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City Inspections

Several months ago, somebody wrote to us about a new local law that required city inspections each time a residential rental property changed to a new tenant. Gadsden passed such a law in 2007. THIS IS COMING to other municipalities around the state. You might delay things, but you are not going to stop it. The best strategy is to manage it, so the result will protect tenants while at the same time not placing an undue burden on the good landlords who try to keep their properties in habitable condition.

The Gadsden ordinance requires current building code compliance. In other words, nothing is grandfathered in. When a rental becomes vacant, it must be inspected for code compliance. The cost is $50 for the initial inspection and one follow-up. Additional follow-ups cost more. Landlords may opt to use a licensed home inspector instead of a city inspector, which might be faster, albeit more expensive. If the dwelling passes, it will receive a certificate of occupancy. It is illegal to rent a “rental housing unit”that does not have a certificate of occupancy.

Scary language in paragraph (e) of the Gadsden law refers to “annual inspections” and says that if a property fails an annual inspection, the tenant will have to be relocated until the problems are fixed. There is no language requiring annual inspections, so I am not sure what is going on there.

We are working on drafting a model ordinance that will meet city concerns for tenant health and safety while also addressing landlord concerns about slow inspections and unreasonable demands by inspectors. When word reaches us that a city is planning an ordinance like the one in Gadsden, we can present them with a model law to copy. That way we increase the odds that we won’t get stuck with some poorly worded and onerous ordinances. Anyone who has any comments or suggestions should indicate them below, or send a private email on the “Contact” page.