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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.

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Section 8 Ineligible

Alabama low income housing boards have been changing their policies, and will no longer accept properties for Section 8 housing if there are outstanding redemption rights. That means lender-foreclosed properties must wait out the six to twelve months of redemption, depending on whether it was homestead exempt or not.

Tax sale properties will need a quiet title order to be sure that all redemption rights have expired.

A faster solution is to get a quitclaim deed from the former owner (or heirs) or a release of their redemption rights.

The reasoning is that the Housing Authority does not want to put a family into a Section 8 home, and then have them disrupted later when they have to move because of redemption. Yes, I know redemptions rarely occur with lender foreclosures, but the risk is still there.  In addition to the cost and disruption of the actual move, replacement housing might not be available in the same area, or at all.