Watertown landlords express frustration over tenant damage

Watertown landlords voice frustrations
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:44 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Landlords in Watertown say there should be more consequences for tenants who damage their properties.

During public comments at Monday night’s city council meeting, several landlords voiced their frustration with the council and law enforcement.

Most agreed the issues they’re seeing were exacerbated by COVID policies allowing people to stop paying rent.

Since then, they’ve seen more property damage. One landlord described a tenant using a circular saw to make a doorway for their cat.

At a work session last week, Jefferson County District Attorney Krystina Mills and city Police Chief Charles Donoghue discussed crime in the city.

Landlords say they’re unsatisfied with what’s being done to help them. On top of damages, one landlord, Ed Smalls, detailed drug activity, and how a squatter took up residence without ever signing a lease by moving in with a former tenant.

The landlord says the squatter pays no rent and told him she has more rights than a tenant.

“Finally got me a court date, the person asked for an extension,” Smalls said. “I had to go to court for a person I didn’t even put on my lease. There’s a thing called theft of services. That’s what they’re doing right now. If you’re squatting at someone’s place, with no expectation of paying, that’s theft. The law is the law, we must interpret the law for our area and make sure it’s not just for New York and Albany, because up here it’s different.”

Smalls says he owns eight or nine rental properties in Watertown and had a five-year plan to purchase more.

While he says 90% of his tenants are great, he says the other 10% have him reconsidering any future investments in Watertown.