City Completes Implementation Process for Inspecting Rental Properties
The City of Huntington has completed a multi-year implementation process that ensures all rental housing is maintained in a good, safe and sanitary condition.
In 2018, Huntington City Council adopted an ordinance that aimed for all rental units to meet all applicable building, fire, health, safety and zoning codes, and to provide an efficient system for compelling both absentee and local landlords to correct violations and keep their rental units in proper condition.
According to a 2020 report on Huntington’s housing stock that was conducted by a research fellow with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative for the City of Huntington, 63 percent, or 6,050, of the city’s 9,603 rental units were in decline. The report also estimated that approximately 60-80 percent of all rental units were code noncompliant.
The city’s initial focus following adoption of the ordinance was to register rental property owners and their properties. Establishing and adding units to this rental registry was the focus well into 2020.
In December 2020, three housing inspectors were hired for the purpose of the ongoing review of the registry, identifying properties that need to be added to the registry and conducting licensing inspections for one- and two-family residential dwellings.
Since the three housing inspectors began inspecting one- and two-family dwellings in April 2021, 1,318 inspections have been completed. These include routine inspections, complaint-based inspections and follow-up inspections. The housing inspectors will inspect one- and two-family residential dwellings no more than once in a 12-month period for each rental unit, according to the ordinance.
There are two primary, easy ways that trigger inspections of one- and two-family unit dwellings. The first is that owners of one- and two-family-unit dwellings complete an application packet to ensure the property is properly registered. If landlords do not voluntarily register, the city will use other methods to ensure their property is registered and inspections occur.
The second is a complaint-based process that can be triggered by tenants by contacting the City of Huntington.
It also should be noted that multi-family dwellings such as apartment buildings with more than two units, dormitories, and lodging and rooming, are inspected by building, electric and plumbing inspectors, and the City of Huntington Fire Marshal’s Office. Owners of multi-family dwellings also complete a different application packet.
The delineation of the application process for one- and two-family dwellings and multi-family dwellings is due to the code regulating the occupancy type. However, the inspection process for all residential rental properties is similar in that electrical safety, heating, smoke alarms, handrails and general maintenance issues are inspected.
“Safe, affordable housing is a staple of any prosperous community. The market determines what is affordable, and accountability ensures that housing is safe,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “Dwellings are safe and livable in municipalities when local governments enforce building and safety codes. We seek to hold owners of residential dwellings accountable for properties they seek to rent by enforcing the provisions of these housing codes. Our goal is to ensure that all rental units are on record with the city and that they are inspected for full compliance with municipal housing codes at least every three years."
Rental registry application packets for all types of rental dwellings can be obtained by calling Laura Armstrong in the Finance Department at 304-696-5540, Ext. 2306 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. They also can be found online at https://www.cityofhuntington.com/document-center/finance/.
To register a complaint and request an inspection for a one- or two-family unit dwelling, call Chante Dunn in the Public Works Department at 304-696-5540, Ext. 2202, or email email@example.com. To register a complaint and request an inspection for a multi-family dwelling, call Melissa Kilgore in the Inspections and Permits Division at 304-696-5540, Ext. 2003, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tenants of residential rental properties, regardless of whether it is a one- or two-family dwelling or multi-family dwelling, have the legal right to request an inspection directly from the City of Huntington without the permission of the property owner or landlord. For more information about renters’ rights, visit the West Virginia Attorney General Office’s online brochure at https://ago.wv.gov/consumerprotection/documents/renters%27%20rights%20brochure.pdf.