Washington City Council approves first reading of Disorderly House Provision

WASHINGTON — The Washington City Council have completed and approved the first reading of an amendment to the city’s Code of Ordinances which would hold landlords accountable for repeat offenses disturbances caused by tenants living in their properties.

During the city council meeting on Oct. 15, the council discussed the Disorderly House Provision, an addition of a section to Chapter 40, the public peace section of the code of ordinances. The addition would grant the police the power to also cite landlords.

Mayor Jaron Rosien noted that patio parties and backyard barbecues or tailgates are not prohibited by the provision but that the amendment intends to target “prostitution, drug abuse, noise complaints.”

“It gives a little bit more teeth to the code enforcement officials with not only the tenants but potentially with the landlord to effectively police some of these problem properties,” Rosien said.

As written in the amendment, prohibited activities include open storage, use or consumption of controlled substances, gambling, prostitution and illegal use of fireworks in addition to other codes of disorderly conduct already outlined in the code of ordinances. Penalties for violation of the provision include being convicted of a misdemeanor and charged with a fine of up to $625 and potential jail time, as explained by the city attorney Kevin Olson.

“I don’t believe the goal is to fill the city coffers with money that way or to really even pursue it in that regard but to basically have the ability to enforce and have more ability to influence better choices, better behavior,” Rosien added.

“This way, you at least have a mechanism to make landlords more responsible for their tenants,” Olson noted about the new provision, which would allow police to fine property owners who may not be responsive to complaints about their tenants. The provision aims to make landlords more accountable and responsible when choosing tenants.

“In a way, it could make landlords responsible for fines and court actions that were not directly caused by him, if they were caused by his tenants so the landlord could be responsible legally for the actions of their tenants,” Olson added. The city attorney also noted that the provision is only intended toward properties that have required repeated action and notices.

“And it’s just really for the properties that are constant police calls,” Brent Hinson, a city administrator said about instances when the provision is expected to be enforced.

Police Chief Jim Lester noted that he felt the provision is a “good idea.”

“We’ve had some homes that officers have been to several different times and if we had the ability to cite the landlord and make them accountable for the actions of their tenants, we may have been able to stop some of those repeat business,” Lester said.

During the meeting, the council also approved a resolution to create an Emergency Planning Team and a police Taser purchase plan.

The new Emergency Planning Team who would be “tasked with developing an Emergency Operations Plan, Continuity of Government Plan” and “upon initial completion of plans with regularly reviewing and keeping said plans up-to-date.”

Police Chief Lester sent in a request to the council with a Taser purchasing plan. In his request, Lester noted that “not every officer is issued a Taser and the units in operation are nearly ten years old and no longer supported by the manufacturer.”

The purchasing plan covers the next five years for upgrades with Taser X2 that will cost $5,724 in the next four budget cycles. The cost falls under the $6,000 budgeted for the police department for Taser upgrades.

Chief Lester noted in his request that the equipping officers with Tasers “provides each officer with an essential less lethal tool available to them at all times.”