Rental Property Grievances

Post by Scott Irblacher, A Concerned Bellevue Resident and Member of the Liberty in Bellevue Movement

As a renter in Bellevue, I have several grievances with  Bellevue Council, and in particular, our council president Linda Woshner that I would like to point out publicly:

1) There are far too many large Victorian homes chopped into low-rent apartments.  The high number of these “chopped rentals” bring in an exceptionally high number of low-rent renters into the community and limit the opportunities for home ownership.  Additionally, many of the thousands who rent the low cost apartments in Bellevue have little personal investment in the community and school district largely influenced by the fact that they do not pay taxes directly into the community in which they live.

2) Many of these properties were chopped before the modern code was formulated.  Bellevue currently does not conduct annual inspections of rental properties for compliance or fire/safety.  Thus, unless the property owner is an exceptional landlord, renters are not guaranteed their apartment is safe or secure in Bellevue.

3)  These chopped houses/apartments on residential streets directly impact Bellevue’s declining populace and economic infrastructure in many ways.  To put it bluntly, single family home owners tend to earn more than renters.  As the population of home owners dwindles, the community loses revenue in the form of less income tax.  Renters do not have an investment in the property in which they live.  They rely on a landlord for property maintenance and are not typically motivated to request cosmetic fixes to the building or landscape the lawn.  Renters often are short-term residents.  They do not tend to build long term relationships with neighbors limiting the sense of community in Bellevue.  We have enough apartment houses and original duplexes in the borough to maintain access to affordable options even if we convert chopped houses back to single family residences.   Additionally, the chopped houses in Bellevue are a drain on one of the most understated limited resources in this community: on-street parking.  A large house chopped into three apartments is likely to host six cars among its numerous tenants.  This is opposed to an average of two cars on the street if a single family lived in the same house.

4) There is no moratorium/ceiling on rental properties in Bellevue.

5) Bellevue does not have a way of determining if properties are being rented with a valid rental permit.  Bellevue does not annually audit rental properties.  Bellevue has no incentive for someone to revert a “chopped house” back into an “unchopped” single family home.

Why won’t these issues be resolved?  Why won’t the current council take steps to improving our borough’s economic struggles by providing solutions to these challenges?   The answer is simple, our current council president, Linda Woshner, owns 18 properties in Bellevue, worth over $2.7 million.  That’s a lot of investment equity and income.  Her micromanaging style and focus on questioning every dollar is clearly influenced by the more than $100,000 a year she pays in property taxes (this is nearly $20,000 annually paid directly to Bellevue Borough).   As long as she is on council, the tax abatement for property improvement and increasing the number of single family homes will never come.  She can easily bankroll opposition to any true reform that would take money from her or force her to put money into her empire.

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10 Responses to “Rental Property Grievances”

  1. As a former member of Bellevue Council, I was Chairman of Public Safety, on Finance Committee, Budget Committee, and on the planning commission. Pointing out an “individual” for owning a lot of properties solves nothing, and I am definitely IN NO WAY defending Linda. I believe Linda and 3 others are TRULY the issues that plague and stain our town. Linda most recently changed an ordinance for rental properties. As of right now, a rental property in Bellevue can be up to 6 rentals per building and NOT have to find private garbage pick-up. Now, that being said, I am sure you think garbage pick-up isn’t a big deal, but to a landlord IT IS definitely a big deal. The landlord has to contract out garbage pick-up if an ordinance states a certain amount of units per building valid for pick-up via the contract Bellevue Borough has with a company. That being said, it costs $158 per year to pick up garbage…….how many units does a certain someone own in Bellevue?? How many needed private companies and contracts to pick-up garbage?? Exactly!! Linda, Jim, Sue, and Jane changed the ordinance………I WONDER WHY??????? Think about it, a private company charges more than 158 bucks per year to pick up garbage at CERTAIN addresses for clients. DEFINITELY. ALSO, now that being said, how about this one…..garbage contracts for boroughs are based on tonnage……..THINK ABOUT IT…What is a certain someone doing when they change the ordinance in their favor???? The COST will go up in the future folks…..THE ESTIMATE will be higher and the COST will be higher………AND THEY ARE GETTING AWAY WITH IT, RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACES. LETS DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LETS GO!!!

    • Thanks Dave. I appreciate the response. However, I must disagree with you that pointing out the private business dealings of a public servant solves nothing. In my opinion, it is a huge step is right direction. Transparency is a HUGE issue in politics, both locally and nationally. Without transparency there is opportunity for all sorts of fouls. It is not a problem to own a lot of property. I wish I personally owned some rental properties, perhaps I will some day. However, if someone who owns millions of dollars in property finds themselves in the position to protect their financial assets at the cost of the greater community, that IS a problem. Too many people are afraid to name names and point fingers about the problems facing our community. That is one thing LiB is meant to change. Where there is suspected corruption, we are not afraid to go point it out for all to see.

