Sending letters to landlords has not led to a deluge of owners signing up for property inspections.
It’s been more like a trickle.
Out of the first 100 letters, 20 percent of the landlords have agreed to let city inspectors look at their rental property. The other 80 percent have ignored the letters altogether.
On Wednesday, they’ll be sent a ticket with fines for each apartment that they have rented without a rental inspection.
Building Inspector Eric Shilling is hoping the tickets will persuade more landlords to open their doors.
“We’ll see if those are motivational,” he said.
If that doesn’t work, he will go to court to ask for search warrants.
He is determined to inspect every occupied apartment in the city.
“That’s our obligation,” he said. “This cannot be ignored. There is life safety at risk here.”
He could also enact a stiffer penalty: issuing an order to vacate the rental building.
If he can’t inspect the apartments, he said, he could take that route.
“We’d have to consider the apartment unsafe, and at that point any occupation is illegal and we’d have to vacate the building,” he said. “Then they lose everything.”
He’s urging landlords to just let him inspect instead. The inspections cost $50.
“Is that [order to vacate] worth $50? That’s what they’re weighing, I guess,” he said.
Landlord Mohammed Hafez was stunned to hear that Shilling was willing to go to such lengths.
“I don’t know why they’re going through all this,” he said. “Why can’t they just take care of the outside?”
He said the inspections were intended simply to collect money for the cash-strapped city. He decried it as harassment.
“We don’t pose any serious or immediate threat to the tenants,” he said. “Because if we do, they would call the city. They would call and complain.”
Building inspectors disagreed, citing the number of fires in the city. They said inspections could ensure that wiring systems were safe and that the buildings were structurally sound.
They said that was particularly important with Schenectady’s old housing stock.
Shilling emphasized that landlords who agree will not be penalized for ignoring the inspection law until now.
“We gave everybody the opportunity, at no penalty, to go ahead and do this,” he said.
Landlords will only be ticketed if they do not schedule an inspection within 30 days of receiving their letter.
Inspectors started the enforcement effort by researching owners of property on Union Street; next month, another 200 owners will be notified by letter that they must get their properties inspected.