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Current Council Agenda and Past Meeting Information

CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. 24

Meeting Date: February 26, 2008

Subject/Title: Report from the Neighborhood Improvement Committee Regarding
Consideration of a Rental Inspection Program
Prepared by: Karen Chew, Assistant City Manager

Submitted by: Council Member Chris Becnel
Council Member Brandon Richey

RECOMMENDATION

Receive report from the members of the Neighborhood Improvement Committee and consider the information presented regarding a Rental Inspection Program. Provide direction to the Committee and staff regarding the next steps.

PREVIOUS ACTION

At its meeting on January 23, 2007, the City Council created the Neighborhood Improvement Committee and appointed Council Members Becnel and Richey to serve as the members of the Committee.

On February 27, 2007, March 27, 2007, April 24, 2007, May 8, 2007 and January 8, 2008, Council Members Richey and Becnel provided updates to the City Council regarding the activities of the Committee. At the January 8, 2008 meeting the Committee Members reported that discussion of a Rental Inspection Program would be forthcoming to the City Council for input and consideration.

BACKGROUND

The Neighborhood Improvement Committee has been meeting since January 2007 and has recommended approval of the recently adopted Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, the Property Maintenance Ordinance, Administrative Citation Ordinance and the Declaration of Nuisance and Notice of Pendency Ordinance, all in an attempt to improve the ability of the City to enforce a reasonable standard of maintenance of residential properties within the City of Brentwood. The Property Maintenance and Nuisance Abatement Ordinances are in effect and currently being used by City Code Enforcement with some success. All of these efforts are directed toward, among other things, maintaining and improving neighborhood aesthetics and property values.

In addition to the items mentioned above, the Committee has explored a variety of Rental Inspection Programs existing in numerous jurisdictions within the State. These programs vastly vary in terms of the types and frequency of inspections and range from a robust program including scheduled interior and exterior inspections with an inspection fee, a more minimal program with exterior inspections only and no inspection fees, to landlord self certification. After a series of discussions over the past year, the Committee has defined parameters of a program tailored for the City of Brentwood. Staff has identified a process to reflect these considerations and has calculated the estimated costs of such a program.

The Committee has been discussing the concept of a Rental Inspection Program whereby each rental property in the City (estimated to be approximately 5,000 units) would be inspected by Code Enforcement staff at least once every two years. Inspections would be unannounced and conducted from the public right-of-way. Only conditions visible from the front of the property would be inspected. Re-inspections would be done after notifying the property owner of any violation(s) and if not corrected, the citation process would be followed to ultimately ensure compliance with all City ordinances.

All owners of rental property would be required to obtain a business license, in accordance with our business license ordinance, and this funding source would be used to partially offset the costs of the program. Staff estimates instituting this program would require one dedicated Code Enforcement Officer to conduct and track the inspections, one Accounting Assistant to collect and track the business license revenue and one half-time Administrative Assistant to provide administrative support of the program.

The range of options for consideration include moving forward with a full Rental Inspection Program with interior and exterior inspections, to a program as described above, or a variation thereof, to taking no action on a program at this time and allowing the other recently adopted programs to be given the opportunity to be successful which may possibly mitigate the need for a Rental Inspection Program.

FISCAL IMPACT

The fiscal impact of this program is demonstrated in the attached chart. Over time, general funds will be necessary to subsidize the business license revenue collected from the landlords. Costs are estimates only as the exact number of rental units, and number of re-inspections and citations are unknown at this time.

The overage/shortfall varies over time, but the program is estimated to have an overage in years two and three, but to require a general fund subsidy for all years beyond year four. Over the ten year period detailed in the exhibit, the Rental Inspection Program would require a General Fund subsidy of $431,198. The funding exhibit does not take into account any staff time for personnel from the Police Department or City Attorney’s Office.

Attachments:

Residential Rental Inspection Process
Residential Rental Inspection Fiscal Analysis
Residential Rental Inspection Assumptions

Residential Rental Inspection Process

1. A business license (payment of business tax) is required for all landlords. A Residential Rental Inspection Checklist will be mailed with the business license certificate. This Checklist will outline code violations which the Code Enforcement Officer will look for during the inspection.

2. Inspections will be unannounced and conducted from the public right-of-way. Only conditions visible from the front of the property will be inspected.

3. Each unit will be inspected biannually unless a complaint is received or chronic conditions require additional attention.

4. Inspection time from start to finish is approximately one-half hour for single family homes, and approximately one hour for apartments and multi-family sites.

5. If there are no violations, the rental unit(s) inspected will be scheduled for reinspection in two (2) years.

6. If violations are identified, the Code Enforcement Officer will send the property owner a Courtesy Notice by US Mail.

7. When the property owner receives his/her Courtesy Notice by mail, it will list the violations on the property, along with written instructions explaining how to correct the violations. They will be given a deadline to complete the corrections along with a written notice indicating the appeal process and the potential fines if the violations are not corrected.

8. After the deadline for corrections, the Code Enforcement Officer will reinspect the property and if the property violations have been corrected, the Code Enforcement Officer will send the property owner a letter indicating that the property was inspected and there is no longer a violation.

9. If the violations are not corrected (and the violations are not an immediate threat to public health and safety), the Code Enforcement Officer will immediately issue an administrative citation in the amount of $100, give the property owner another notice of violation, and seven (7) days to cure the violations.

10. After the deadline for corrections, the Code Enforcement Officer will reinspect the property and if the property violations have been corrected, the Code Enforcement Officer will send the property owner a letter indicating that the property was inspected and there is no longer a violation.

11. If the violations are not corrected (and the violations are not an immediate threat to public health and safety), the Code Enforcement Officer will immediately issue an administrative citation in the amount of $250, give the property owner another notice of violation, and seven (7) days to cure the violations.

12. After the deadline for corrections, the Code Enforcement Officer will reinspect the property and if the property violations have been corrected, the Code Enforcement Officer will send the property owner a letter indicating that the property was inspected and there is no longer a violation.

13. If the violations are not corrected (and the violations are not an immediate threat to public health and safety), the Code Enforcement Officer will immediately issue an administrative citation in the amount of $500, give the property owner another notice of violation, and seven (7) days to cure the violations.

14. This process is repeated until the violations are cured. If there are violations of the Property Maintenance Ordinance (landscaping issues), abatement action could be taken and the costs would be recovered from the property owner. The property would continue to be monitored to ensure compliance.

15. If the violation is not considered an immediate threat to public health and safety, a lien is placed on the property for costs and fines that were incurred.

16. If at any time the violation is determined to be an immediate public health and safety issue, staff could proceed with a misdemeanor citation and/or abate the violation through the Nuisance Abatement Ordinance. All costs would be recovered from the property owner.

17. If at any time there is evidence that health and safety violations exist on the interior of the residence, the Code Enforcement Officer can contact the property owner and request to perform an interior inspection.

18. If the property owner refuses the Code Enforcement Officer’s interior inspection request, an inspection warrant must be obtained to grant access to the property.
 
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