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Editor's Corner: New rules for inspecting Madera rentals

The Madera rental housing inspection ordinance achieved final passage Wednesday night at the City Council meeting with barely a ripple after two previous hearings that were sometimes contentious.

No opponents showed up to beg the council members to change their minds. The unanimous council vote June 7 to introduce the ordinance was a harbinger of the vote that came on Wednesday, and the result will be that slum rentals will get closer inspections than they have in the past.

The ordinance does not contain any new restrictions. Rather, it gives inspectors the right to inspect premises they have reason to believe are not being kept according to existing code. This can be due to the visual appearance of a place, to complaints from a tenant, or complaints from neighbors.

It used to be that only complaints from tenants and permission from tenants to enter a property could allow code enforcers to pay a visit.

Landlords who follow the city’s code will have no problems, just as they have no problems now.

Unless, of course, you consider the occasional tenant who mistreats the property he or she rents. That’s a problem the new ordinance doesn’t address.

Landlords who provide rental housing in Madera perform a valuable service, one for which they aren’t always rewarded as they should be.

Some tenants believe that once they get the key to an apartment or rental house, the privilege of mistreating the property and being a bad neighbor — by playing loud music or not emptying garbage, for example — comes with it.

Well, that isn’t so.

While the new ordinance is aimed primarily at landlords who do not provide safe, comfortable housing, it also can serve to call attention to tenants who mistreat a property and then try to blame the landlord for it.

People who live in filth, then leave it behind when they move out, shouldn’t complain when they don’t get their cleaning and/or repair deposits back when they moved out.

Most residential rental or lease agreements contain language that says, in effect, “Leave the premises in at least as good a condition as they were when you moved in.”

Most of us have been renters at one time or another, and we know that “cleaning our way out” of a house or apartment can be a lot of work. Surfaces such as interior windows, mirrors and counter tops should be cleaned. Floors and carpets should be vacuumed.

A lot of tenants are too lazy to do that, so they shouldn’t complain when the landlord keeps the cleaning deposit to pay for the cleaning the tenant could have done on his or her own.

Both landlords and tenants should take photos or videos of rental properties before move-in. That will give both parties evidence of how a property looked at the start of tenancy. Both landlords and tenants owe it to themselves to keep such a record.

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