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Program gives landlords tenets on picking tenants

Posted: February 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Donald Rimac watched a trend: As the economy got worse over the last few years, more men would loiter outside the Newhall apartment building he owns on 15th Street. They’re looking for work.

With more men came more litter and more complaints from his tenants who weren’t comfortable with large crowds outside the building, Rimac said.

“There is an issue of civil rights and freedom, and I understand that. They’re just looking for work,” the 73-year-old said. “But when there’s a crowd of about 15 men loitering, and there’s trash, it becomes a health and safety issue. And pretty soon (my tenants) could start saying, ‘Why would I want to live here?’ There’s plenty of places to go and rent.”

Rimac is one of about 70 landlords in the area who have attended community meetings hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to address concerns within the SCV rental community.

The meetings are part of a broader initiative by sheriff’s officials to weed out criminals from the area’s rental community as part of its Rental Community and Nuisance Abatement Team, or RENT.

“Gang members usually aren’t holding down steady employment,” Sgt. Ron Shaffer, who is heading up the program, explained of the higher rate of crime in rental communities. “What bank is going to give you a mortgage for a home if you don’t have employment history?”

Shaffer said RENT is modeled after similar landlord-training programs used in Palmdale and Lancaster.

Ultimately, the Sheriff’s Station hopes to issue certificates to landlords to show prospective renters that the building they are choosing to live in is safe and maintained properly.

One of the most important points taught to landlords, Shaffer said, is making sure all prospective renters are screened with a background check. Once a lease agreement is signed, it’s difficult to kick troublesome tenants out of a building, he said.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Shaffer said. “Making sure you have good tenants coming in saves you from all those headaches when you get a problem tenant.”

More training sessions are tentatively scheduled for May, Shaffer said.

For Rimac, the solutions to his problems were easy. After touring his property, deputies told him to put up no trespassing signs on his building.

“I went a little overboard,” Rimac said. “I posted seven signs.”

While the training has helped, the most valuable tool he’s gained since taking the RENT courses has been meeting deputies in person and having someone to call when he needs help.

“It’s not that the sheriff’s weren’t responsive before but now I know who I’m calling,” Rimac said. “My building manager has (the deputies) number and we’ve met and talked with them before. I don’t have to be as concerned as I used to be.”


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