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City of Modesto Pushes to Make Rental Properties Safer

MODESTO -- With a desire to meet the state’s continually evolving standards on property management, Modesto is planning to take a "proactive approach" to inspecting rental properties.

"We respond in these times to complaints that come forward about conditions in rental housing units," said Thomas Reeves, community and media relations officer for the City of Modesto. "It’s not necessarily the best course of action going forward. We want to have these standards in place where we can make inspections more readily and not have to rely on complaints that come in."

The city is in the beginning stages of proposing an ordinance for inspecting rental properties, with discussions of possible city mandated inspections every three years and the ability for property owners to self-certify their property.

"We want to make sure that we are all on the same page in terms of what those state standards are so that we’re not falling through the cracks, they’re not falling through the cracks, the residents aren’t falling through the cracks," Reeves said.

The call to action was accelerated by learning about the unlivable conditions many tenants experienced at an apartment complex that used to rest on 9th Street last year. The complex was destroyed in a fire in October, weeks after the city had condemned it.

Hilary Leffler of Liberty Property Management said the potential inspection ordinance could be great for tenants that live in places where the owners don’t take care of the property. But she said the cost the property owner could have to pay the city for those inspections could hurt the rental market.

"So are they going to step in and tell the tenant, 'Don’t pay rent until these items are fixed?' It’s going to make it less profitable for an owner to want to have a rental property here," Leffler said. "The market is tough as it is for renters. It’s not easy to find a rental property currently. The prices are way high and it’s just another cost that an owner is going to pass on to a tenant."

The city said they will make every effort to keep the price down but said this is necessary because people are living in places without basic necessities, like water, heat and working smoke and fire alarms.

"This is one way we can ensure the quality of life in Modesto is up to standard, regardless of the unit you live in," Leffler said.

The city plans to have their safety and communities committee meet soon to discuss details of the potential ordinance. Cities like Stockton and Merced have implemented or are in the process of putting rent inspection ordinances in place.