Five years after going into effect, the Hillsdale City ordinance requiring inspection of rental property is going to be enforced.
The City Planning Commission discussed plans to enforce the existing property use and occupancy ordinance citing the blight as one motivator to uphold the inspection requirement at its Nov. 19 meeting. Now when the city is informed of a property changing hands or occupants, renters will be reminded to have their property inspected.
“Use and occupancy has been on the books for several years,” Code Enforcement Administrator Alan Beeker said at the meeting, “but over the last few years, the law has not been enforced.”
According to the statute that has been in effect since 2009, the use and occupancy ordinance requires lessors to apply for a renting permit by paying a $25 fee and having their property inspected by city officials to ensure that it measures up to maintenance standards. Once the permit is issued, it is valid for two years or until a new occupant moves in.
“It seemed like a responsible thing for the city to do,” City Property Assessor Kim Thomas said.
The law was written to promote the safety, health, and welfare of Hillsdale residents, and raise the standards of quality for rental property in Hillsdale.
According to the Hillsdale building inspection office, some of the most common violations include a lack of smoke alarms, electrical outlet covers, handrails, proper bathroom ventilation, and missing or broken windows or screens.
“I’ve seen exploitation of the poor,” Planning Commissioner Laura Smith said during the meeting. “I’ve seen college students exploited.”
For the past five years, however, the law has not been effective because it has not been consistently enforced. No notice of the requirement for inspection has been regularly sent to lessors. Not all lessors are registered with the city. As a result, many are unaware of the law.
“I’ve had rentals for 13 years, and I never knew about this,” Smith said.
The commission has recognized the lack of enforcement and at their meeting discussed measures to be taken to uphold the ordinance.
“It is important that we enforce all the laws on the books,” Beeker said.
To solve the problem, the committee discussed creating a rental registry to keep records of permits granted and ensure the two year re-inspection is met. The committee also discussed cooperation with county officials for greater efficiency. According to Beeker, renters who register with the City to rent their properties will now be notified of the requirements.
There is not a penalty if properties are never inspected, but if the city finds a property being rented without inspection, they can take measures to ensure the property is safe for renters.
“We simply ask the landlord or the new resident to schedule the inspection,” Beeker said.
If the property fails the required inspection, existing renters could be evicted. According to Beeker, the city has never had difficulties to this extreme.
“I think that having the things already on the books being resurrected from the dead would be a good thing,” Smith said. “Once precedent has been set, it’s very difficult to change.”