Landlords in New Britain who have been targeted by a new fee, which will help to close a budget gap, are suing the city and its mayor.
Four landlords, along with the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop that fee from taking effect and have even called for the mayor's resignation.
And those filing the lawsuit said the ordinance violates state and federal law while the city officials are stating they're doing it not just to raise money, but to fight blight and stop absentee landlords.
Surrounded by supportive tenants, landlord Frank Maccrone told media outlets that he is not the slumlord the city has labeled him to be. He is one of the four landlords suing the city and its mayor.
"I'm not a slumlord," said Maccrone, who owns more than 200 rental units in New Britain, including the St. Mary's house on Beaver Street. "No I am not, no."
Among other things, a recently passed ordinance calls for a $150 fee to be paid on every rental unit if the landlord does not live on site.
"We're looking at least $30,000 a year of money that could be put back into the properties that would be benefits for the residents," Maccarone said. "At least the residents I service, those who have special needs and elderly people."
The new ordinance has some tenants concerned that the landlords will pass the fees on to them in the form of higher rents.
"It's very hard for me. I'm a single mom and I work very hard and the rents are very high as it is," said tenant Yvette Robles. "I don't think we should be targeted."
In fact, one of the plaintiffs listed in this lawsuit, Farmington Hills, has already passed out a letter to its tenants, which in part reads, "New Britain's mayor wants to raise your rent and punish you by charging you $500 for calling 911."
Tenant Lizbeth Rodriguez received the letter Tuesday.
"We just went over to the office to see what was going on because we got a little nervous about your rent going up," she said.
New Britain officials said the landlords are trying to scare their tenants and New Britain Communications Director Phil Sherwood told Eyewitness News that the mayor offered to renegotiate the fee and lower it to $50 instead of $150.
However, Sherwood said the landlords chose to file this lawsuit instead of coming back to the table. City officials believe the real issue is the part of the ordinance that requires the landlords to keep up their property.
"What they are threatened by is not the fee, it's the fact that if the city so chooses, they could stop them from renting out the properties if they don't clean up the blighted properties," Sherwood said. "That's what scares them."
Both sides will have the chance to speak eye-to-eye on Wednesday at New Britain City Hall during the common council meeting at 7 p.m.
The common council meeting is expected to be packed with landlords and their tenants planning to attend the public hearing.
City officials said extra security is expected to be present at the council chambers for safety purposes. Emergency service officials are also planning on shutting down Main Street in front of the building to give the crowd somewhere to gather outside of the council room.
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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