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Rental inspections to begin in 2012
Rental inspections to begin in 2012
By SUE REID
After two years of discussion, including multiple public hearings, rental legislation that includes both registration and inspections has been adopted in the city of Solon. Both will begin in 2012.
City Council approved an ordinance last week by a vote of 5-2 enacting a new chapter of the building and housing code establishing inspections every three years for residential rental units in the city. Council also approved amendments to the ordinance, which were based on input from the city's large apartment owners.
Voting in favor of the legislation were councilwomen Toni M. Richmond and Nancy E. Meany, as well as councilmen Robert N. Pelunis, Edward H. Kraus and Richard A. Bell. Voting in opposition were councilmen William I. Russo and William D. Mooney.
Registration of all rental units in the city will begin Jan. 1, 2012, and the application period will extend to March 31. Inspections could start any time at the request of the property owner, but would not officially commence until April.
The ordinance calls for $100 for inspections of single-family homes for a three-year period; $75 for each unit in a duplex; and $160 for any building that has more than three units, plus $30 for every additional unit thereafter.
There are about 1,200 rental properties in the city. Liberty Hill is comprised of nearly 400 units and Solon Park Apartments has 240 suites.
City Planning Director Robert S. Frankland explained that the amendments to the ordinance were compromises based on input from both of those apartment complexes.
The amendments would change the program from a two-year recurring cycle to a three-year cycle. In addition, the amendments would establish that inspections may be scheduled to occur at change of occupancy, but maintains that at least one inspection must occur within every three-year permit cycle, regardless of whether a change of occupancy occurs.
It should be noted, Mr. Frankland said, that the apartment owners indicated that their first preference continues to be to perform their own inspections with non-state certified inspectors.
"This is something the chief building official indicated that he could not endorse," Mr. Frankland said of Charles Boushane, the chief building official in the city. "As an alternative, the owners requested that any city inspection program be on a three-year cycle, and that accommodations be given, to the degree possible, to performing inspections at change of occupancy.
Mr. Frankland said he was more comfortable with the three-year cycle and that it is doable with the resources the city already has.
"The three-year cycle simply makes it easier to administer the program," Mr. Frankland said, "and it still is a reasonable amount of time to catch any safety issues that may have arisen."
The owners of the apartments requested that also because on average, there would be turnover within a three-year period, Mr. Frankland said.
Ms. Richmond, who has long been an advocate of the inspections, said following the meeting she was pleased the legislation was approved. It is necessary to have it in place, she noted.
"In any community, when the housing stock starts to age, I think a city needs to be proactive to make sure we don't slide into decline," Ms. Richmond said. "If you wait until you get to a point that the housing starts to decline, it's harder then to make those changes."
Mr. Mooney said he voted in opposition to the legislation because he does not see a reason to expand the cost and size of government without identifying a "real problem.
"I don't think we have any evidence there is a real problem with rental housing," Mr. Mooney said. If anything, the problems lie with the owner occupied and foreclosed homes, he said.
Mr. Russo agreed.
Over 87 percent of citations that have been issued have been for owner-occupied or unoccupied homes, Mr. Russo said. "Of the zoning violations that went to court, 100 percent of them were owner-occupied homes."
In the situations where there were drug busts or animal issues, Mr. Russo said, they were associated with owner-occupied homes.
"For the argument that this will ensure the homes are safe and there are no problems in Solon," Mr. Russo said, "I think that's misleading."
Ms. Richmond said there may not be big problems now, but the purpose of the legislation is to keep the city from having them down the road.
"It is about being proactive so we can preserve our property values," Ms. Richmond said.
She also said she wished to thank residents of the city who came forward to speak during the public hearings on the ordinance.
"They were very vocal, and I appreciate all of their efforts and their getting involved in the issue," she said.
Moving forward, Mr. Frankland said, the next step is to design a whole administrative process for this ordinance, including forms, computer tracking programs and the assignment of different responsibilities.
"The ordinance is one thing," he said. "Now, it's basically designing the administrative program." That will take at least two months, Mr. Frankland said.
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