An organization that looks out for the rights of renters asked Chillicothe officials to slow down efforts to pass a law that would require property owners to take certain steps to clean up after police discover someone is making methamphetamine. The city council complied.
An organization that looks out for the rights of renters asked Chillicothe officials to slow down efforts to pass a law that would require property owners to take certain steps to clean up after police discover someone is making methamphetamine.
The city council complied. A vote was expected on Monday night on a new law that would, among other things, require property owners to evacuate and board up the first floor of a house, apartment, hotel room, etc., and notify neighbors when law-enforcement officers discover hazardous chemicals at a meth lab.
It also would require professional cleaning to get rid of potentially toxic chemicals left behind and would establish a public database of places where meth labs have been uncovered.
Those who didn’t comply could face misdemeanor charges.
After a year’s worth of work, Councilwoman Pat Patrick expected the law to pass.
But Southeastern Ohio Legal Services sent a letter to the council urging caution.
The group agrees that meth labs are a problem and recognizes that some law is probably necessary, said its director, Jim Daniels. But one cannot come at a cost of tenants’ rights, he said.
“You have to dot all your i’s and cross your t’s,” Daniels said.
Among the problems with the law as proposed, Daniels said, is that property owners would have to immediately get everyone out in the case of an emergency.
“But ‘emergency’ is not defined well enough,” Daniels said. “These broad terms lead to problems."
He said, for example, if law enforcement finds a problem in one room of an apartment building and the landlord forces everyone out and locks it up as required, someone who had nothing to do with the suspected drug activity is likely being deprived of his or her rights.
Daniels also said the law contrasts with parts of Ohio’s tenant/landlord law and should be brought into accordance.
Patrick said she didn’t see the letter from the legal-aid group until hours before Monday’s council meeting, so she pulled the legislation from the agenda.
“We want to do it right,” she said. “I’m in no hurry.”
The law director will review the proposal again, and Patrick said she expects it to go before council again this month.
Chillicothe landlord Michael McCoy, who rents out about 50 units in the city, sent his tenants letters last week saying that if the law was approved, he would immediately raise all rents because he must plan for potentially expensive cleanups.
He said several of those tenants called city council members to complain.