  2. I want to clarify that I am not attempting to attack Ms. Woshner personally. I have never met her and figure this post won’t change that. However, since I’ve moved to Bellevue I’ve used my perspective of renting in several other small ‘downtown communities’ in wishing Bellevue improve and realize its potential. I have always been met with opposition or told that I just don’t understand because I haven’t lived her my entire life. I simply am using facts to show that there is not just incentive for the President of Bellevue Council to maintain the status quo, but rather ordinances that would improve Bellevue are adverse to her personal income. I believe in using real facts in this debate and don’t want my assumptions of Ms. Woshner to be misconstrued as a petty, superficial, or personal attack.

    • I don’t know how long you will permit this to stay on your site but, hopefully, long enough for your following to know the truth.

      I am proud of what I have accomplished in my lifetime. My husband and I started investing in real estate with a small savings. No one gave us money. We are in the position we are in financially because eating out is a treat, we purchase mostly on sale, we do not take many vacations and when we do they are not expensive ones, we do not smoke, rarely drink and we use our cars until they fall apart. We work 7 days a week with little time off. Additionally, these properties have mortgages. Between the mortgages and the operating and repair costs, that eats up some of the income. I still need to work in my insurance business. I disclose an itemized list of my assets yearly. I believe in transparency in government. Although, I think you have too much time on your hands if you had the time to calculate what I own and my property tax expense. I question your figures but go for it. I will add that my taxes are paid. Also, my tenants are the best of the best. You do not see the police at my buildings and my tenants pay their fair share of wage taxes.

      Let’s get to the issues addressed on this site. When I was on the Tri-boros Steering Committee I insisted on 2 parking spaces per rental unit when converting a building into rental units. This should eliminate most of the one family homes being converted to multiple units. I believe we have enough rental property in this borough. Bellevue does have a rental inspection program. I voted for it but still believe that we need to do exterior inspections first because that is what people see and then set up an interior inspection program. We need to eliminate all this blight. Ask anyone on council, I still push for enforcing our codes on those who are taking our community down. I have been an advocate for tax abatement for homeowners who will convert multiple family homes back to the original single family residences. I have remodeled and sold single family homes which were once multiple families approximately 2 or 3 times in Bellevue.

      I have been a thorn in the side of many on council because of my frugal ways. I know what it takes to run a successful company and needless spending is not one of them. Who do you want managing your money someone who is cost conscious or those who cannot manage their own money.

      Let’s address the garbage issue that was brought up by Dave Gillingham. The garbage ordinance was interpreted differently than was stated in the ordinance, at least, since 1976 when I moved to Bellevue. The ordinance said units per building while it was interpreted as units per address. This interpretation was told to me back in 2002 ( I was not on council) by the borough manager when I questioned then why a building of mine was always on the mandated municipal garbage list but was 4 units. When I found out that notices were being sent out last year to those who were always mandated to use the community garbage service and now were to find their own haulers, I fought to protect these property owners. Just a reminder, these properties were always mandated to use the municipal garbage services. Yes, a couple of mine were on the list. Council understood the predicament of the property owners and gave the ordinance a second look. Council recognizes that Landlords are business people who contribute significantly to the income of this borough. Council believes this is a service we can provide to our rental property owners. Now, those properties with over 3 units in a building have the option of using the municipal garbage service or they can seek their own hauler. Our garbage hauler was consulted and agreed to our new ordinance. My properties were not given preferential treatment. They were always on the community garbage list even before I purchased them. Since most of these properties were always using the community garbage service, I cannot see how they will cause an increase in our garbage rates. I will add, they are paying for the service just like everyone else. I am told that some property owners have found it cheaper through private haulers. They now have the option.

      I have and always will look out for the best interests of the residents and taxpayers of Bellevue. That is why I was reelected.

      Linda Woshner
      Bellevue Council President

  3. Ms. Woshner,

    I hope you read my previous comment that I meant no ill will toward you or your husband. I do not want you to believe that my criticism and assumptions were motivated by malice, envy, or jealousy. I simply stated facts – numbers were generated using the most recent Allegheny County property assessment. I added the tax estimate (based on straight millage calculations) to also illustrate that your properties do have above-average value for our community and you certainly pay your fair share of taxes.

    According to what you’ve written on here, it sounds like we have a lot of the same concerns. For someone who has been on council for some time, I’d like to know why this isn’t a greater priority if you say you share my concerns. I’d also like an explanation as to why you voted against rental inspections (contrary to your response above) as stated in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article 14 months ago: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-north/bellevue-council-considers-rental-property-inspection-bill-292904/. I commend you for converting chopped homes back to single family properties but its merely a drop in the bucket for our community. I genuinely ask that you make residential property reform a priority. If numbers are to be believed, then 60% of our residential property is lived in by persons other than the property owner. That is troubling and a great place to start.

