Rental inspection program considered

Staff writer

City commissioners want to set up a rental house inspection program after a recent assessment found nearly one in eight Marion homes are deteriorated or dilapidated.

A rental inspection program is one of the recommendations of the Housing Assessment Team. They, under the guidance of economic development director Randy Collett, met six times and made streetside evaluations of all 846 occupied houses, concluding 85 are deteriorated but could be repaired for reasonable cost, and 15 are dilapidated and could not be repaired for reasonable cost.

“The community needs to bring the bottom up so we don’t have these 15 homes,” Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said Monday.

Councilwoman Melissa Mermis, a nurse, opened the conversation by telling commissioners she has witnessed the impacts of substandard living conditions and the resulting lifestyle impacts these conditions have on families and children.

Mermis said she has looked at the ways similar programs are set up in other communities. Several towns have rental inspection programs designed to ensure rental properties are properly maintained in safe condition. Rental inspections assess such things as adequate plumbing, proper installation and venting of hot water tanks, building security proper ventilation of the home, doors that shut properly and lock, and roofs do not leak.

Mermis said she would want any rental inspection program in Marion to have fees associated with it.

City administrator Roger Holter presented information about rental inspection programs in other Kansas towns and said he’d like to develop a plan that includes information and education for landlords and homeowners.

“We can help our citizens and we can help our landlords if we did it with a reasonable number of items inspected,” Holter said.

Details of the plan are still to be worked out. Heitschmidt asked Holter to bring a full proposal to the next city council meeting and said he wants to include city attorney Susan Robson in the discussion. Robson was not present for Monday’s meeting.

Donna Fink and her husband, Delmer, own rental houses but are reducing the number of units they own. They have owned about 30 houses, she said.

“It seems like the city of Marion is out to get everyone for everything. We’re trying to provide housing for everybody at every income. It’s just getting so frustrating to try to accomplish something,” she said. “It’s getting to be a real headache.”

She said they’ve had great renters and renters who simply tear the place up. That makes it hard to want to continue, she said.

“I’m selling a bunch of mine,” Delmer Fink said. “We just can’t handle it anymore.”

Donna Fink said the couple has rental houses at both ends of the rent spectrum.

“He always said not everybody can afford to live in a $500 home,” she said.

Last modified July 21, 2016