SLO to speed up rental inspections despite protests
May 19, 2016
The city of San Luis Obispo plans to complete 380 inspections of rental units by June 30. City officials are proceeding with the controversial program, even though two council members say it must stop and numerous residents say it is unconstitutional. [Tribune]
Last May, the city council voted 3-2 to adopt an ordinance that allows an inspector to enter and examine rental units to determine if the properties are safe and habitable. The ordinance also requires landlords to pay a fee to fund the program.
Mayor Jan Marx, Councilman John Ashbaugh and Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson support the program. Councilmen Dan Carpenter and Dan Rivoire voted against the rental inspection program, and at a council meeting Tuesday, they said it must be discontinued.
Several local attorneys are considering filing a lawsuit against the city over the program.
Under the ordinance, single-family homes, duplexes and granny units are required to be inspected. Apartments are exempt, but they must be inspected by the fire department for fire-related concerns.
Inspections of rental units are required to occur every three years. Tenants can deny the city inspector permission to enter a unit, but the city can then obtain an inspection warrant from the San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Landlords must pay a fee of $380 per unit every three years in order to cover the cost of the program. Those who participate in a self-certification program can pay $260 per unit.
City staffers have already registered 3,130 units in the rental inspection program. Staffers exempted 714 units and granted amnesty to 44 units.
Amnesty gives property owners time to bring units up to code or to obtain building permits for work that was completed without city permission. On Tuesday, the council voted 3-2 to extend the amnesty period six months to Jan. 13, 2017. Carpenter and Rivoire cast the dissenting votes.
More than 20 opponents of the program spoke during public comment at the council meeting.
A total of more that 5,000 units in the city are likely eligible for the rental inspection program. The owners of a total of 1,644 units have not responded to city letters notifying them of upcoming inspections.
Thus far, only seven rental inspections have occurred. Five units passed inspection and two did not. One property owner must complete minor fixes and one must obtain a building permit.
Many city residents have opposed the program, arguing it constitutes government intrusion and a tax on rentals. Supporters of the program contend there are deteriorating neighborhoods in the city where landlords do little to maintain their properties.