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Tampa moves to fine landlords for house parties

TAMPA — Landlords whose tenants throw house parties allowing underage drinking or illegal drug use could be fined under an ordinance that won initial City Council approval Thursday.

For two years, homeowners in West Riverfront and North Hyde Park have complained that parties at houses rented by University of Tampa students have disrupted their sleep, clogged their streets with taxicabs and littered their yards with red plastic cups.

Already this semester, neighborhoods near campus have seen three or four big parties attended by students and nonstudents alike, officials said. One drew a crowd of more than 300, some of whom threw objects at police cruisers.

"It was out of control," said UT associate dean of students Gina Firth, one of three university administrators who said the ordinance would be another tool to help police, the university and residents address the problem. "The landlords are actually going to be educated more as soon as they learn about this, and they can use this in their leases."

Council member Frank Reddick, who requested the ordinance, has written landlords to ask them to rein in their tenants.

"Most of them have attempted to resolve the problem, and some of them have been frustrated at finding out that these things were going on," he said.

As proposed, landlords would get one written warning, then would face fines of $450 for each underage house party after that. A final vote is scheduled after a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 18.

The council also:

• Voted to pay $100,000 to settle a federal civil lawsuit filed by Eddy Leon Graddy. In 2008, Graddy was Tasered, fell and broke his arm as he ran from three police officers who stopped to question and search him on a N Nebraska Avenue sidewalk.

Graddy, now 51, was charged with possession of cocaine, but the case was dismissed after a judge ruled the officers acted on an anonymous tip without making any observations to corroborate that Graddy was doing anything wrong. Graddy sued the city and Officers Robert Barrett, Christopher Cornelius and Chad Smith, alleging the Tasering and arrest violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.

City attorneys have not said the officers did anything wrong, but they acknowledge that if the case had gone to trial, Graddy likely could have won a jury verdict bigger than the settlement.

• Gave its initial approval to a proposed $876 million budget for fiscal year 2015, which begins on Oct. 1.

The budget is based on a tax rate of about $5.73 in city property taxes for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt value. That's the same rate as this year, but because property values have risen, it works out to a tax increase of nearly 5.2 percent.

Someone who owned a home assessed at $140,000 with standard exemptions would pay about $516 in city taxes. Include proposed property taxes levied by other agencies, and that total tax bill would be about $2,067.

A final budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 17.

Tampa moves to fine landlords for house parties 09/04/14 [Last modified: Thursday, September 4, 2014 10:06pm]
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