Sunday, May 12, 2013

A look at rental properties in Elizabethtown

Whistlestop View Apartments on West High Street
When I worked for the former Elizabethtown Chronicle about 13 years ago, borough officials told me that Elizabethtown had the most rentals units in Lancaster County outside the City of Lancaster. I never delved into it, but in 2006 the borough enacted a rental property licensing and inspection program.

It's a great idea, and it's one that is working effectively, according to Denny Landvater, former borough police chief who now oversees the inspection program. He provided an overview to Borough Council. He said the borough started the inspection and licensing of rental units to improve the health of safety of people who live in the units -- and those who live around rental units.

The borough has 1,850 rental units, Landvater said. That represents 400 different owners, some of whom live right across the street from the borough office and some who live as far away as Japan. According to the U.S. Census, Elizabethtown has the highest number of units in the county outside of the city, which has 4,842 rental units. Lititz has 1,554, and Millersville has 1,041. To be fair, one probably ought to take into account the ZIP code, which gives Lititz the edge with 3,986 to E-town's 3,537.

Here in Elizabethtown, Landvater inspects each of the units, doing about 850 inspections a year. That means every apartment or house that is rented is inspected every 2 to 2.5 years. He goes into each inspection with a checklistof several dozen items that includes making sure all fixtures have hot and cold water, there's no mold in the bathroom and exterior doors have proper hardware and are lockable.

Units get a score of pass, pass with comments or fail. Depending on the severity of the issues, Landvater gives property owners 10, 30 or 90 days to fix and correct the problems. He said owners have been responsive when they have had comments or failed inspections.

Landvater emphasized that he can't say unequivocally that all rental units in the borough are fine because they're "constantly evolving."


  1. The question I would ask if this is good for Landlord's then why are not owner dwelling's also included in these inspections? I am against this program as a Landlord and as a homeowner. Sadly those landlord's who are effected by these things that do not live in Elizabethtown have no say.

    Of course Denny Landvater thinks it's a great idea no disrespect to him but it's his job meaning he benefits from it. Why not interview some property owners to find out what they actually think.

    1. In my mind, the sheer nature of rental properties lends itself to having a more transient population who may or may not take care of the property since they don't own it. And the property owners themselves may not live in town, and the agents they hire have other priorities and aren't always focused on day-to-day maintenance of the properties. Hence, we have an inspection program to ensure that rental units are up to code.

      While we might not have an active program for owner-occupied homes, we certainly do take action as needed. Again, speaking as one member of Borough Council, the assumption is that owners live there and are taking care care of problems as they arise. Are there some that don't? Of course. And when they come to the borough's attention, we take action by issuing citations and in extreme cases condemning properties.

      I also wouldn't be doing my job as a council member if I didn't trust the borough staff like Mr. Landvater. If the program weren't working and weren't effective, he would tell council, job or no job.


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