Highland News Leader

Highland inspectors ‘scratch the surface,’ check more than 140 rental properties

A notice declaring an abandoned Highland property at 1311 Oak St. unfit for occupancy or use.
A notice declaring an abandoned Highland property at 1311 Oak St. unfit for occupancy or use. mbraa@bnd.com

Five months after its launch, Highland officials say the city’s new rental inspection program has checked more than 140 properties.

The program stems from regulations requiring rental properties be inspected each time there is a change in ownership or a new tenant plans to inhabit the building. That ordinance was approved by the city council in March and is a continuous effort to get the city’s landlords registered.

Since the kick off of the program at the beginning of June 2018, the city has performed 143 rental inspections or roughly 35 per month. The inspections are hoped to help weed out nuisance conditions in rental properties as well as ensure any health/safety issues can be resolved before people move in.

Interim Director of Building and Zoning and Highland EMS Chief Brian Wilson said the 75 percent of the 143 inspections were first-try passes. Thirty-six rentals passed on the second inspection, he said.

“We know that we have not been in all of the apartments in Highland as of yet,” Wilson said. “No doubt we are just scratching the surface.”

All of an apartment’s safety features are checked during the inspection. That includes checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, doors, locks, railings, the property’s major utilities, roof, etc.

Wilson said many properties that required followup inspections were missing smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

“That is an obvious safety hazard and those landlords were very responsive and corrected those problems quickly,” he said.

If an apartment fails an inspection the property will have to be re-inspected and approved again before a tenant can move in. Any violation of city code may also result in a fine.

When the program was first pitched, some Highland landlords worried the inspections could become a burden. Several landlords said needing an inspection every time a new occupant moved into the property and called the $25 inspection fee a “money grab.”

Wilson said from his perspective, the inspections have been well received. He said in the long run, tenant safety is in the best interest of the city and landlords.

“We are striving to work closely with the property owners to guide them through this process in the interests of safety for their tenants,” Wilson said.

Wilson said some landlords are most likely still not aware of the program and inspection requirement. He said a big part of getting the rest of the city up to date will be getting the word out.

“We are trying to make sure the message gets out and we are confident that, over time, we will see more and more compliance,” Wilson said. “This program will no doubt prove to be beneficial to the renters in Highland, but also to protect overall property values by keeping properties from deteriorating.”

Kavahn Mansouri: 618-239-2507, @KavahnMansouri
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