Hundreds Protest New Britain Anti-Blight Ordinances

Emotions ran high Wednesday evening, as hundreds of landlords and tenants gathered outside City Hall to protest two ordinances that would impose extra fees on landlords, starting next year.

Some members of the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance demanded that Mayor Tim O’Brien and the Common Council repeal the ordinances, or face a tough re-election come next November.

“Vote them out! Vote them out!” chanted the group.

The city argued the purpose of the new laws are to keep properties around New Britain from becoming blighted, but opponents argued the measures are unfair and illegal.

“It’s…unconstitutional,” said Sam Zherka.

One ordinance would impose a $150 annual fee per unit on landlords who don’t live within the properties they rent. The city says it’s taking a proactive stance against blight and deadbeat landlords.

“They want even more money in their pockets, and they don’t want to clean up their properties while they’re at it, and that’s wrong,” said Phil Sherwood, Communications Director for Mayor Tim O’Brien.

However, Zherka, who owns property in New Britain, argued that ordinance hurts tenants, since the fees would get passed on.

“Our tenants cannot afford to pay one extra dollar,” said Zherka.

The second ordinance, the so-called “Hot Spots 911” measure, would charge landlords a fee if more than ten 911 calls are made to their properties per year—not including medical or emergency situations. Some tenants are concerned they would incur those costs.

Now every time they call the police, the landlords have to pay, and if it’s like that, the rent is going to be up,” said Marisol Tamallo.

Both sides are sticking to their guns. The Mayor’s office said it’s a done deal, and the ordinances will stand.

“The city’s not backing down. In fact, they’re putting their foot on the gas pedal,” said Sherwood.
However, with a lawsuit filed in court and support from some members of the public, the landlords said the issue is far from over.

“We will repeal every single person…who signed that bill…they will be put on the unemployment line,” said Zherka. 

The landlords’ lawsuit goes before Superior Court next month.

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