LIVERMORE -- Should landlords be held responsible for the repeated drug activities of their tenants?
That's one of the questions City Council members will be asking Monday when they consider a new law classifying properties used for illegal drug dealing, manufacture or transportation as public nuisances. The ordinance would give the city attorney power -- after a recommendation by police -- to seek court orders to stop the activities, and if they persist, to potentially force evictions, close properties, or fine landlords who refuse to take action.
City officials say the ordinance is targeted at breaking up known "drug houses" and labs at rental properties within city limits. Rather than punish landlords, they say, it's intended to provide them with new tools to rid themselves of problem tenants.
"How do you get these people out of the community?" said Livermore Police Chief Mike Harris. "This enables us to help" property owners.
According to acting city attorney Jason Alcala, the ordinance would authorize abatement proceedings upon a police referral. The office would likely not pursue legal action in cases of simple possession, but only when the activity affects the neighborhood or "creates an unsafe environment," he said.
After a drug-related arrest at a property, Mayor John Marchand said the landlord would be sent a letter with a summary of the activity. If the owner refuses to take action after multiple notices, he could be forced to pay a heavy fine or ultimately face a lien on the property.
"It's a last resort for landlords that we know are impacting the quality of life in Livermore and not caring about the community," Marchand said. He said he has had a handful of cases in which this ordinance would have helped.
Chief Harris said he expects some initial apprehension from property owners, until they are made aware of the ordinance's purpose. Similar laws have been passed in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, as well as in smaller cities such as Stockton and Modesto, he added.
The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Monday in the City Council Chamber, 3575 Pacific Ave.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.