Politics

Anaheim rental inspections program nets $11,000 in fines

The city of Anaheim filed a criminal complaint in the last year against the owner of this rental property located in the 100 block of Stinston Street for failing to fix substandard housing code violations.
The city of Anaheim filed a criminal complaint in the last year against the owner of this rental property located in the 100 block of Stinston Street for failing to fix substandard housing code violations.
City of Anaheim

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Anaheim has taken one landlord to court over slum housing conditions and collected about $11,000 in fines and fees from property owners under a year-old inspections program aimed at fixing decrepit rental homes.

Anaheim city officials created the Quality Rental Housing Program to identify substandard conditions and compel landlords to make repairs and ensure on-going maintenance.

Three full-time code enforcement officers reviewed about 40 percent of the 40,436 units the program team plans to evaluate over a five-year period. Of those reviewed, about 5 percent of the units failed inspections.

Sandra Sagert, the program's director, said most landlords cooperated in making repairs.

“It’s kind of getting them up and going, ‘Yeah, you know, I meant to do that, so now I’m going to do it,’” she said.

Not all rental properties have to go through the inspection program; buildings 20 years or newer and public housing homes are exempt. (There are separate programs that inspect public housing projects.) As they age, the newer buildings will be included in the inspection program.

Beginning on the city’s west side, code enforcement officials sent a housing packet with a best practices questionnaire to rental property owners asking if they screen tenants, maintain house rules, and do walk-throughs of units.

If the property owner has had no substandard housing violations in the last 12 months, follows the best practices, and passes an exterior inspection of the building, he or she receives a certificate from the city and avoids code enforcement inspections of the units.

Sagert said larger apartment complexes with on-site managers tend to be easy to certify.

“It’s trying to focus in on where we need to be, versus spending time where we don't need to be,” she said.

The rental inspections program will move to the central part of the city for the next phase, which will likely take a year or more to complete.

Leah Simon-Weisberg with Tenants Together, a fair housing advocacy group in San Francisco, gave Anaheim city officials feedback as they were creating the rental inspection program.

She said the housing shortage in California exacerbates the decaying conditions faced by renters.

“People can’t just move,” she said. “They can’t say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go find another apartment with a better landlord.”

Simon-Weisberg says there’s a growing grassroots effort in cities like Long Beach and San Diego to persuade officials to move away from complaint-driven code enforcement inspections and toward routine checks that happen every four years or so. That way, landlords are more likely to commit to on-going maintenance.