TAMPA — The party’s over in the neighborhoods surrounding the city’s universities.
At least that’s what homeowners are hoping for now that the Tampa City Council on Thursday gave final approval to an ordinance that could slap landlords of rowdy student tenants with a $450 fine.
The council was driven to act by complaints by residents including Gary Smith, an Ola Avenue man who described a house across the street from his own as a “frat house.”
“I have gone to the city, to the legal department, to the zoning department, to the planning department, to the police department, to every department I could find to shut down this frat house with no luck,” Smith told the council.
He said 400 youngsters showed up to a recent party that ran to 4 a.m.
Even if students are denied entry because they’re underage, “they just hang out in front of my house, yelling and screaming and partying,” he said, calling the situation “just an entire mess.”
Under the ordinance, the owner of a house would receive one warning when tenants stage parties involving underage drinking, drug use, noise and general rowdiness. A $450 fine could be levied for each subsequent event.
State law already addresses underage drinking, but supporters said the city needed the extra clout of being able to target owners.
“House parties are a huge issue in our community,” said Ellen Snelling, head of the Tampa Alcohol Coalition. “The piece of the puzzle that is missing is the landlord. And the beauty of this ordinance is that it addresses the landlord.”
Also supporting the ordinance was Gina Firth, dean of wellness at the University of Tampa.
Complaints from residents around downtown UT’s campus first caught the council’s attention. Smith, who lives in the area of the University of South Florida, demonstrated that the issue isn’t restricted to UT.
The city settled on an ordinance modeled after a law in Winter Park.
Council member Frank Reddick, who introduced the measure, said it may not solve the age-old tradition of boisterous youth, but it will at least send a message to landlords that the city is serious about the issue.
“If they don’t start monitoring their property and who they are leasing their property to, then they’re going to face the consequences,” Reddick said.