Shamokin considers rental inspections
SHAMOKIN - City officials are considering mandating that all residential rental properties be inspected when tenants move in and move out.
Rick Bozza, city code officer, is proposing inspections occur only with residency turnover and not on a scheduled basis, such as annually.
If a tenant lives in an apartment for 10 months or 10 years and decides to move, under Bozza's proposal, an inspection - and a passing grade - would be required before the property is rented again.
City council and the mayor discussed the proposal during a council workshop Wednesday, and Solicitor H. Robert Mattis is drafting language for their consideration. Bozza said that, if adopted, the language would be added to an existing ordinance regarding landlord/tenant registration.
Bozza, who first raised the issue of property inspections last spring, anticipates criticism from some landlords. Half of the landlords he spoke to are on board with the proposal, he said, and the other half opposed.
By no means, he said, is his proposal meant to put anyone out of business.
"We're not about trying to run landlords out of town or making them broke," Bozza said. "We're trying to make it better for landlords and tenants coming in."
There are 210 landlords registered with the city who rent out approximately 760 units. Bozza suspects there are at least 50 more units he's not yet aware of.
An inspection and subsequent written and photographic documentation could aid both tenants and landlords if a dispute were to arise over the condition of a rental property, he said.
The inspections, too, could help prevent a building from falling into disrepair.
Bozza proposed that the inspection cost be $50, pass or fail.
Councilman Mike Snyder said during Wednesday's city council workshop that the price wouldn't cover the city's cost to perform the inspection. Bozza agreed, estimating the full cost of inspection at a little more than $52 when considering his hourly rate and administrative fees.
Councilman Bill Milbrand said by starting low and slowly raising the fee as needed, it would lessen the financial burden on landlords.
Coal Township commissioners updated township ordinance in March that calls for inspections once an occupancy permit expires, either at the end of a lease or rental agreement, upon change of occupancy, or one year from date of inspection.
The township's fee is $25, but as Bozza noted, every rental property in the township is inspected at least once a year, which would be far more frequent that his own proposal.
Compliance with the city's inspection proposal rests largely on landlords themselves. They'd be responsible to contact the city with a change of occupancy, and Bozza suspects some landlords would do just that. Others, he acknowledged, may not be as willing to cooperate.
Landlords are currently required by the city to pay an annual $25 registration fee and update or confirm occupancy of each of their units. Occupancy updates are also required within 15 days with any tenant turnover.
These updates would help the code office ensure compliance with the proposed inspection requirement.