(St.Joseph,MO) A newly established committee is looking out for the interest of renters in St.Joseph. Monday night the city council approved a bill establishing a Citizen’s Review Committee. The committee will stem from the Administrative Violation Review Board and be responsible for drafting a plan to establish a voluntary rental inspection program.
Mike Grimm, Chair of the Administrative Violation Review Board, said the 14 member committee will be comprised of all current members of the violation review board as well as one member nominated by the mayor and each city council member.
"What we are trying to do is strictly make living in St.Joe safe for renters," Grimm said. "St.Joe doesn't even know how much rental property we have, because there is no registration and no licensing."
The program will review rental property conditions throughout the city and offer landlords information on how the property can be brought up to code.
"This is a necessary first step, but it's not one that we should stop at. We need to get this in effect,"City Council member at Large Brian Myers said.
The voluntary inspections will look at each property down to the brass tacks.
"We will be looking at all aspects from the electric to the heating and cooling to the structure itself," Grimm said. "The idea is that landlords will use this new inspection process to allow their renters to know they have passes an inspection by the city and that the property they're renting is safe to move in to."
The goal of the inspection program is to get rental properties up to code, to insure safety and boost property value.
"By participating in a voluntary inspection you are bringing it [the property] up to a uniform code voluntarily and that adds value to your property," Myers said.
There won’t be any penalties for non-compliant or failing properties, but the commission is hopeful the status of the city’s seal will persuade landlords to update their properties.
“This is the first time the city has ever created an inspection program were landlords will receive some type of award, gold seal,” Grimm said. “They can use in advertising and giving to their customers to know that it has been inspected and is safe.”
Myers said the voluntary program won’t solve all the city’s problems, but it’s a start.
"This does not address the entire issue. Absentee landlords are only part of the issue with the way our city looks. We need to address vacant properties, we need to address vacant lots both commercial and residential if we are going to clean the city up."
The Administrative Violation Review Board will have a meeting September 4, to discuss nominations for the Citizen’s Review Committee. Grimm said the committee will begin meeting in October and are expected to have recommendations for the council by the end of January.
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