The April 21 Dallas Morning News' article "First Richardson mayor’s election in nearly 60 years features two familiar faces" mentions the city's rental registration program.
Both mayoral candidates now see the need to review it (while the city officials did not mention the fact that the occupants refused inspections.)
Both Omar and Maczka say the city needs to review its rental registration program, which requires that rental homes be registered with the city and inspected by city workers.
Some landlords and tenants say the program is too intrusive. City officials say they’ve taken two landlords to court because their homes weren’t made available for inspection, but that the vast majority of property owners have complied with the inspections.
“There certainly have been unintended consequences, like landlords going to court,” Maczka said. “The goal is not to take landlords to court. The goal is to make sure these homes are safe.”
Omar said: “We’ve gotten maybe a little bit aggressive on the inspection. Any reasonable resident would agree that we shouldn’t be forcing inspections.”
Tenants moved into the house that got an inspection score of 99.25 with no interior violations. They sent the landlord a list of things to be corrected before they physically moved in--a lot more things than the city inspector noted. For example, they didn't like one of the ceiling fans wobbling. So the landlord had to make several repairs and adjustments.
Any professional or sensible landlord uses a walk-through sheet for move-in. This is mainly to avoid a dispute over the deduction from the security deposit at the time of move-out, but we make repairs, where necessary, according to the sheet. Our goal is to keep tenants happy so they'll stay as long as possible.
Below is an example of a walk-through sheet. (This particular form is for TAA members.) Some tenants even write on the back of the sheet--2-3 pages full of things they think are wrong! They are a lot more thorough than city inspectors. So what is the point of the city duplicating the already-established procedure with taxpayers' money?
Ordinance 3847 says "Any rental unit that has a habitability score of less than 85 must be re-inspected until the rental unit achieves a habitability score of 85 or greater."
So why are the landlords who got a score of 85 or higher subject to re-inspection and required to make repairs? That's not what the ordinance says.
What the city is doing is "Regardless of the score, any rental unit must be re-inspected until the rental unit achieves a habitability score of 100."
Another case of the city staff making up its own rules regardless of what the ordinance says.
This is an inspection report on the rental property one of the prosecuted landlords remodeled for a fellow landlord. The property got a score of 99.25. There was NO INTERIOR VIOLATION. However, the inspector found two exterior violations. One was an unpainted part of the wood to cover the former doggy door! (photo at bottom.) Does it affect tenants' safety and health???
The ordinance says if you get a score of 85 or higher, you'll pass. However, the city still makes you repair everything inspectors note. So essentially you have to get 100! The only difference is that the landlord doesn't have to pay a re-inspection fee as long as s/he scores 85.
That is just like Garland's original (pre-lawsuit) program. Richardson's program is more deceptive. It doesn't say upfront "you have to get 100."
The inspector also noted,
"Recommended Improvement: accumulation of dirt on the side walk"!!! (Seriously, I'm not making this up!)
During the April 1 Work Session, the rental registration program was brought up.
Mr. Johnson, City Manager, said "the situations that are now in front of us ... they weren't registered with our program."
One of the prosecuted and tried landlords registered his rental in 2009 in the year he bought it. He has renewed his registration every year since (while some other landlords didn't register their rentals until 2012). In fact, the city inspector thanked him by e-mail for renewing his registration in Oct 2012.
The landlord sent an e-mail to Mr. Johnson with the proof of his rental registration since 2009. He is demanding correction and apology in public.
Did Mr. Johnson deliberately lie or is he just grossly misinformed by his staff?
Also, during the work session, Mr. Dunn said, "Realtors are somewhat opposed to the program." Are they only somewhat opposed to it, given that the Metrotex Association of Realtors endorsed Mr. Amir for Mayor, who is opposed to the program?
Mr. Dunn seems to be raising the issue of COs (certificates of occupancy) before tenants move in. This is the path that Garland went down and got sued over landlords' right against warrantless searches, costing taxpayers $90K!
Here is the transcript of the trial at which a local landlord was convicted and fined $1500 on January 9, 2013.
See it for yourself how the judge acted to ensure conviction.
(Even before this part of the trial, the judge had excluded key parts of the ordinance.)
This landlord is appealing her case in county court.
All the attorneys we spoke with say that the way the city is implementing the ordinance is UNLAWFUL.
At the city work session of February 18, one of the options discussed was offering $10K to local corporate employees as an incentive to buy properties in "problem" areas.
I looked at one of the streets identified by the city as a "problem" area (25% or more rentals).
This particular street has 17 rentals out of 65 houses (rental ratio: 28%). One family (who used to live on the street) owns 8 rentals there. We happened to talk to this owner a couple of months ago. The owner said his rentals passed rental inspections and got high scores. So if getting rid of lower-end rentals is the city's goal, the Rental Registration/Inspection Program isn't working.
We don't think professionals will move onto this street. The biggest problem is the size of the houses. Most are 1200-1400 sf. (We don't buy these small houses even for rentals because they're hard to rent!)
And the interiors need lots of upgrades and updating. The location isn't attractive to these professionals, either.
The value of these houses is constrained by the size and will go up only so much. These streets were destined to be "rental streets" and will continue down that road. However, these houses will attract working-class buyers who want to put their kids into good schools, with some incentives.
There are other areas in the city that have these small houses, some with 1-car garages. As the housing stock ages further, the city needs to come up with a comprehensive scheme figuring what to do with these outdated small houses. Rental inspections won't solve this problem.
At the city work session of February 18, the city council discussed "neighborhood stabilization program alternatives." http://richardsontx.swagit.com/play/02182013-636
They talk about rentals like they're the source of every problem in the neighborhoods.
Let us make it clear: it's not that rentals are bringing "nice" neighborhoods down.
Once the neighborhood starts deteriorating or values go down enough for rentals to cash flow, rentals start popping up. If you don't want rentals in your neighborhood, act proactively to keep the values up.
1) Yes, Richardson is an aging city, but older neighborhoods don't necessarily mean deterioration.
In our neighborhood (houses built around 1960), younger couples are moving in and updating the houses where former residents lived for 30-40 years, doing very few upgrades. We also see quite a few teardowns and people are building new houses from the ground up. Housing values have gone up in our neighborhood.
One of the problems is so many small houses with one-car garages were built in many areas decades ago and values will go up only so much, based on the size of the lot and house.
2) The city knows the "problem" areas and should be concentrating its energy and resources there.
(In 2003, the rental registration/inspection program was conceived when some residents complained about on-street parking on Dearborn Dr.)
Instead, the city is inspecting tons of properties that are in prospering or good neighborhoods, while the ones that need the most attention, in easily identifiable blighted areas, don't get the attention they deserve.
3) About slapping "cheap paint and carpet" on rentals:
We use Glidden satin on all our rentals, the same grade many homeowners use.
It's the BUILDERS who use the cheapest contractor-grade flat paint for non-custom homes.
We've bought several brandnew homes and know this first hand. (Also, they put in the cheapest appliances that often break in a year or so.)
Today was a sad day...
Today two citizens of Richardson had their constitutional rights violated.
They refused a rental inspection of the house they're renting, but the city cited and coerced the landlord. The landlord in turn coerced her tenants to agree to an inspection, by trying to evict them and also having her attorney send them an intimidating letter.
The inspector got into every bedroom, including the daughter's, and looked in every kitchen and bathroom cabinet and behind every shower curtain.