Landlords should not babysit boozers

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Underage drinking has always been a hotly discussed issue for colleges and their surrounding communities, and Chico is no exception.

If anything could be said of Chico’s reputation on this topic, whether earned or not, it would likely not be positive.

With that in mind, another solution has been put forward by the Chico City Council. They have put forward a social host ordinance to help regulate underage drinking in private residences within the city limits.

Currently the draft is under further consideration and will not be voted upon until the spring. Mayor Scott Gruendl promised the issue will not be voted on while students were out of town over winter break.

If passed, tenants and property owners alike would be held responsible for any underage drinking on their premises. Both renters and landlords could be fined for underage drinking or for giving alcohol to minors, the latter on second offense.

The fines are between $250 and $1,000 for repeat offenses, with money tentatively going towards police and fire departments. On subsequent offenses, offenders might also be responsible for the cost of emergency services on such occasions.

With fines imposed on both parties, this ordinance raises some questions.

Would these fines be imposed on tenants who unknowingly allow underage drinking on their property? Or would these people be penalized for something that seems all too common?

Whether this ordinance is a good idea or not, it should be transparent where this money will go toward. It is apparent that Chico’s police and fire departments need the funding, but people need to know where and how it would be spent.

More importantly though, is this really a solution that will work? There certainly should be some action to curb underage drinking — but what effect would this social host ordinance have?

If passed, it seems likely that students would see more leases with stipulations about underage drinking. However, rare is the lease agreement that truly stopped a tenant from doing whatever they wanted, let alone a teenager. All the former strays that now make their homes at non-pet friendly properties come to mind.

While some property owners already perform drive-bys to enforce rules, they shouldn’t have to play babysitters in the sea of underage drinking occurring in Chico. It is unrealistic to expect landlords, who sometimes don’t live within the Chico area, to be patrolling their properties on weekends.

Placing the burden on landlords does not negate the responsibility of the tenant who has a contractual obligation to behave. There should be adult consequences for adult decisions even if those choices are not the most well-thought-out ones.

If you are old enough to rent a property, you should take responsibility for your actions and the possibly dozens of others you let into your home. This is where the social host ordinance seems effective.

Tenants would be held responsible for underage partying at their residences one way or another. Responsibility may mean new fines imposed by the ordinance or through new lease agreements imposed by landlords hoping to recoup the expected costs of underage tenants partying.

Underage drinking has always been an issue in Chico, and it will only continue as long as responsibility is shifted to other parties besides those at fault.

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