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What you need to know about Citrus Heights’ new rental inspection program

By Alec Pronk–
In a 4-1 vote last month, the Citrus Heights City Council passed a new rental inspection program, which means more than 15,000 rental homes and apartments in the city will soon be seeing some changes. Here’s 12 things tenants and landlords should know about the new Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP):

How much will it cost?
The City estimates the program’s full implementation will cost $505,450 annually, however, this will not impact Citrus Height’s General Fund. Instead, the program will increase its existing $12-per-unit rental housing stock fee and all rental property owners will pay an annual RHIP registration fee per property. Annual registration fees will range from $65-140 and the housing stock fee will increase $5-$15 per unit.

What items will be inspected?
A complete list of items to be inspected has not been released, but police said during an Oct. 25 City Council meeting that interior inspections will be extensive and will include inspection of hot and cold running water, electrical, power, heat, sewage disposal systems, entry doors, vector infestation and rodent harborage, mechanical issues, carbon monoxide detectors, air conditioning units, thermostats, smoke detectors, venting systems and appliances, to ensure they’re functioning properly.

Inspectors will also look to ensure no spliced or exposed wiring is present. All outlets and switches will be checked. Electrical panels must be labeled. GFCI outlets must function and be installed in bathrooms, kitchens, the exterior and garages. Sink plumbing will also be inspected and water heaters will be checked to ensure they are operational and properly installed in approved locations with seismic strapping. Additionally, walls, ceilings, counters, sinks, windows, flooring, foundation and subflooring will also be inspected.

On the exterior, inspectors will look for storage of junk and rubbage, overgrown vegetation, dumpsters and trash cans, inoperable unregistered vehicles, foundation vent screens, crawlspace covers, deteriorating roofs, siding, and stairways — including landing, treads, risers, balusters and railings. Inspections will also be made of exterior lighting and walkways, and utility meters and fire extinguishers will be checked on multifamily units.

What happens if violations are found?
If violations are found, corrective action will be required within 24 hours to 120 days, depending on severity. If violations are not been corrected, a re-inspection fee of $470 per unit will be levied upon re-inspection.

When will inspections begin?
Following a procedural second reading of the ordinance at the Nov. 8 City Council meeting, the ordinance is planned to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. In January, community outreach will be conducted and rental property owners will be notified of the changes. Inspections are slated to begin July 1, 2019.

How will property owners be informed?
Inspection staff will send out a notice to the owner and tenants 30 days prior to a scheduled inspection date. Tenants can then refuse the inspection, but owners cannot refuse an inspection if the tenant wants an inspection. Inspections will be allowed to be rescheduled once, at no cost, but subsequent re-scheduling fees of $100 per unit will be charged.

How much will property owners have to pay?
The annual registration fee is a tiered structure with three groups: properties with one rental housing unit, those with 2 to 4 units, and those with 5 or more units. Owners of single-family rentals will be charged a $65 fee, 2 to 4 unit properties will be charged $105 per property and properties with more than five units are charged $140.

The rental housing stock fee increase also breaks down into three groups: 1 to 4 rental housing units, 5 to 99 units, and 100 or more units. Beyond the existing $12 fee, properties with 1-4 units will be charged $15 more per unit, 5 to 99 unit properties will pay $8 more per unit, and properties with 100 units or over will pay $5 more per unit.

How often will properties be inspected?
All Citrus Heights rental properties will be inspected in a three-year inspection cycle. At least one interior inspection will be conducted on all units in a property with 15 units or less. Properties with 16 units or more will face inspections for a minimum of 5% of units at least once in the three-year cycle. The exterior of every property will also be inspected once every three years.

Which properties will be inspected first?
The Chief of Police will determine problem areas that will receive priority when inspections begin.

Can landlords opt out?
Rental property owners cannot opt out, but they can enter a “self-certification” program. However, the rental housing inspection unit will still inspect 10% of housing units in the self-certification program every three-year cycle.

Which properties are eligible for self-certification?
A property is eligible for self-certification if the property passes the initial inspection and if the property owner has had no prior code enforcement cases in Citrus Heights or any other jurisdiction. A property is eligible for self-certification regardless of the number of units on the property.

Are any properties exempt?
A rental property is exempt if another government agency routinely inspects the property or the rental was built in the last five years. According to the ordinance wording, a unit will be considered newly constructed “if the City determines that 50% or more of the unit has been constructed or replaced within a one-year period.”

What changes were made from the original proposal?
The original proposal called for a $95 registration fee for all rental properties, but the council amended the proposal to include a tiered fee system. The final proposal also removed wording that would have only charged a pro-rated fee for the first year. Additionally, the original proposal only allowed properties with 16 units or more to be eligible for self-certification, but the final wording allows all properties to be eligible. The changes were made after council staff met with the California Apartment Association and the Sacramento Realtors Association.

To read the full Rental Housing Inspection Program ordinance and staff report, click here.

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