SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The battle over rental registration fees in Scranton went back before a judge on Wednesday.
Many landlords say the city is charging a high, arbitrary fee for each unit and they want something more reasonable.
This is an issue that has been in the court system for more than two years.
In 2014, the city passed legislation that raised its original $15 per unit fee to $50 per unit.
Many landlords say that is too high.
“I think that fee is illegal and I think a lot of landlords agree,” Alex Brunelle said.
Alex Brunelle operates Dunmore Exclusive LLC.
He manages 200 properties in northeastern Pennsylvania with about one-third of those properties in Scranton.
He thinks it is ridiculous that the city is trying to charge $50 per unit.
He calls it a cash grab.
“You have a city that is struggling financially, needs to prop up its budget and rather than do so in ways that are in conformity with the law, they’re grabbing it from whomever they can,” Brunelle said.
Wednesday morning, lawyers for the city and landlord Adam Guiffrida squared off in court.
Guiffrida didn’t want to talk on camera about the hearing but believes the city should not be allowed to collect its fees because Scranton doesn’t even know how many rental units it has.
State law indicates fees are only supposed to cover administrative costs of a rental registration program.
“The city at this point has hired a third-party administrator who is going to help us compile the data necessary,” Scranton city solicitor Jessica Boyles said.
While not a part of the specific lawsuit heard in court Wednesday, Alex Brunelle is happy someone is trying to hold Scranton city government responsible.
“I think that you have, in my opinion, you have an administration that thinks it can operate unchecked, that it can do whatever it wants and the law will correct them later if needed,” Brunelle said.
The judge did not make any immediate decisions on Wednesday.
The city sent out its most recent round of letters telling landlords to pay-up about three months ago.
This issue is far from over in the court system.
More than 600 people have also signed-on to a separate class action lawsuit regarding Scranton’s rental registration fees.