Salisbury Council Nears Vote On Crime Free Lease Addendum

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Mayor and Council have finally reached enough of a consensus on the proposed Crime Free Lease Addendum (CFLA) to place it in the agenda for their next legislative session.

While some officials still baulked at misdemeanors and other relatively minor crimes being considered grounds for eviction, the document eventually made it through more or less intact.

In its current form, the CFLA sports similar language to sister policies used by other cities and was modeled to fit the federal standard. In fact, at the first work session devoted to the document, a CFLA from Arizona was used as a basis for what Salisbury was seeking.

However, at Monday’s work session, Council President Louise Smith said she wasn’t sure if the proposal in its current form followed the Arizona CFLA closely enough.

“I guess I’m confused a little bit,” said Smith. “I thought we were just using this [Arizona CFLA]…and applying the Maryland code. … It looks like there have been additions to this.”

Smith was referring to several items listed on Salisbury’s proposal not seen in Arizona’s, including language directed at illegal gaming and keeping a “disorderly” house.

Mayor Jim Ireton asserted the administration hadn’t added anything into the CFLA that the council decided against at its last work session.

“We put together what we thought was agreed to last time,” he said.

Smith pointed out again that she had expected the city to more or less copy the Arizona document and exclude examples of misdemeanors.

“I’m looking for the serious offenses,” said Smith.

Smith asked that the council go through the proposed CFLA point-by-point and vote on whether a certain clause should remain.

“We’re getting into a discussion of form over substance,” said Councilwoman Terry Cohen.

Cohen highlighted the fact that in both the Arizona document and the one proposed for Salisbury, there was an umbrella clause in the second paragraph stating that “any criminal activity” could be grounds for eviction. By that logic, removing any specific item from the example section of the CFLA would not affect it’s enforceability at all, because it would still be covered under the “any criminal activity” clause.

In fact, Cohen argued that removing the specific examples would be a disservice to tenants who might not understand that, just because a criminal activity wasn’t listed, didn’t mean it wasn’t covered. She added that, in the case of most misdemeanors, the landlord would be able to use good judgment and would not in any way be required to evict someone for matters like noise violations.

Another recurring worry was the perceived split between those who rent and those who own homes. Smith questioned whether it was fair to evict a tenant for breaking a law while a homeowner could break the exact same law and keep his or her home.

Ireton responded the issue was between landlords and tenants, not homeowners. He pointed out all the city was trying to do was provide landlords a tool to facilitate eviction of tenants that broke the law.

While Smith still expressed dissatisfaction over some parts of the clause, Shields and Cohen voted not to remove any examples of crimes already listed and to add a clause dealing with protecting victims from eviction in the case of domestic violence. The document will move to first reading at the next meeting.