Tool 3: Establishing and Maintaining Property Standards
There are a number of different tools cities can use to make sure that rental properties comply with the city’s codes.
Certificate of occupancy (point of sale) Inspection
Certificates of occupancy result from an inspection to determine that a dwelling unit is suitable for human occupancy. There are four generalized circumstances under which a city can impose a certificate of occupancy (CO) requirement:
CO inspections are generally more extensive than rental licensing inspections. A city can impose a CO requirement for either/both change of ownership or tenant turnover as a way of maintaining a level of quality control in the city’s housing stock. The city must be sure that it can schedule timely inspections, as delays in closing on a property or filling a vacancy because the city could not schedule a timely inspection can cause sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants material harm. Cities may want to allow approved private firms to conduct CO inspections at the owner’s expense, as long as the cost is not unduly burdensome to the owner.
Disclosure of findings. Miami-Dade County has an ordinance requiring disclosure for any property that has gone through the foreclosure process. Before the entity taking the property through foreclosure can offer the property for sale to a third party, they must obtain a Certificate of Use from the county. To obtain the Certificate of Use, the holder of the property must first file a Disclosure of Findings Report with the county prepared by a licensed engineer or architect. The report must include both a detailed condition assessment and an estimate of the cost to remedy any deficiency or code violation. If the report shows code violations, the Certificate of Use is not denied, but the property is referred to the appropriate county agency for action.
Periodic re-inspection of properties should be required as part of the rental licensing process. This can be done on a single schedule, but it is better to link it to the condition and history of the property and its owner. To do that, however, the city must have a good property data system that tracks violations and other matters by property. Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, an inner ring suburb of Minneapolis, uses a four-tier system. Depending on the number of code and nuisance violations on the property, the city may require re-inspection as little as every three years or as often as every six months. Owners of problem properties are also required to take remedial course or mitigation plans with the city as a condition of license renewal.