April 23, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain cracks the codes

Council to push landlords for better response

LORAIN — City officials are considering an overhaul of the city’s residential inspection requirements in an attempt to keep up with inspection demand and ensure landlords are complying with inspection laws.
The proposed legislation could mean moving toward exterior-only inspections, which Councilman Tony Krasienko, D-at large, said would streamline the inspection process.
Krasienko also said communication between the City Council and the building department needs to improve; building officials are not keeping City Hall updated on problems.
“We did everything we could to make them an effective department,” Krasienko said. “We added two inspectors. We haven’t received any updates, reports or analysis.”
Krasienko estimates the new legislation will be drafted in time to be voted on in September.
From 1997 to July 2007, the building department didn’t follow up on any of the warnings it sent to landlords, asking them to comply with a rental inspection or have their case forwarded to the court. The punishment, the notices state, includes fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
The first case was sent to the law director’s office two weeks ago for consideration. Lorain Law Director Mark Provenza said he will not know until this week whether he can move forward with prosecution.
Albert Elias of North Olmsted is the first person to face possible fines and jail time for illegally renting out four properties that weren’t inspected to unknowing tenants. One of Elias’s homes went up in flames July 3, and firefighters discovered there were no smoke detectors in the house.
Elias could face fines of $1,000 for each home and up to 24 months in jail.
Elias has not returned messages seeking comment.
But one of his former tenants, Elizabeth Cifranic, says she is ready to testify against Elias. She reported Elias to the city in August 2006 and says her day in court is long overdue.
“I had 30 fish that froze to death in my fish tank because my furnace broke and my landlord wouldn’t fix it,” Cifranic said. “My husband had to fix it.”
Cifranic said she was caught in a losing situation, stuck between a landlord who couldn’t provide heat and a building department that did not move past sending a warning letter.
“It’s crazy that a house had to catch on fire before they would do something,” Cifranic said. “They knew they had sent him a warning, they could have went and boarded up his houses or something.”
Cifranic said Elias seldom came to his rental property and told Cifranic to send her rent checks to a post office box. She paid a $1,150 deposit that was never refunded when she finally decided she had had enough and moved out.
“He doesn’t know what he is doing,” Cifranic said. “He’s young, got into it without knowing the facts. Now he’s in a buttload of trouble.”
Contect Ben Norris at 329-7119 or bnorris@chroniclet.com.