Tweaking the plan his predecessor started, Mayor Lee Brand talked about his version of an apartment inspection plan for the first time. Brand introduced his proposal at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce. He hopes this presents a balance between what is needed and what is fair.
“This addresses the problem, is fair to everybody and doesn’t punish good landlords,” Brand told the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee. Brand also said his plan has the acceptance of the Fresno chapter of the California Apartment Association. He will meet later with tenant advocates Patience Milrod and Andy Levine to discuss the plan.
While problem units have been around since probably the dawn of landlords, the Summerset Village Apartment meltdown in November 2015 woke the conscious of City Hall. Then-mayor Ashley Swearengin convened task forces to deal with the problem. But there was a strong call from tenant advocates for a complete and mandatory inspection of all units in the city.
Swearengin didn’t get her plan out to council until December. They decided to run out the clock on her term, and await Brand to leave the council podium and move into the mayor’s office before hearing the plan. That is scheduled for February 2.
All apartment units will be required to register. The initial registration and every year thereafter will be free for landlords except for those known as “chronic” violators. Then, a base line inspection will take place, starting with known offenders, then other apartment complexes then single family homes. The number of actual units inspected depends on the size of the complex. Details on the sliding scale are still pending. Brand anticipates it could take up to two years for inspectors to take a look at every complex.
“We are encouraged by the plan,” Greg Terzakis vice president of the California Apartment Association tells GV Wire. “The overwhelming majority of landlords do the right thing. The focus should be on those who aren’t doing right.”
After the initial inspection, properties that pass will be allowed to self-certify yearly. A licensed property management company will conduct the inspection and copies must be maintained. The property would then be exempt from a further inspection for five years.
Brand says the city intends to hire 10 temporary code inspectors to help. He did entertain the idea that the city may hire out a third-party for the inspections.
As far as 4th Amendment issues, where a tenant refuses to let a government official come in without a warrant, Brand said they anticipated it might happen. They would simply move on to the next unit if that is the case. However, if there is a required repair or re-inspection, Brand believes with 24 hours’ notice they have the absolute right to go in.
Property owners would have up to 30 days to correct any violation found during an inspection. However, there is a provision (under California Civil Code 1941.2) that failed items that are the fault of the tenant will not be charged to the property owner. An inspection fee would be around $100.
Key exemptions from inspections include units under 10 years old, subsidized rental units, mobile home parks and motels/hotels.
Brand’s plan also calls for an emergency housing plan and tenant education, both which need to be worked out. He also wants to use the FresGo ap to encourage residents to report apartment problems. His goal is to increase the 7,000 users to 70,000.