June 25, 2022

Council approves rental inspection language

For months, Creston City Council has been researching how to determine adequate rental properties are available. Council approved Monday the details of an inspection registration and policy.

Although council was content with the procedure, there were still concerns over knowing each rental property will be included.

“Will there be something in place if they don’t schedule the visit,” asked council member Kiki Scarberry. “How are we tracking that.”

City Administrator Mike Taylor said that is a challenge.

“We don’t have a registration process,” Taylor said about city officials knowing what properties are rentals. Property tax and utility records can help. “Houses change ownership. If we find out there is a rental that has not registered, they will be mailed the registration. If they don’t respond, I believe there is a fine or assessment for not registering.”

Scarberry asked if rental owners need to somehow display an approved inspection. Taylor said the city will provide a certificate, if requested. If not, the city will have the approval in its records. Scarberry expects potential renters will be considering properties that have passed inspection, but not have any confirmation. Council member Matt Levine said renters could contact city hall with the address of the rental to inquire about its inspection past.

“I would like to have the property owners be somewhat responsible for notifying their tenants it has actually been inspected,” Scarberry said.

Taylor said the renter can ask for an inspection.

“There is a step they can go through prior to that three-year window,” he said.

Taylor expects meetings with property owners to discuss the ordinance before it is finalized.

“Something could come out of those discussions that makes a lot of sense for both sides,” Taylor said.

The policy approved reads as follows:

The city of Creston intends to provide safe, sanitary and improved housing to all residents who rent property within the city limits by providing inspections, by city ordinance. This proposal will describe the option to utilize a contracted inspection process, fees and timelines to facilitate this rental inspection program. This approach will be a partnership between a contracted company (Iowa Inspections, LLC) and city. We will work together to inform property owners, council and other staff member as to what will be required to operate rental property within the city.

All owners of rental property must comply with city rental code standards. All property owners shall submit an application and registration fee requesting a rental certificate. Upon receipt of an application (informational packet), the landowner contacts the contracted inspector. the contracted inspector conducts an inspection of the premises. When the property passes the requirements outlined in the city ordinance and adopted codes, the contractor saves the information to the shared calendar with the city.

The landowner will pay the inspector at the time of the inspection. Upon passing the inspection the property owner will receive a signed rental registration and the city will issue a rental certificate (three-year permit). If the inspection passes with no notes, issues or pictures needed, the city may approve this property for a four-year registration renewal. If the property failed three or more inspections, the city may require an annual inspection, until it proves compliance with the program. The date base is maintained by the city and when a property is approaching the due date for renewal, the clerk will send a packet of information; rental registration, rental inspection checklist, city ordinance that outlines the program, contact information of contracted inspector to schedule inspection.

In accordance with the adopted rental housing inspection program administrative policy, the rental inspector will inspect the property in accordance with the city ordinance/policy.

A brief outline of the rental registration process:

The property owner completes an application for a rental registration. The completed registration form must accompany the appropriate registration fee.

Registration fee $50 per units which covers three years.

The property owner contacts the inspector to schedule an inspection visit.

Inspection fee: $75 for the first unit and $25 for each additional unit in the same building.

If the owner/desginee is a no show, a $50 fee will be assessed at the re-inspection. A 24-hour cancellation notice is required)

The inspector will visit the property and conduct the inspection. Contractor will leave a copy of the itemized check list with the landowner.

If the rental unit complies with the provisions of the code, the inspector will sign and complete the rental registration.

If violations are found, the property owner is responsible for correcting all violations. The inspector will return to the property and perform the reinspection when the owner calls/scheduled the reinspections. Same fees, and the owner will be able to obtain a valid rental certificate from he clerk.


John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.