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City Inspections When Tenant Changes

Cities want to require new property inspections every time you change tenants in your rental property. To my knowledge, only Alexander City, Anniston and Gadsden have passed such laws, but others are trying, including Huntsville. The first inspection each time is either free or with a very low cost, but re-inspections after failure can get expensive. Usually the landlord can hire its own certified home inspector for the task. That might make sense if there are long delays before city personnel can make site visits.

What if you just ignore the law? How will the city find out? As always, someone could tattle. Then you’ll be in hot water, with huge fines and perhaps criminal prosecution. The other way is with the cooperation of utility companies, who will not turn on service in a new name unless they receive a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy issued after the landlord has passed inspection.

How do you fight this to keep your city from passing such laws?

  • They are directed at bad landlords with terrible premises and no responsiveness to tenant complaints. If you know of such conditions, report them to local inspections departments. That way, they don’t have to rely on inspecting EVERYBODY just to find the bad landlords. Self-policing is always the preferred method for avoiding government intrusion.
  • Be vigilant! When similar ordinances are before local government for public discussion, appear at the hearings with as many other landlords as possible. Explain that the increased cost of the inspections and the non-rentable downtime before issuance of a new CO will result in dramatically higher rental rates. Housing will be extremely difficult or impossible for the most vulnerable members of the community, increasing the burden on public assistance programs and increasing the risk of homelessness. Local government needs to hear that more than just the “rich landlords” will feel pain if the law is passed.
  • As an alternative, propose your own law that rewards good landlords and keeps the pressure on the bad actors. We currently have a task force working on model ordinances, if that seems the only choice remaining.

Interested in more information about landlord/tenant law? Check into one of the 6-hour “Landlord Tenant Law” classes and videos, or the 3-hour “Landlord Law FAQ” classes and video on the Resources page, HERE. Coming to a city near you!

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