New rental inspection and licensing designed to improve housing conditions
(3/28/2006) A new rental licensing and inspection program aimed at making multi-family apartment living safer for City residents and improving quality of life has been announced by Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. and the Livable City Initiative.
Mayor DeStefano, joined by Alderwoman Katrina Jones, Alderwoman Bitsie Clark and Livable City Initiative Director Andrew Rizzo, rolled out the program March 28, with the first inaugural property inspection of a 72-unit apartment building at 80 Howe St. They were joined on the inspection tour by landlord Matthew Short.
“This new ordinance is a way for the City to reduce blight and illegal living conditions and to raise the quality of life for renters,” the Mayor said. “For tenants, it is an assurance that their dwelling unit meets the city’s basic housing code. For landlords, it’s a great marketing tool. To be able to say that their properties passed muster and warranted a license is a great signal to potential renters. For the City, it’s a way to stabilize neighborhoods, increase property values and protect the health and welfare of residents in a City with a great deal of rental properties.” Approximately 32 percent of properties in New Haven are owner occupied, and about 68% are renter occupied.
New Haven joins a growing number of cities that have enacted similar landlord licensing procedures, including Albany, NY, Pasco, Washington, Elgin, IL and Oakland, CA.
Rizzo believes the new program will lessen the chances that city renters are living in substandard housing conditions. “The biggest problems we find relate to illegal apartments and poor living conditions. Without this program, many housing issues are go unheeded because tenants fear retaliation from landlords if they bring safety issues to the attention of authorities. People deserve to live in decent, quality housing” and this program will ensure that they do.
Short, property manager with the Chelsea Company, which owns a total of 220 upscale apartments in the downtown area, said the new landlord licensing program is “important. Having a healthy and safe living climate across the board will be good for everyone in the City who rents or who does business as a property owner.”
The Livable City Initiative inspectors toured the apartment complex. As required by the new ordinance, they looked at the exterior and interior common areas, the basements and a sampling of the dwelling units. They looked for leaky plumbing fixtures, broken windows, electrical problems and any violation that could lead to a safety or health issue. They were on the lookout for working smoke detectors in all apartments, a furnace in good working order, lit stairwells and working plumbing.
Under the new ordinance, passed by the Board of Aldermen in August 2005, rental properties that are non-owner occupied and that serve a minimum of two families will be inspected once every two years. Those that pass will be licensed by the Livable City Initiative. Licensing fees depend on the number of units, but range from $75 to a max of $375 for a two-year license. The license applies to the entire building.
Those that do not pass will have a grace period to make improvements and bring the units up to minimum level of compliance. Those who do not get a license risk fines.
The City will start out with the larger, multi-property owners and will eventually inspect all 20,000 rental units over a two-year period.
The Livable City bureau has begun mailing out letters informing landlords of the new program. The department also has created a special website to further explain the program that is going live this week. Go to www.cityofnewhaven.com and click on “What’s New.”
The ordinance does not apply to:
Single family houses
Owner Occupied two- and three-family dwelling units
Public housing units
Motels or hotels