Public weighs in on proposed South Bend ordinance requiring all rental properties to pass inspections
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The community got a chance to weigh in and share their concerns about unsafe living conditions.
This ordinance would make it easier for the city's code enforcement officers to get inside rented properties and make sure landlords are providing tenants with safe living conditions.
Jeff Nixa who lives in the Near Northwest neighborhood was one of many people who shared their person stories during a public forum.
"In the drop ceiling above the bathtub of this new rental property I found a full clip of 40 clip of semi-automatic rifle ammunition," said Nixa.
He bought a house next to his that had become a drug house and all around problem property. He was even more disturbed when he sat down with the owner about improvements he wanted to make.
"I wanted to put in new windows and re insulate the attic and he just stopped me right there and said, Jeff you're being naive," Nixa recounted. "He says don't think about this as a house. Don't think about it as a home. Think about it as an ATM that is going to pay you $850 a month no matter what as long as you have tenants in there."
The new Rental Safety Verification Program will help address those landlords who aren't providing safe and livable properties. If passed, all rental properties will have to go through a regular inspection every 5 years if they pass the first inspection.
Some landlords voiced concerns that this new ordinance would punish the good landlords.
"We don't want to see good landlords all the time," said Tracy Skibins, Director of Code Enforcement. "We want them to continue to do a good job. If everything goes well, then they won't see us for five years."
Common Council-woman Regina Williams-Preston, who sponsored the ordinance, echoed those statements. She says this ordinance is about getting everyone to work together and get people into those good and livable properties.
"One of the things we are looking at is putting a list of all the approved rental units on city's website or maybe contacting 311 so people can access it that way," said Skibins.
Enforcement was also a concern. Right now there are an estimated 16,000 rental properties in South Bend. There will be three inspectors and one chief inspector dedicated to this program.
"Our goal is to inspect 20 % of rental units in the first three years," said Skibins. "We are going to start in a specific census tract and concentrate on the areas that have been designated high lead areas.
Landlords not in that census tract would also be able to set up an appointment to get their inspection done as soon as the ordinance goes into effect.
There will be one more public forum before it goes before the council on February 11th. The Common Council expects to have that information posted on its website soon.