Thursday, November 13, 2014

City Council Work Session on Rental Registration and Inspections

At the 1pm meeting of the city council's Committee of the Whole this coming Monday (17 Nov), the members will have a work session on the draft ordinance that was the subject of a city council hearing on 27 October.  That hearing lasted nearly three hours during which time dozens of citizens voiced their concern that the draft measure did not contain an inspection component.  After the citizens' comment period, council member Terry Bornemann stated that he had changed his mind and that that he would be supportive of an inspection component.

Although there will be no comment period during the work session next Monday, I encourage all of you to attend the session as an indication of our support of a rental registration AND inspection ordinance.  [Note that the Committee of the Whole will meet earlier at 11am to consider the city budget.  They will reconvene after lunch at 1pm to consider the rental ordinance.]

My most recent letter to the city council follows:

Dear Council Members,

In advance of the work session on rental registration and inspection on 17 November, I would like to suggest the following while you consider development of a program for the city:

There seems to have been a morphing from a per unit fee to a per "property" fee.  I am not sure what occasioned that but it is unnecessarily restrictive.  It weighs favorably on the side of those with the largest properties (for what reason?) and it markedly reduces the potential income to finance the hiring of staff and the administration of a program.  The program with all its facets should be developed and then costed out in order to define the fee structure.  This is basic program management.

I ask also that you challenge the bloated estimates provided by staff months ago on the cost of hiring code enforcement personnel and running the program.  We know that the local HUD inspector can do almost 2,000 unit inspections per year.  This tracks also with Pasco, WA whose inspector also does the same number of inspections per year.  That flies in the face of the estimate given to us by the Planning Director.  Granted there will be some start-up lag but with proper planning, that lag can be minimized.

Any inspection program should be included in the fee structure so that landlords will be encouraged to participate with city inspectors rather than hire private firms. Relying primarily on private inspectors for periodic inspections means that the city neither gains nor retains any institutional knowledge of the city’s rental units. Paper reports from private inspectors are no substitute for the experience of a city inspector whose employment is, for all intents and purposes, long term. The Mayor and the Planning Director would have no group of in-house code enforcement officers to whom they can go for experiential knowledge.  Furthermore, there is no indication that there are sufficient private sector home inspectors to fulfill the needs of the landlords who might want to hire one.

Granted, the use of private inspectors is allowed under law. In fact, this was one of the challenges to the Pasco licensing ordinance, that city inspectors would be the sole inspectors. The landlords there wanted the option to hire their own. They have that option now and is written into the state law passed a few years ago. I am not sure how that serves the landlords since a properly structured program with a revenue neutral fee system (the program fees will pay for the program) will spread the cost of inspections over all landlords and result in much lower per unit inspection costs.

I also suggest that you replace any sunset provision with a provision that mandates a program review after 4 or 5 years.  At that point, the council can, based on the facts surfaced by the review, decide to maintain, modify or end the program.  The review should be inclusive of city staff (based on data), landlord experience and renter experience that would be surface through a hearing and/or a professional random survey.


Dick Conoboy


miChael Moynihan said...

Into 18th month under lease agreement/extension (renewal) involving an old building with stucco exterior and rotting wood trim, frames, jams, and saturated parts of interior structure.
Began simple common sense stewardship activities all directed to mitigate rain water intrusion, also began a simple observation monitoring program. Property management was informed upon excess moisture inside the building, my UNIT, and request for at least one rotted window frame. About 1 year ago I experience a full wax-ring failure, resulting in problems or unwanted odors, potential exposure to contagions, additional burden, an ambiguous & cumbersome emergency repair request. It took them 3 days to respond to several voice & emails, and two full days until entire problem was remedied. I had completed 95% of work myself, with a few phone calls warning that I was going to send them a bill. The entire mess was directly connected to prior poor maintenance decisions, materials, and techniques. They had failed to secure the porcelain, cast iron pipe, and simple plywood/linoleum with a flange kit or equivalent. Well in time other dwelling detriments started adding up and I began NOTICE and DEDUCTION actions in the least to block a 6 inch circular hole in ceiling/roof; rain water intrusion involving replacement of approximately +75ft of wood rot molding, adding flash paper, metal flashing, many tubes of caulking, and copper pipe insulation, and investment in storm windows minimize heat & comfort loss.
As it would happen these days of abuse & greed, the property management company retaliated with combined EVICTION/UNLAWFUL DETAINER suit directly in violation of a 90 day stay on action pursuant to retaliatory Statutes, pages of falsified & errant documents, and obvious non-repair maintenance program. There was already a list of code violations willing to be set aside, once needed repairs began, However, they basically started playing a game of randomly calling requesting permission to enter, and random appearance of odd individuals claiming to be maintenance specialist. However, each problem seen, and considered was immediately met with. "well have to order that...." or "I don't have that part or fitting in truck, today, so I will have to return." etc, etc, etc.... I first read a Twilight Zoning blog back in January last year, but the malicious prosecution has been absolutely devastation and burdensome. There is no real punishment for dishonesty, deception, and manipulation in the current regulatory system. The complexities in process and exceptions to rule are woven into the Uniform Commercial Code, Landlord-Tenant Act, and WARRANTY foisting mirroring sales of goods, and leases with the myriad of different position and perspectives one can occupy, unknowingly accept liability, or even benefit from.

Zonemaven said...


Unfortunately, your story is not unique in this town. This Monday the city council will be considering an ordinance for registration and inspection. I urge you to attend the meeting and to provide comment during the public comment session at the beginning of the city council meeting. If you cannot attend, send the comment you made to my blog entry to the city council before Monday (15 Dec)