Rental property inspection program moves forward in Crestwood
By MIKE ANTHONY
The city of Crestwood is moving toward establishing a rental property inspection program.
The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last week to have City Attorney Rob Golterman draft three ordinances needed to es-tablish the rental property inspection program.
As proposed, Crestwood would contract with St. Louis County for the enforcement of the program, allowing the city to establish the program without hiring additional staff and incurring other associated expenses.
The cost to the city for St. Louis County to administer the program would be borne by the property owners of the rental units to be inspected, Public Work Director Jim Eckrich wrote in a Sept. 30 memorandum to City Administrator Don Greer. The cost for an inspection would be roughly $100, according to Eckrich's memo.
During a presentation to aldermen Oct. 12, Eckrich said, "... One thing I want to point out is that this is a property maintenance code ... We've reviewed this code and it is a maintenance code. Our residents will not be required to upgrade all their electric or do things that are related to building construction. This is maintenance. They're not going to make you change all your two-prong outlets to three-prong outlets unless you've done some sort of remodeling in the past, which you should have done so at that time. So there's no excessive rewiring that's required by adopting this program.''
He also said, "A couple important things to note, this only applies to rental properties which will be reoccupied. Current renters and current rental units would not be subject to these requirements. They will be if a renter moves or if the same renter moves to a different property within the city of Crestwood, it would apply, but it doesn't apply to the existing rental units and existing renters.
"As part of this process, the city would likely require that all existing renters register with the city so we know when a reoccupancy occurs. We can also use a few things at our disposal, such as AmerenUE's change in service forms, which will notify us that there's been a change in occupancy,'' he added.
"A second important thing to note is that this will be applicable to all rental properties in the city of Crestwood. That's single-family homes, apartments, villas and condos. Owner-occupied villas and condos are not subject to these regulations, only rental units,'' Eckrich said, noting that the county's chief residential inspector, Steven Lar-son, was present.
Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore said, "... First of all, Mr. Eckrich, I'm delighted that this does not impose a change on the wiring systems of these residences and properties because of the cost that would be involved in that. Secondly, do you envision any significant problems that have not yet occurred to us if we move into this? So we don't move into it and then discover there's major problems later.''
Eckrich said, "I've been through the code and there's nothing that draws a red flag to me. As I mentioned, there are 17 other municipalities that contract with the county for a reoccupancy service. I'm not hearing a lot of negative things associated with that. If there's something out there, I don't see it.''
LaBore said, "At least I want everybody to hear that answer.''
To Larson, LaBore said, "... When we looked at some occupancy permit regulations for all properties a number of years ago, what was written in there for the right of entry upset a lot of people. So it's probably a valid question to double check ... Can you comment on what's your standard practice of 'exercising the right to enter the properties?'''
Larson replied, "OK, that section is sometimes misinterpreted, especially by citizens. It simply gives the code enforcement agent, as an agent of the city of Crestwood, the right on the permission of the occupant or owner to enter the building and that would be with the accompaniment of the occupant or owner. We don't go in somebody's home at all without them being there.
"It's not constitutional for us to enter anybody's home without their permission. We have to have their authorization to enter,'' Larson added.
At one point, Maddox noted that the city had 452 units that were renter-occupied, or about 8.84 percent of the city's housing stock, according to the 2000 Census.
Before the board's vote was taken, Mayor Tom Fagan later said, "I think this is going to be a good first step. Whether the program needs to be tweaked or not, I'm sure you'll let us know that as time goes on if this program does move forward. It seems to me that with an aging housing stock, anything that we can do to make sure our housing stock keeps its value is well worth the effort.''