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Residents ask the city to consider an ‘unruly tenant’ ordinance

A group of residents here have asked the City Commission to write an ordinance they believe could help them deal with a disruptive neighbor they say has been harassing them for years.

Kevin Rod recently submitted a request for the commission to pass an “unruly tenant” ordinance.

Residents said one man in their neighborhood of the Chateau Sheyenne mobile home development has repeatedly harassed neighbors with insults, obscene gestures and threats of violence. He then calls police on neighbors who react.

“(The man acts out) and when people have a reaction and get upset, then he calls police,” Rod said. “He is using the police to help harass his neighbors.”

Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said since 2010, police have been called to the man’s address 104 times. Of those calls, 72 were made by the man. In nine incident reports, the man is listed as a suspect and in nine complaints he is listed as a victim.

Rod said the law he was proposing would “hold a landlord or absentee owner responsible for evicting a tenant that is disrupting or harassing the neighborhood,” and “protect other West Fargoans from future slumlords that would destroy neighborhoods by having bad tenants.”

On Monday, the City Commission asked residents to call police immediately if the man starts to cause a disturbance or nuisance.

“It makes it worse if you guys react to him,” Mayor Rich Mattern said.

Police Chief Arland Rasmussen has said some neighbors might feel reporting the conduct is “bothering police,” but an immediate call could help officers respond to the situation better.

“We would like to get called when it’s happening and not after it has happened,” he said.

Rod said other large cities such as Boston, York, Pa., and Trenton, N.J., have similar ordinances. However, City Attorney Jon Shockley said the proposal sounds like a rental registry ordinance and may not work in this situation because the man lives in a home owned by his mother.

“It may not necessarily address the problem here because it’s for rental units,” Shockley said. “It’s also geared more towards health and safety.”

On Monday, Mattern said Shockley can continue to research if an ordinance that could address the problem can be drafted. In the meantime, Reitan said he will be contacting the homeowner and that all residents should immediately report to police any disturbance by the man.

“I think we can all sympathize with what’s going on here,” Mattern said. “These are some first steps.”

Residents are allowed to propose ordinances in West Fargo. The city attorney writes ordinances that must be approved by the commission before they become law.

“We just wanted to call it to someone’s attention,” Rod said.