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Re-instated Salt Lake City Inspection Program: What you should know

Posted by paul on February 13th, 2017

Most owners and managers of rental property in Salt Lake City are likely aware that for the past year and a half there has been an informal agreement with the city attorneys that landlords who refused inspections would not be penalized while the city and the industry worked towards a mutually acceptable inspection program. Starting 2015, owners and managers need to allow inspections under the terms of a negotiated agreement worked out between Salt Lake City and the UAA.

The UAA’s position was that the law change four years ago to “cause and compliant” based inspections eliminated the authority Salt Lake City had to inspect rentals every 3 years, as they had done. For the first two years, the administration agreed with us. However, the city council decided they disagreed with the administration, and instructed council attorneys to leverage a loophole in state inspection law and re-implement inspections because the Council felt strongly in the public safety value of regular inspections on all rental properties. In 2015, the UAA backed proposed legislation to close that loophole and the City Council and UAA then worked out a compromise that has taken almost a year to become new ordinance.

How to respond to requests for inspection

Anyone who has asked if they should let Salt Lake City inspect in the last two years has been told to refuse if it was what the city called a “scheduled” inspection. Starting January 1, however, our counsel to you is to not refuse but allow the city to inspect as long as they follow the terms of the negotiated agreement. If an inspection is based on “cause or complaint” it is always wise to let them in.

How will the city give you notice?

The city has promised to give you at least 10 days’ notice to schedule inspections. They also will use a checklist called the “self-certification checklist” so you can know in advance what they will be looking for.

What concessions did we win from the city?

Our position still is that cities can only inspect based on cause or complaint. We think any more than this wastes resources and the time of landlords and tenants and is just an employment plan for more than needed city inspectors. However, in the interest of cooperation with Utah’s largest city, we agreed to allow some inspections. The agreement did accomplishment several major concessions:

New construction will not be re-inspected for four years (“double inspections”, ie. being cleared for occupancy by building inspectors and then once tenants moved in being re-inspected to get a business license were common)

 It was reaffirmed that single family and duplexes will not be inspected (except by cause or complaint) but will fill out self-inspection checklists

Instead of entire building, the city will only inspect a portion of units (see tables below)

Changes of ownership will not trigger inspections

The city must use objective pre-created health and safety (not cosmetic) standards

Conclusion

We advise you to once again work with city inspectors but hold them to the agreement. Let us know of any violations or any behavior of inspectors you find troubling.

Below are the memo of understanding on rental inspections and the city’s summary of their new ordinance.

Memorandum of Understanding on Rental Inspections between Salt Lake City and the Utah Apartment Association

Goal: Establish a system that promotes health and safety in rental units, while being minimally invasive to landlords and tenants

To that end the Utah Apartment Association, representing property owners, and Salt Lake City agree to work towards codifying and implementing the following:

  • Single family and duplex rentals will receive city inspections only by cause or complaint and will instead, self-certify that they meet Salt Lake City standards
  • Cause or complaint will not be defined, in order to give Salt Lake City maximum flexibility to address issues and inspect when necessary
  • The current self-certification standards required to be signed by single family and duplex owners every three years will also be required every three years by owners of buildings with three or more units
  • Salt Lake City will inspect buildings with three or more rental units (unless by cause or complaint) no more than once every 4 years
  • New construction will not be required to have inspections in the first 4 years and change of ownership/management will not trigger inspections (however the building can be inspected again 4 years after the last inspection or upon cause or complaint)
  • Percentage of units inspected during the 4 year building inspection cycle will be established by the size of the building according to the following scale and terms:Rental inspections will only consider items expressly on the current Salt Lake City Self-Certification standards checklist
    • Three to ten unit buildings – no more than 35% of units
    • Ten to twenty unit buildings – no more than 20%
    • Twenty-one or larger unit buildings 15%
    • Inspectors must provide owners ten days’ notice which units are to be inspected so owners can make arrangements with tenants
  • UAA will accept without modification the current Self-Certification standards (attached) as basis of inspections but Salt Lake City agrees to follow Utah State Code 10-9a-511 which releases non-conforming properties from some of those requirements, and Utah State Code 10-9a-505.5 which sets parameters for the definition of a single family

The proposed ordinance amendments include (summary provided by Salt Lake City):

Inspections

  • Rental properties with two or fewer units will continue to use the self-certification checklist as they have for the duration of the Landlord / Tenant program.
  • Rental properties with three or more units will utilize the self-certification checklist every two-years and onsite rental inspections will be performed no more than every four years (unless by cause or complaint).
  • Onsite inspections will apply to:Initial rental inspections will not be required for new construction, because of the inspection and permitting process involved with receiving a certificate of occupancy. This relates to the first required inspection upon issuance of the business license, but the next inspection at four-years would be required.
    • 35% of the dwelling units for buildings with three to ten units.
    • 20% of the dwelling units for buildings with eleven to twenty units.
    • 15% of the dwelling units for buildings with twenty-one or more units.
  • Any time there is cause or complaint, the City can schedule an inspection without limitation, regardless of the status of the self-certification checklist and/or four-year inspection cycle.
  • Although inspections will be based on the self-certification checklist, the City maintains its Housing Code is Section 18.50 of the Salt Lake City Code.

Enforcement  (Section 5.14.120)

  • If repairs or securing of the property are not completed:An appeal process exists through the Housing Advisory & Appeals Board and City hearing officer.
    • Notice of deficiency will be mailed to affected parties, and/or
    • Criminal action depending on which self-certification standards are violated, and/or
    • Civil action depending on which self-certification standards are violated.
    • 1st Notice of violation including nature of violation and proposed action in response, warning period,
    • Violations threatening life and/or safety may trigger fines before a lengthy notification period,
    • 2nd notice of violation including date when fines will begin.
  • Refusal to allow an onsite inspection may result in revocation of the business license or removal from the Landlord / Tenant program.
  • Removal from the Landlord / Tenant program results in paying higher business license fees and per unit fees.
  • Higher business license fees are set based on the amount of disproportionate level of City services those properties typically require.

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