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March 29, 2013

Rental properties failing inspections

City officials working to educate owners on regulations

LOGANSPORT — Minor infractions are causing rental properties in Logansport to fail inspections, according to city officials, with more serious infractions expected as inspections continue into the summer and fall.

The Logansport building commissioner and code enforcement officer began conducting building inspections on rental properties in the city earlier this month. Bill Drinkwine, building commissioner, said the motivation behind the initiative was to start fresh after it became difficult to track which properties had and hadn’t been inspected recently.

Drinkwine told members of the Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety Wednesday that very few of the properties inspected so far have been passing inspections.

In an interview after the meeting, Drinkwine said though few have been passing inspections so far, he has yet to run into any serious problems.

“I’m personally not too concerned,” Drinkwine said. “I haven’t found any serious life safety issues.”

Drinkwine said the city ordinance pertaining to property maintenance addresses many regulations that may not be in the forefront of property owners’ concerns.

“There are so many things written in the ordinance that people don’t understand as important,” Drinkwine said.

One example he said he has come across recently involves regulations addressing proper bathroom ventilation. The ordinance states proper ventilation can be achieved by having an exhaust fan or a window with a screen. When bathrooms in residences don’t have this kind of ventilation, Drinkwine has to cite it as a violation.

Another minor infraction Drinkwine said he has found in recent inspections is the absence of an emergency valve on hot water heaters.

When these kinds of violations occur, the owner has 30 days to correct it or request more time before another inspection is conducted. If the infraction is not corrected after the time agreed upon, a $50 fine is issued to the owner every day.

“I haven’t found anything horrendous at this point,” Drinkwine said. “Am I afraid I’m going to? Yeah, I am.”

George Franklin, Logansport code enforcement officer, said the best way to make sure property owners understand these regulations, as minor as some of the violations may seem, is to educate them.

“The whole key is education,” Franklin said. “For property owners, most of these things haven’t been looked at before. The majority of people are willing to cooperate; they just don’t know what to do.”

Drinkwine said several of the rental property owners live outside the area in places like California, Chicago and Florida.

“Most of them have good business sense, so they appreciate the inspections and the monitoring,” Drinkwine said. “If they’re not here every day, they have comfort in knowing that at least the city is keeping an eye on the property to make sure it doesn’t get totally destroyed. Those that don’t like the inspection program are those that don’t want to invest any money back into their asset. They’re here for the quick kill and walk away.”

Franklin said there are currently 300 rental properties registered for inspection with more likely to come. Of the properties he’s inspected so far, he said about 25 percent of them don’t require a follow-up inspection.

Drinkwine said he tries to inspect about 20 properties a week, estimating he’s inspected about 10 percent of them so far. He said he is hoping to be finished by this fall.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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