Archive for Thursday, January 3, 2008

City preps to launch inspection program

January 3, 2008

City of De Soto codes enforcement officer Pam Graff is ready for the start of the city's rental inspection and from the stack on her desk so are some landlords.

The city's rental inspection and landlord licensing program started with the new year. With it, the estimated 400 rental homes and apartments in De Soto are each to be expected every three years. As of Jan. 1, landlords are required to register with the city to conduct a business in De Soto.

Graff said landlords are already filing applications for permits.

"I've already got a good stack to go through," she said.

Graff also had a stack of letters ready to go out to landlords. They will remind them the program is starting and asking if they have any empty rental units they would like her to inspect.

For the convenience of landlords and tenants, empty units will be put on the top of the list, Graff said.

"If they get back with me and they have an empty unit, I'll start with that," she said. "After that, we'll go from there."

She's aware there is some perception on the part of landlords that the program is skewed toward renters, Graff said. But she said she would stay neutral and by the book.

That is why the council chose scheduled rental inspections instead of an alternative suggestion that inspections be done with tenant complaints, Graff said. Rental inspections could be triggered by tenant complaints, but she said that wouldn't be automatic and they would be done at her discretion.

The same was true about complaints from neighbors, although Graff said she would probably respond with an informal outside inspection of the building to determine if a more thorough inspection was needed.

"That's the way it's always been ever since we've had codes," she said.

De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said he took one other step in preparation for the start of the program by bringing another city official up to speed on the details of the ordinance.

"I had a sit-down conversation with our new municipal court judge," he said. "He's going to be the final arbitrator of any disagreement that comes before his bench."

One of the criticisms of a rental inspection program when it was being considered was that it singled out rental properties. As a result, De Soto City Council members directed city staff to step up code enforcement of all residential properties.

Graff has developed a plan to do that in the coming year. On her bookshelf is a large book with maps of 12 different sections of De Soto.

"I'll be going through one neighborhood a month," she said. "Everybody's going to be getting looked at."

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