Tips for all residential landlords
In a typical town, multifamily dwellings are normally inspected by the local building department in regular intervals. In this way, local municipalities can better protect not only tenants, but the overall housing stock in the community. This ensures that all multifamily units are up to code, risk of fire hazards are reduced, and saves the town the expense of over-usage of their fire department. In addition, logically, safe houses are going to remain properly-assessed houses on the village rent rolls. And this saves the municipality the added expense of writing down tax revenue losses when a fire guts a property (or set of properties).
A local example
As an example, a town near me, in Saranac Lake, New York, recently announced they would be starting their regular multi-family dwellings inspections – done in three year intervals in their municipality. (Interestingly, it takes the town almost two years to achieve the desired code enforcement routine.) According to an article in the Plattsburgh Press Republican this week (“Rental Housing Inspections Underway in Saranac Lake,” by Kim Smith Dedam), “all multi-family apartment buildings in this village are being inspected this year…The focus is on rental houses with three or more units and does not include duplex rental buildings or single-family houses.”
The article goes on to explain what exactly is being inspected: “Code requirements being checked include making sure the apartments and buildings have functioning smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, cleared entries and exits, handrails in stairways and functioning windows and doors…A comprehensive list of what items will be inspected is sent along with each landlord inspection notice so the owners are aware of what is required.”
Quite the anomaly
The municipality of Saranac Lake is an anomaly in percentage of private homes versus rental housing compared with most small towns across the country. The article explains that “rental housing is about 52 percent of all units in the village, according to recent inventory data from the Community Development Office. As such, in this particular municipality, “according to rental regulations, “each multi-family dwelling (three or more units) must be inspected at least once every three years.”
Tenants have responsibilities too
But don’t think that it’s just the landlord that maintains all the responsibility. The article goes on to mention that tenants have their own set of responsibilities. To wit: “And, village regulations maintain, “although it is primarily the property owner’s responsibility to (ensure their) building is compliant with applicable codes, tenants also have the responsibility to maintain rented units in a sanitary condition and to (ensure) that all safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, are functional.”
So any landlord should be mindful of checking their rental units on a regular basis. Not only for your own protection, but more importantly, to ensure safety for your tenants, as well as neighbors to your property. Be prepared for local building department inspections to occur at regular intervals. You’ll want to ensure all basic elements of safety well prior to any public building department inspection. If you don’t already use a property manager, whose job includes making sure your properties are kept up to code, it should be part of your regular inspections of your own building on a regular basis.
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