Providence may strengthen orange sticker ordinance at ‘party houses’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In an effort to crack down on so-called “party houses” rented by college students, a Providence city councilwoman has proposed increasing fines for properties police are repeatedly forced to visit.

Providence already has an ordinance that allows police to place orange stickers on “public nuisance” properties and issue fines every time they report to the houses. But Ward 5 Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan wants to “stiffen” penalties by lengthening the amount of time the stickers are required to remain attached to the homes.

Ryan, whose neighborhood is located near both Providence College and Rhode Island College, is seeking to issue a $500 for every nuisance-related offense issued in the 12 months after the homes are tagged with orange stickers. (The current ordinance allows fines to continue for six months after the police declared a home a public nuisance.) Landlords, tenants and partygoers are considered “jointly and severally” liable for the fines.

Ryan has also proposed increasing the fine when the orange stickers are defaced or removed, from $100 to $500. Landlords who own multiple properties tagged with orange stickers would be fined $500 for every nuisance offense at any of the homes they own within a 12-month period.

“This new ordinance that I’ve put forth stiffens the penalties across the board,” Ryan told Eyewitness News.

Ryan’s proposal comes as police have expressed frustration with their frequent visits to the Elmhurst neighborhood, where dozens of properties have already been hit with orange stickers. Ryan said students from several colleges across Rhode Island live in the community. On one weekend last month, 14 college-aged individuals were charged with drinking-related violations in the neighborhood.

The orange sticker ordinance has been on the books in Providence since 2006, but officials only started enforcing it in 2011. Narragansett has a similar ordinance aimed at properties rented by college students.

“This is really about protecting everyone, the neighbors as well as the students and anyone else in that area,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s proposal was referred to the Council Ordinance Committee.

CORRECTION: This report has been edited to reflect that landlords, tenants and partygoers are considered “jointly and severally” liable for the fines.

Continue the discussion on Facebook

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan