San Luis Obispo seeking rental inspection program

December 14, 2014

house for rentSan Luis Obispo City Council will consider implementing a rental housing inspection program aimed at eliminating unsafe housing conditions at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Every year, parents and students complain about unsafe conditions at some rental properties. Approximately 62 percent of all San Luis Obispo residences are rentals.

If passed, the city will hire rental housing inspectors to work under the Community Development Department, according to the staff report. Staff will inspect each rental every three years.

Rental property owners will cover the cost of the program through a yearly fee of about $98 per rental unit. With almost 11,000 rental units the city will collect approximately $1.1 million a year.

Letters to the council and staff have been primarily in favor of implementing the inspection program.

“As a business person, I usually shy away from more fees and taxes, however, I feel in this case rental housing is a big business in our town with little or no controls and some regulations can produce some huge results,” Marco Rizzo said in email to Mayor Jan Marx.


I do find it interesting that so many are opposed to a city inspection of rental properties on the grounds of “government intrusion”, but I do have to wonder if they (you) feel the same way for businesses operating for the public to enter. Most cities have safety inspections of retail establishments, with fire department personal looking to make sure there is a fire extinguisher, that any emergency exits are not blocked, that any sprinkler systems are in operating condition, and that in general, the premises is safe to occupy. Establishments that sell food, either prepared or packaged, are also inspected to make sure that safe food handling, storage and display are being maintained to help keep the public from getting sick due to unsafe handling of food.

A rental unit is a business operation; not one that just anyone can walk into like a normal retail business, but it is a business venture that is being offered to the public to occupy, so it doe not seem to me to be too far of a stretch to make sure that rental properties are safe to inhabit. The inspectors are not “brown-shirted, jack booted thugs”, but are looking to make sure that there is adequate space for the number of residents, that the wiring is safe, that the plumbing works, that there isn’t mold that could make someone very sick, that there is enough parking for the number of residents.

There was a house fire a year or so ago at the intersection of Johnson and Buchon streets where, thankfully, everyone got out without severe injury, and it was discovered that there was more people living there than was deemed safe; do we really want another incident like this that could claim the lives of people living there?

In looking at what other California cities are doing, I noticed that Sacramento charges $15 for an inspection, and the city of Berkeley does not charge for the first one, nor the second one if a problem is fixed, and they make allowances for those units whose tenants do not want an inspection carried out. I think the amount San Luis wants to charge to too high; instead of trying to make this into a money making scheme, the focus should be on public safety. The city should look at the other cities programs more closely to see how San Luis can follow their examples more closely and not charge so much.

And for those who still feel that an unannounced inspection is a bridge too far, the inspections in the other cities are carried out after a formal notice has been given, usually in a two week period. This isn’t the end of the world.


There are so many reasons to be against another government agency all in the name of protecting the citizens:

1-Cost to the landlords who will undoubtedly pass the cost on to the least able to afford it.

2-The expected growth of the program. Additional rules and regulations will be added continuously until it becomes unprofitable to be a landlord at least for the little guy.

3-The expected growth of the program into other areas. If it is good for the rentals why not make it good for the homeowners.

4-Loss of personal responsibility.

5-Escalating cost of real estate in SLO.

6-The power that the inspectors will eventually have over minor infractions. Imagine being banned from your own home due to violations.

Your comment about the house fire where too many people lived in the home will continue because criminals ignore the law. The landlord probably rented to the cute couple who then had friends move in without telling the landlord.

A better program would be to offer leaflets helping potential tenants to know what to look for in a rental house and what to avoid. Cheap, easy and encourages personal responsibility.


So, your argument then is the “slippery slope” argument- once “X” is allowed, “Y” and “Z” will follow as a natural progression?

I addressed the cost issue by questioning the fee the city has proposed; why shouldn’t it be closer to what either Sacramento charges ($15) or Berkeley ($0) ? If a landlord cannot pay $15 once every three years, they are pretty bad business people.

Unexpected growth: Here is the first part of your slippery slope argument; when the program is first enacted, there will be a period that the program is fleshed out to arrive at what the full program is supposed to be. Having discussions, study periods of what the program is supposed to be before the program is enacted would seem to defuse your argument that the program would grow in an uncontrolled manner. Perhaps your fears could be allayed by requiring any future changes or expansions of the powers of the inspectors to be approved by a citizens’ review committee.

Growing the program into other areas, especially for non-rental, owner-occupied single family residences would be, again, an area that could be required to be approved before any expansion could be allowed. We currently have a program in place that if a concerned citizen makes a complaint about a residence as possibly being unsafe or having more people living there then is normally allowed, the city is required to investigate.

Personal responsibility; I do not get your association of how an inspection program for rentals is going to diminish anyone’s personal responsibility, please explain your comment.

The cost of real estate in San Luis Obispo has many factors; if an inspection cost of $15 to $94 is going to push up the cost of any home in SLO, our real estate market is truly in a precarious state.

Inspectors do have broad powers, now. Imagine that a house has a fire, a car or truck goes over the curb and runs into a house; that house will be inspected to make sure that the house is safe to occupy, and if it is determined that it is not, it is “red tagged” as being unsafe to occupy. Do you really want to live in your house if it is determined that it truly is unsafe to live in? Wouldn’t you take prudence action to fix any situation that would classify your home as unsafe?

Fear mongering may seem to be an appropriate manner to warn others of potential dangers of a new program, but studying what other cities have done and what has happened after those programs have been implemented should be an indicator of what we could expect.


Bob, I can appreciate your attempts to justify this intrusion into our homes by the city however you yourself point to the crux of the issue.

“Growing the program into other areas, especially for non-rental, owner-occupied single family residences would be, again, an area that could be required to be approved before any expansion could be allowed. We currently have a program in place that if a concerned citizen makes a complaint about a residence as possibly being unsafe or having more people living there then is normally allowed, the city is required to investigate.”

Thank you Bob for pointing this out as well! And Bob, if you think the city is truly concerned about safety, no they just want the new position and the money that’s why they set the fee so high in the first place. The staff will look to other areas for wage increases but trun a blind eye when it comes to comparing “like” fees for services.

This is exactly why the only answer is NO!

BTW, the timing of this is interesting as the city wants to purchase homes to prevent homeowners from renting. This city council banks on the uniformed in SLO thus allowing the power and greed to grow.


Denny: This would not be an intrusion into my home, I don’t now, nor do I ever have plans to rent out my house or even a room in my house. I do understand that many feel the city of San Luis Obispo is looking to find any means they can to charge somebody somewhere something in order to add to the city’s coffers, but as to the question of them hiring new employees, any new employees will (most likely) be hired under newer rules regarding their pay and benefits since the city has supposedly implemented a “two-tier” system to pay newer employees at a lower wage with less benefits.

Since there hasn’t been a policy implemented yet, there is still a discussion going on about establishing such a rental inspection agency; we should demand that there be strict guidelines about who will be inspected, how much will be charged, and what sort of appeals can be made against notices of violations.

To simply stick our collective heads in the sand and say we don’t need to have inspections will result in someone getting hurt, renters living in substandard conditions, and potentially lead to a fatality in a rental situation that has more people living there than is safe, or substandard wiring catching fire, or some sort of combination of both.

The current proposal isn’t perfect, so let’s contribute to making it better.


So do you have a lot of sub-standard or over packed rentals in your

neighborhood? That is only reason why it would make sense for you to want the city to adopt this program.Be happy your in 38% of people

that can buy/own a home in SLO the rest of us are renters and I

personally do not need another rent increase.


Bob, if the city staff proposes an inspection program that creates an unnecessary bureaucracy, why must we the taxpayer/homeowner/renter then be charged with task of tailoring it? When there are policies in place that renters can use to complain to the proper CURRENT city departments regarding unsafe conditions.

This is just the beginning of total control of all rental properties in SLO. First they get the inspection program passed, along with the BS fees. Then the fines come and now the city holds the power over your rental. I’m sorry that you don’t see that Bob.


Actually, if you read the Berkeley ordinance, the owner inspects his property and certifies that it’s safe and gives a copy to the tenants. The city doesn’t get a copy. There is no inspection unless the tenant or the landlord requests it. Even then, the city is not obligated to do so. Also, tenants can refuse to allow the landlord to do an inspection until July 1 or each year. That’s a little different that what is being proposed with this ordinance.


Yes, I did peruse the Berkeley ordinance, skimming over it instead of reading each line. Yes, the either the landlord or tenant can request a city inspection, but those inspections still do not have a cost involved in them, even if they come back to reinspect, unless there were violations noted that were not corrected.

Yes, the Berkeley ordinance is different; it should be a consideration for modeling any proposed ordinance here, as well as the one in Sacramento.


you seem a bit naive, robert. drink governments kool aid much?


equating proposed rental inspections with megalomania suicide cults… much? LOL


If any rental is packed with to many people maybe the rent is outrageous? The landlord’s in

this city charge way to much for any single person to pay,the jobs here do not do not

support the rents that are being charged.It forces people to double/triple up so they can pay

their bills and to be able to survive in this town.

My rent went up last year why? Because for a one bedroom apartment a landlord can get

$1100.00 a month or more depending on the location.If this inspection program starts up

there will be something else for me to look to being added to my rent and most likely anyone

else who rents.

If SLO wants to keep rentals from being packed with to many people they should look into

rent control to keep prices reasonable so the workers in this city can afford to live here.

IMO-The city government does not care about how people struggle to make ends meet they

just want to make more money.


Bob, you’ve got to realize that many CalCoast readers believe that registration and inspections are the first steps to the government confiscating people’s rental properties just like they did with their guns!


i will never be dining at cafe roma again, marco rizzo. think about it dude. maybe we should pass a restaurant inspection, daily, to be funded by no other than the restaurant owner.


I thought Marc Rizzo was a member of the San Luis Business and Property Owners Association. To see that he support this is beyond stunning! What is the organization’s position on this? If they support this, I’ll never go to another meeting.


Wow this is really cool…can they give the inspectors brown shirts and Jackboots?