New ordinance will penalize Fresno landlords with unsafe homes for renters

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When Fresno code enforcement officers get a call for trouble at a rental home, they know the chances are the property is owned by one of just a handful of landlords.

"We have spent the majority of the code enforcement time we have for 60 officers on a few property owners that have failed to proactively inspect and modify and fix their properties to safety coding standards," said city councilmember Miguel Arias.

Right now, a leaky roof or backed up sewage could lead to a $250 fine for a property owner who doesn't fix the problem in time.

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But city council members say they noticed the small punishment doesn't seem to motivate some of the biggest property owners.

"A $250 citation for an individual who owns thousands of properties is cheaper than it is to hire their own inspectors," Arias said.

Arias said those owners essentially waited for city inspectors to notice problems and because of frequent violations, the inspections and re-inspections ate up a lot of work time for code enforcement.

Now, a new ordinance would drastically increase the penalties for landlords with 10 or more citations in a year to $1,000 right away and as high as $10,000 if the problems keep occurring.

The council acknowledged it might drive up rental costs in some homes, but say the safety improvements are worth it. They say it shouldn't change anything for small business owners.

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"If you're a small landlord and you have one or two rental properties you're not going to be in this definition," Arias said. "This is designed for people who have hundreds or thousands of properties and have the means to hire their own inspectors."

The ordinance passed unanimously last week and the city council will give it a second look Thursday.

If it passes, it takes effect on October 26.
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