Attendees at last week’s Borough Council meeting debated a proposal that would allow the State College Borough to allocate more housing violation points in a single day. While some Council members believe the maximum number of points allowed to be doled out to a single property in one day should be increased, others argued this proposal would hurt students.
These “borough points” are assigned for housing violations ranging from dogs to drugs, so racking up enough of them can cost tenants their leases. State College allows three points to be administered in a 24-hour period, but some residents want to have this cap bumped to five points.
Former Highlands Civic Association President Susan Venegoni believes the limit should be increased because landlords aren’t notified by the Borough about incidents at their properties until that property has received five points. By her logic, increasing the daily maximum would allow landlords to be better informed and would allow them to address concerns with their tenants more quickly.
“There are properties that [should]get 12 points in one day,” Venegoni said. “This is more than a nuisance issue. It’s community safety.”
She cited a property which reportedly would have received 12 points (if the cap didn’t exist) for disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, harassment, and stalking, and another which would have received 12 points for forcible rape, sexual assault, and indecent assault. For both properties, Vergoni said only three points were given in accordance with the current limit and the landlords were not notified.
“The point system should be sped up and people should be held accountable,” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said, agreeing with Venegoni.
Despite Vergoni’s concerns about notifying landlords when a property receives points, anyone can view where and how many borough points are allocated here. Venegoni said not every landlord checks this resource, but it doesn’t seem fair for students to suffer based on landlords’ lack of awareness.
Pat Vernon, a landlord with properties in the State College Borough, said he’s against raising the daily max to five because it will make life harder for students. “I’ve got to disagree with a lot of what Susan [Venegoni] said,” Vernon told the Council.
Vernon says increasing the points cap could give the Borough the ability to basically force students out in favor of letting long-term residents populate the areas students currently live in. He added the point system was created several years ago and the number of violations is actually down.
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine confirmed the number of complaints has decreased recently. Venegoni claimed the number of complaints is going down because students are not calling to complain about other students to the police as much.
Another issue Venegoni expressed concern with is the long enforcement process for borough points, as the points expire one year after they’re doled out. Because some legal cases take years to reach a verdict, the points can be considered pending during this time and eventually become void. At the property she said would’ve received 12 points for forcible rape and assault, the points will expire on April 10.
“Lots of points fall off the book prior to [settlement],” Venegoni said. “I feel if they stay for 18 months, they’d have a chance to be [resolved].”
At this point, it seems some State College residents are just splitting hairs on these issues. If the points limit is increased to five points in a 24-hour period, it’s probably only a matter of time until someone proposes another increase in turn.