TREASURE ISLAND — City officials are considering instituting a nuisance ordinance similar to the one recently enacted by Madeira Beach to control property and tenant problems.
City Attorney Maura Kiefer is looking into the ordinance as a solution to complaints from homeowners about property eyesores, unruly tenants and negligent landlords.
At a recent commission meeting, resident Don Jerrell and a handful of his neighbors said a small studio apartment in their Second Street E neighborhood is being occupied by several homeless people and they have called the police to report foul language, fights, loud parties, drinking and drug use.
Another neighbor told commissioners she has seen rats on the property and believes some of the people are living in the back yard.
Art Magana, a 12-year island resident, showed the commission pictures of another property in the 9600 block of Gulf Boulevard that has been under construction for more than a year and has become an eyesore. The building has had a blue plastic tarp over its roof for months.
Some of the residents suggested that the city enact an ordinance to deal with the issues, maybe like the one adopted in Madeira Beach.
Kiefer said the Madeira Beach ordinance "is very interesting" because it sets up an assessment fund that municipalities can use as a lien against property determined to be a nuisance. Landlords are charged for the cost of the city's time and efforts. The ordinance also spells out specific deadlines and requirements for property owners.
"It is very innovative," she said.
The ordinance, adopted by the Madeira Beach City Commission in October, is a "three strikes and you're out law" that makes landlords responsible for their tenants' behavior, said Maderia Beach City Manager Shane Crawford.
It is aimed at tenants who sell or use drugs, engage in other criminal activities or create noise or other nuisances that disturb and even threaten neighborhood residents.
"If you (landlords) are doing what you can, you don't have to worry," Crawford said. "We are trying to correct the problems, not get the landlord in trouble."
Under the ordinance, landlords are given three warnings before a corrective action plan is then launched, which stipulates specific actions to be taken and fines to be levied. The ordinance defines more than 30 nuisances, including criminal activities such as drugs or burglaries, excessive alcohol consumption or littering, having dangerous dogs, prostitution, and loud parties.
Although Madeira Beach hasn't had any property with three strikes against it yet, the ordinance has been effective in prompting landlords to get rid of misbehaving tenants, Crawford said.
"I think there will be a trend of communities adopting this kind of ordinance," he said. "This has brought problems to light and opened people's eyes."
Officials in Redington Shores, Clearwater and St. Pete Beach also have expressed interest in the Madeira Beach ordinance.