The plan passed on a 4-3 vote, with Council members Steve Brandau, Garry Bredefeld and Clint Olivier voting against and Esmeralda Soria, Oliver Baines, Paul Caprioglio and Luis Chavez in favor.
The act also received public support from a coalition of groups that included the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, Faith in Community, the California Apartment Association, Fresno Building Healthy Communities, No More Slumlords as well as local housing and faith leaders.
“The final product represents a sensible, reasonable, workable plan that will reward the good property owners and quickly identify the bad ones,” said Mayor Brand in a statement. “It’s a result of a very productive process that included important input from housing advocates, property owners, and civic leaders as well as my 38 years of experience in property management.”
The act also creates a new Code Enforcement Division with a sole focus on addressing the issue of substandard housing.
There will be no fee for registration under the act, though residential rental properties will be subject to baseline inspections according to a random sampling formula based on the number of units in the complex.
According to an example from the mayor’s office, a 51-plus unit apartment complex would have 10 percent, or five units selected for inspections, the cost of which will not exceed $100 per unit inspection.
All properties that successfully pass the initial inspections will be classified as “Tier 1 Properties,” and are eligible for a self-certification program and will not be subject to a random audit for the first five years in the absence of significant health and safety violations.
Properties that fail the initial baseline inspection or subsequent inspections will be classified in either “Tier 2” or “Tier 3.” Tier 2 properties will be inspected every two years with every unit being inspected. Tier 3 properties that have more serious health and safety code violations will be inspected every year with every unit inspected.
In addition, a tenant education plan will be developed and implemented partnering with government agencies, non-profit organizations and the California Apartment Association.
In a Facebook video posted before the vote, Council member Brandau said Mayor Brand’s plan does not address the problems created by tenants who trash rental properties, requiring landlords to pay for fixes without reimbursement.
Brandau believes the Rental Housing Improvement Act could have the unintended consequence of forcing landlords to raise rents to cover expenses from so-called slum tenants, perhaps pricing some people out of rental units all together.
“We do have some slumlords, but we have a lot of slum tenants,” he said.
Related story: Mayor Brand seeks buy-in on rental housing inspections