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.”