn down loud music and helped police when they visited the building. Along the way, Sambrano assumed custody of his 16-year-old nephew and began raising him at Park Avenue. Despite that, Ogden City wants Sambrano out of Park Avenue. Building management will evict him to save money, even though the landlord obviously doesn't want to get rid of him.

Sambrano says he's talked to 30 other prospective landlords, but explains that as soon as he tells them he's a felon, they say "Can’t do it.” The end result: Probationers and parolees — whether they have been convicted of sex crimes, murder, theft or drug offenses — find fewer places where they can live and congregate in the same neighborhoods or buildings despite rules prohibiting them from associating with one another.

The comments to the KSL story reveal some interesting information. It appears some landlords may be screening out ex-cons who've been crime-free for more than four years under the guise of the Good Landlord Program. One commenter writes, "They do take stuff like this too far. I can see how in some cases it would be a good thing. But my roommate lost his job, so i got another roommate to replace him. They denied her on the lease for a possession charge 6 years ago. She's been clean and crime free since. Tell me how that's helping? Besides causing me to fall behind on rent and lose the apartment?"

But a couple of other comments reveal an interesting trend. When the program was first implemented in 2004, it was based upon the definitions of felonious crimes against persons and property in effect at that time. But since then, the number of such crimes considered qualifying felonies has increased. Thus more ex-cons are being caught up in the net.

Redsoxunixgeek 12:53pm - Mon Aug 16th, 2010:
I think there is a difference between not renting to a felon who is a known sex offender as opposed to the felon who got busted with some weed 4 years ago, or the person who is on probation for some small white collar crime that they shouldn't have committed...something says this could be a lawsuit waiting to be filed by someone who got a DUI and now can't live in a decent house.

Pleasinreason 1:08pm - Mon Aug 16th, 2010:
...When I was young a felon meant armed robbery, rape, murder etc, now it could be your kid or anyone's for that matter, just one wrong judgment, and you are branded for life? Makes little sense to me, life is hard enough. Let's make the laws reflect the damage really done, not some nuty law related to the so called war on drugs that is not working.

I am not siding with drug users, just saying most kids will likely try and a percentage will get caught, should not ruin the rest of their lives.

Serenity_May 1:24pm - Mon Aug 16th, 2010:
The problem is the system no longer allows for kids to be young and dumb. There is usually little likelihood for a real second chance when you have been convicted of a felony. It follows you for life despite if you have learned from it and grown into a better person you can still be denied a good job and decent housing.

The system is built to keep a large part of the population from voting and being educated cause the less knowledge and chances people have the longer this country can be ran into the ground.

In the final analysis, the Good Landlord Program is actually a worthwhile endeavor. It does discriminate between offenders against persons and property from those who commit paper crimes like lying on a campaign disclosure form. It does noticeably reduce crime. The real problem is that a state legislature anxious to be seen as "tough on crime" may have slapped the felony designation on too many offenses. The road to hell can be paved with good intentions; if we want ex-cons to succeed, we must allow them the opportunity to compete. Sure, they weren't forced to commit the crimes in the first place, but some of us can be young and dumb.


Anonymous said...

Simply put, this is unethical. A cash incentive to ignore the people that need the most help? Seriously this headed in the wrong directions of civil liberties. Cash if your willing to discriminate WOW.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous, its like we are setting these people up for failure. What do you think happens to these people after they are denyed housing, jobs etc because they are made to feel "less than" worthy to be in society? Chances are they get discouraged and maybe go back to a life of crime where taxpayers end up paying to keep them incarcerated. Come on, let them have a chance to prove themselves before condeming them for their bad choices.

Anonymous said...

L. Paul Smith, executive directer of the Utah Apartment Association, and 3 other officers of that association, are registered lobbyists with the state of Utah. The UAA is a Policical Action Committee. In that position they have learned to influence politicians to change the laws in their favor, to allow them to influence local governments to put their Good Landlord Program in place, and consequently sell a lot of classes through their organization to captive landlords captive to either high fees or high pressure salesmanship by the UAA, to take their classes and join their organization. The Good Landlord program is a money maker for the cities and the UAA, and hurtful to the common man, who might have made a mistake in the past, and is trying to improve his life. The Good Landlord program does not reduce crime, it just moves what crime there will be to other communities. It is an evil and heartless program.

The Peery Apartments said...

Ogden's Good Landlord Program is little more than a joke, if not properly and consistently enforced by the City.
Kier Management is a gold star member of this City backed program, receiving thousands of dollars in discounts on licensing fees, while violating almost every rule of the program...

Anonymous said...

I am a 24 old man who commited an act of self defense 2 weeks after my 18th birthday which resulted in felony conviction. I have met with 12 landlords who all approved me and would have loved to offer me housing. I am a father of 2, married, work full time, active in community functions, have good credit, and was released from probation 3 years early for good behavoir. 9 of these landlords I met with were ready to sign a lease until they looked and saw, oh nope, can't do it, he had one single conviction. Today I found an owner in ogden whom was not part of the program, I had cash in hand and passed all areas of my application, he said , well there's a lady here that I has commited to showing the apartment, just let me show her so its not rude on my part, I stand back with my wife and children while he shows her the home, the lady has track marks from using running down both arms, and did not have enough money to rent the home and also make a deposit. The man asks if he could speak to me real quick so we step asside, at this point he appologizes and says he would rather rent to her due to my felony conviction. This " good landlord" program is pushing ex felons back into the system. Can you blame them ? I work full time for 8.25 an hour as a cook because it is the only job I can get due to my situation, yet the other cooks that were hired after me that I TRAINED start out at 9.50. My boss even wrote me letters of recomendation to give to landlords saying how good of an employee I am. I don't believe this program is helping do any good.