    • Scott, I do not believe you were motivated by malice, envy or jealousy but I do not think it was not necessary to publicize my business assets to that extent.

      To address your questions, the article never stated that I voted against the ordinance. I have voted many times during my council career and I will not say with 100% certainty I voted for the ordinance, but I believe with several changes to the initial version of the ordinance I did vote for it. Do I believe we need to change our priorities and inspect the exteriors first? Yes, I do. No one has complained to me about the interiors of rental units but I have had many complaints about the exteriors. I find it hard to believe others on council have not had the same experience. Why this isn’t a greater priority? Until January; I was not able to convince 4 others and possibly 5, in the event it is vetoed by the Mayor, to share the same priorities. I brought up my concerns many times during our rental property inspection ordinance discussions. The current council majority has not discussed exterior inspections because it has had some time-consuming issues and this subject has not been addressed yet. Yes, what I have done to converted houses is a drop in the bucket but we have our limitations. However, I do believe we have made positive improvements to this community. If more homeowners saw potential, we could see changes. To help, this council will be looking into a tax incentive for residential properties in the near future. One thought, be careful what you wish for because tenants do contribute substantially to our tax base.

      I am sure we do have a lot in common. In the mid 1990s I was in the audience, just like the 30 plus residents on Tuesday evening, arguing for a building maintenance code. Give this council a chance. As was done at the special meeting, we welcomed resident’s thoughts and opinions. Contrary to what is being said, the majority of council did not have their minds made up and some changes have been made to the open burning ordinance because of the input at the meeting. I am sure there will be more changes before it is passed. Feel free to talk with me after the meeting Tuesday evening. I look forward to meeting you.

      Linda Woshner
      Bellevue Borough Council President

      • Ms. Woshner,

        I completely understand your feelings of not wanting your private business dealings necessarily made so public. However, you need to keep in mind that as Council President you are a public figure. The ordinances and policies that the Council may pass or shoot down can effect your personal dealings as you are also a landlord. Nothing that was posted was private information; anyone could find it through the County Tax Assessor’s website and calculate the taxes based on the published millage rates. You need to understand that since these policies can effect your personal business, it is not only our right, but our duty as the citizens of our town to hold you and other landlords who hold positions of power accountable for related voting decisions.

        I, and I am sure others on here, appreciate your responses to our concerns rather than the blind attacks that we have previously seen from others – Thank you! We are simply concerned citizens who want to improve this town we would love to love. We hope that we can proceed in doing so by working with you and the Borough Council.

  4. Linda, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to the post. It means a lot to know that you and your colleagues in borough hall are paying attention to the concerns of the residents of Bellevue. You might be interested to know that this single post has set a daily record of hits on this website. Clearly, the overall conversation of personal and economic liberty that we are having at Liberty in Bellevue is peaking the interest of the residents our community and your engagement with us has surely aided in that. You opened your response by suggesting that we might take it down at some point. Please know that we believe in transparency and truth. We are confident enough in our convictions that we have no need to edit or remove opposing view points (unlike some of the other media outlets in our area). I encourage you and your colleagues to continue adding to the conversation here at our site. Thanks!

    • Thank you Tom. I will not always agree with you but I welcome your thoughts and opinions. See you Tuesday.

      Linda Woshner
      Bellevue Borough Council President

  5. Funny how things are and how folks remember them…….The Borough Council passed a rental inspection ord. aprox. 18 months ago in spite of opposition from some landlords on Council but to date I do not believe there is any organized method or system in place to do the inspections, nor have any inspections been done. The code office has had it’s hands full so I don’t blame them, what I do know is that I as Mayor have requested for the last two years a second code officer so Bellevue can catch up on what has become a huge amount of code issues and can get moving on a systematic rental inspection, since 60% of our residential structures are rental. Council did however grant enough money in the 2012 budget for a part time code person but has made it clear that they will focus on just high grass, snowy sidewalks and the such, this will free up the main guy to do the rest. How about two full time people and they attack everything? So much for saving money from the budget and only adding a part time code person, kind of like taking your life savings and investing it all in a buggy whip company…………it just is not going to work. I guess this just shows that making the numbers look good, saying you are saving the tax payers money (great statement at election time) and protecting landlords (who I am told should not be held responsible because they are not business people, just property owners) is the way to go even though we have seen for years it just DOES NOT WORK! Beware of your elected officials that tell you how smart they are, don’t consider your opinion and just do what is necessary and keep under the radar so come election time they have great statements of how they saved you money, did not raise taxes or the such….they don’t have your or the Borough’s best interest at heart.Look for and respect the council folks who do what is best for Bellevue and are not afraid to say so to all.

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