New muscle for Madera code enforcement
DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune Realtor Ginger Govett, at the microphone, was one of more than a dozen people who spoke before the City Council and an audience that nearly filled the City Hall Council Chamber on Wednesday night.
Slumlords, watch out! The city has you in its sights, and is determined to make you clean up substandard housing if code enforcers find that an apartment or house you own doesn’t meet city or state requirements, and as a result is unfit for human habitation.
The City Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to introduce an ordinance that would adopt a chapter amending the Municipal Code to beef up rental housing inspections.
About 8,500 city residences are classified as rentals, either houses or apartments, according to the 2014 Census. That’s about half of all the housing units in the city.
According to some estimates, about 850 of those rentals are in violation of municipal and/or state codes, and pose a threat of harm to their tenants as well as imposing blight on their neighborhoods.
The new chapter to the code won’t add any new infractions, but it does give the city the right to enter a property and inspect it if sufficient reason exists to believe the property is in violation of the codes.
It also requires periodical routine inspections on a three-year basis of all rental housing properties to determine whether they comply with provisions of the code.
This chapter was added to the code because although inspectors could enter a property, they had to be invited in by the tenant or the owner. Some tenants have been evicted when they requested an inspection by the city. Some owners or managers have refused to make repairs or mitigate blight when asked to do so by code enforcers, and have gotten away with it because they warn their tenants that if they let inspectors inside the property, they will be evicted.
Putting the new chapter together took about 18 months, and is a product of several meetings among city officials, Realtors, landlords and property investors.
The new chapter would punish landlords who threaten tenants for complaining to the city.
There was general agreement that the new chapter is not meant to punish owners and landlords who follow the codes.
“The new chapter is aiming for the bad actors,” said Steve Montes of the city’s code enforcement department, who worked on the new chapter during its creation and introduced it Wednesday night to a packed meeting at which more than a dozen Realtors, developers, attorneys and tenants all spoke.