NORTH WILDWOOD — The city’s landlords could face financial penalties of as much as $5,000 if the people they rent to become a nuisance to the city’s Police Department.
A list, maintained by police, tracks properties that have been identified as troublesome, the source of frequent complaints and police responses.
Now, with the aid of a new ordinance, owners of those properties are warned that such attention can be costly in the coming season.
The ordinance, which passed Wednesday, requires the owner of a property that has become the source of at least two substantiated complaints of “disorderly, indecent, tumultuous or riotous conduct” to post a bond of between $500 and $5,000 to compensate the city for future expenses related to new complaint calls at the property.
The trouble at the properties means police keep an extra eye on them.
“We have a party house list that we keep active, and we check on them twice a night,” Deputy Chief Matthew Gallagher said of the added attention the properties get in the tourist season.
“Nobody wants to be on the party house list,” he said.
City Administrator Louis Belasco said a similar ordinance neighboring Wildwood passed in September 2011 worked for that town.
“Every shore town has its problem houses from year to year,” Belasco said.
He said the ordinance directs that after a property receives two complaints and a tenant of that property is convicted of a disorderly offense, the city can hold a hearing to determine what penalty the landlord will face. The hearing officer, a licensed attorney, will determine the bond amount.
If the property then avoids any other incidents for the next four years, the bond would be discharged and the money returned, Belasco said.
While North Wildwood’s party-house list contains only eight addresses, seven of which are between 18th and 26th avenues, Gallagher said there was a time when more properties warranted the designation.
Thanks to new construction and harsher underage drinking laws, he said, many of those problems have disappeared.
Gallagher said he checks the complaint calls weekly and monthly to track patterns.
North Wildwood Mayor Bill Henfey said Tuesday the city doesn’t have a major rowdy-house problem, but the ordinance gives the Police Department another tool to combat problems that do arise.
In neighboring Wildwood, City Clerk-Administrator Christopher Wood said the city hasn’t been forced to haul many people into court under its ordinance.
“It is working as a deterrent,” Wood said.
Wildwood police Chief Steven Long said the city makes use of state statutes that involve charging owners with maintaining a nuisance. Those charges come with various penalties. “That’s how we’ve been going at it,” he said.
Long didn’t have an exact number of properties he would classify as rowdy houses, but he said, “There are numerous properties in the city we respond to regularly.”
In the end, Belasco said, property owners have a simple obligation: “They are obliged to be a decent landlord.”
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