The city may inspect rental units far less often in hopes of getting landlords to submit to inspections, Mayor Gary McCarthy said.
A new landlords’ group asked the mayor to change the rental certificate law, which calls for an inspection every time a tenant moves out. Some City Council members were hesitant to cut back on inspections, but McCarthy said he now thinks it’s a good idea.
Building Inspector Eric Shilling is reviewing the issue and recommends the city inspect each apartment every few years, regardless of how often tenants move out.
Inspecting every unit every year is not being considered.
“In fact that’s probably too aggressive,” McCarthy said, adding that Shilling doesn’t think he has enough staff to complete thousands of inspections a year.
They’re hoping more landlords will agree to inspections if they’re less frequent.
“The issue is not those individuals who comply with it. A large percentage of rental property units do not seek the rental certificates,” McCarthy said.
It appears that the vast majority of landlords ignore the law. In a city with an estimated 10,000 rental units, just 2,168 apartments have been inspected in the last year, according to city records.
Any change to the law would require City Council approval.
Chris Morris, organizer of the new Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change group, was not excited by McCarthy’s proposal.
“It’s an improvement,” she said, but added that she would rather see a reduction in the certificate fee.
A lower fee, she said, would encourage more landlords to comply.
“We were looking for ways to make it more palatable,” she said.
As for less-frequent inspections, she said it’s still not fair for good landlords to have to pay for inspections when they keep their apartments up to code.
“There’s areas like where I live, where there’s nothing to check on. It seems like a waste of time,” she said.
She acknowledged that there’s no way for code enforcers to be sure of that until they do the inspection. But she suggested offering a lower fee to good landlords as a reward for maintaining their apartments.
“A reduced fee or something if you have a good record,” she said. “Something of that nature would be a little bit of an incentive. It would be a benefit not only to the landlords but the whole system. If units were kept up so it’s just a formality, it would benefit everyone.”