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Mandatory Inspection Overboard

By Datta Khalsa, Broker

Santa Cruz’s Mandatory Inspection Ordinance, which has been in place since 2011, states in its charter that it was passed with the intent to address “...substandard, overcrowded and/or unsanitary residential rental buildings and dwelling units, the physical conditions and characteristics of which violate state and local building, housing and sanitation codes and ordinances and render them unfit or unsafe for human occupancy and habitation.”

Of late however, it appears the city’s enforcement officers are taking the program further than its purpose as described anywhere in the original charter.

One of my colleagues recently told me of an incident where a City Inspector called out the existing water heaters and furnace during their inspection of a 100-year-old Victorian rental that the client owns, purely on the basis that the heating units looked newer than the home and a search didn’t show record of permits for their replacement. Although the inspector agreed that their installation was in full compliance with the building codes with no visible issues, he insisted that they needed to get permits retroactively issued.

It bears mentioning that the inspection process for the new permit for is no different than the inspection process for the Mandatory Inspection Ordinance, so there really isn’t any health and safety function being served here. And the clients aren’t being allowed to roll a retroactive permit for the furnace and water heater replacement into an application they already have underway for a conversion ADU, because the inspector doesn’t think the ADU permit is going to be issued in a timely fashion.

My colleague reached out on behalf of his client to the head of the Residential Rental Inspection Services (RRIS) program with an email plea that included the following:

“[My clients] were disappointed and confused by the rental inspection and required corrections as they went by the provided checklist and “what you need to know about rental inspections” for property owners provided by the City of Santa Cruz. I wanted to point out it clearly says only items on the RRIS checklist are inspected. I would also like to point out that nowhere on the checklist is there any mention that permits will be verified for any newer looking appliances, or any mention of checking permit history at all. I have attached the documents including the corrections notice to this email for reference.

In this case, there were no immediate safety concerns identified during the inspection that were listed on the notice of corrections required. Rather, it was only permit verification request based on the appearance of newer appliances.”

He sent this email to the director a month ago, and to date has not received a response.

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