Mission reexamining rental inspection protocol in response to state law requiring occupant consent

Mission_City_HallBy Jerry LaMartina

The Mission City Council is inspecting its own rental inspection program and rental dwelling code in response to a state law passed during the summer that requires the consent of a rental unit’s occupant before an interior inspection is conducted.

At an Oct. 26 work session, Mission Finance Director Brian Scott briefed council members and other city officials on the history of the city’s rental property licensing program, which began in 1997, when most of the city’s rentals were single-family homes.

“Around 2006, concern grew in the community about multifamily housing and the condition of that,” Scott said. “At the time, the mayor formed up a task force … made up owners of multifamily housing, council members, citizens and other key stakeholders in the community … and they came up with mandatory interior inspection program for all rental units, multifamily and single-family.”

This recommendation was controversial, Scott said, because landlords saw it as burdensome for their business and tenants perceived it as an invasion of privacy. The council decided in 2007 to require licensure for single-family and multifamily rental housing but to make inspections mandatory only for multifamily housing.

The city only does interior inspections of single-family rentals if a tenant requests it or if three or more significant code violations are recorded for the property in a year. For apartment complexes, a minimum of 5 percent of the units must be inspected each year. The manager chooses which apartments are inspected but must choose different ones each year, and they are normally vacant apartments. Tenants also may request apartment inspections.

In 2007, about 50 percent of Mission’s housing stock was in multifamily units, City Administrator Laura Smith said at the work session, and questions arose at the time about how to preserve the quality of that housing stock and property values. In late 2014, rentals constituted 51 percent of all housing units in Mission. Nearly 2,400 of those rentals were multifamily units, and nearly 350 were single-family units.

Mission currently has about 2,500 multifamily and about 330 single-family rental units. In 2007, 57 re-inspections were conducted. So far this year, three re-inspections have been conducted.

Scott said the city staff was asking for the council to consider whether inspecting 5 percent of the units in apartment complexes was sufficient and whether the city should continue to exempt single-family units from interior inspections. Most Johnson County cities do only exterior inspections on all residential units, he said.

City staff will bring proposed changes to the rental-dwellings code to comply with the new state statute to the council in December.