Letters: In response to the housing inspection mandate lawsuit in Kent

Oct. 21, 2021

I view inspection of rental properties as a good thing. I would hope they become yearly, and perhaps more stringent, more demanding in respect to upkeep.

Rental properties (most) should be seen for what they are: a source of investment rather than an opportunity for ownership. They are beneficial to a community, but only to a certain extent. Rental owners are looking to profit, not to be part of the community per se. And many property owners are not local, some even owned by investment groups, foreign or otherwise. Those owners have no cares other than keeping costs down, profits up; community impact is of no concern, and they likely put the onus of “ownership” upon the lessee.

Aside from taxing non-locally owned rental properties at a different (higher) rate, which the city should do (what, they’ll all just decide to sell instead? One should hope so!), rental properties ought be held to higher standards than privately owned housing because the lessees usually have limited power in respect to modifications and repairs, but I begin to digress into the vast issues with rental properties in general. Suffice it to say that I view claims of a rental property inspection as an invasion of privacy as little more than an attempt by landlords to avoid having to keep their properties up to code, much less having to actually spend money on upkeep. One can only hope the judge who hears this suit will toss it back into those property owners’ faces and have some not too kind words for them all.

I too have rented most of my adult life, and I cannot say that I have ever seen or signed a lease that does not allow the property owner or manager “right” to enter and/or inspect my premises with due notice. I’d wager too that none of these property owners use leases that do not stipulate the owner’s right to do so and, more to the point, intend to give up such right. One might question why a property owner would never consider inspecting or at least visiting an owned property: no interest in seeing how that property is holding up and being treated? To me, that would be a sign of an owner whose only interest is in making a profit, not maintaining a property, not adhering to code, not caring if the tenants were making meth in the basement. Just pay the rent on time, don’t complain, and all is well. Good business!

To me, that is a person who has absolutely no business owning and leasing properties. Sadly, there are more than a few such property owners. Consequently, I am a happy advocate of anything that keeps owners as well as tenants in check.

Now, who do I call to suggest that all those non-local property owners are taxed at a much higher rate? It would be a positive step!

Don Mutchler, Kent

Oct. 19, 2021

I have lived in rental properties (mostly in Kent) for all of my adult life. As a tenants’ rights activist in the ’70s, I advocated for a bill that would achieve a goal of fair and safe housing, and that included health and safety inspections. Tenants were routinely subjected to deteriorating and unsafe structures, mold and various vermin invading their homes with no legal recourse but to sue and lose in a landlord friendly court.

A tenant and landlord bill was passed in Kent and thanks to the hard work of the Kent Health Department inspections led to landlords being compelled to follow common safety rules, like providing drinkable water, heat and a secure shelter. Without inspection landlords will surely revert back. We need inspections to ensure Kent has decent housing for its citizens. This is an attempt to revert to the bad old days where landlords made huge profits through neglecting their properties. Kent housing was terrible. Keep it in the past.

In addition, I have had my apartment inspected every year for over 30 years. The landlord will inspect the apartment and make needed repairs to ensure safety and health standards. I am grateful for the city working for the benefit of both tenants and landlords. Not only do tenants get better housing, housing lasts longer and brings in more revenue when inspections are done. Those of us who have lived here for a long time remember the days when mysterious fires would destroy dilapidated housing that landlords could not rent due to lack of care.

Michael G. Pacifico, Kent

Oct. 19, 2021

Let’s talk about why health department inspections of rental units are necessary.

When I first moved into this place, it was in violation of numerous health codes: it had bare, exposed lightbulbs in several overhead fixtures. It had no working smoke/CO2 alarms. It had no fire extinguishers. It had no screens in the windows. It had no railings on certain stairwells. It had no covered outdoor trash receptacle. In short, it was a major safety hazard. But it wasn’t subject to regular yearly inspections, this being a duplex. So the landlord wasn’t required to maintain the premises up to code.

I installed smoke alarms. I bought a covered outdoor trash receptacle. I had screen and storm windows built for my windows. I bought a covering for the bare exposed kitchen light fixture. I did what I could to bring this place closer to code compliance on my own. My new landlord has corrected the code deficiencies that I couldn’t, we have been inspected and passed the city code compliance. It feels like a far safer place to live now that the new landlord has educated himself on city health codes and followed them to upgrade the house to be a safer and healthier place to live.

And now a group of angry landlords and tenants want to kill all required inspections on the grounds of “privacy.” Never mind that it would, if successful, subject tenants to living in potentially unsafe housing, and in turn, rundown properties would lower property values for everyone. I rather doubt that this will be at all successful, given that nobody wants the blight of rundown, unsafe rental housing in their neighborhoods. Tenants won’t rent unsafe, non-compliant units that have numerous hazards in them. It’s a lose-lose proposition for everyone to propose a complete cessation or health code inspections.

I favor the continuation and strengthening of health and safety codes for rental housing, given that fully 60% of all housing here in Kent is rentals. Everyone wins when properties are well maintained and kept up to full code compliance. Tenants win. Property owners win.

Neighborhoods win. Housing values win. The city wins. Everyone wins. Which is why this lawsuit stands about a zero percent chance of winning: their “privacy” argument skates on incredibly thin ice. Ohio tenant-landlord laws set clear rules for who can enter your apartment, when, how much notice must be given in advance and more. Landlords who violate those rules can be subject to being held accountable. Including giving notice to tenants on yearly health inspections.

Every Ohio tenant, whether you rent a home or an apartment: It’s incumbent on you to know your tenant rights under Ohio state law. And you DO have rights: to safe, code-compliant housing, to privacy and more. You have a right to request from your landlord a health code inspection to ensure that your premises are safe, healthy and code compliant, and to swift repairs and remediation of code deficiencies if found. Learn more here of what your rights are under state law: https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/chapter-5321

Sally Burnell, Kent

Oct. 18, 2021

I do see some of their side, but as a longtime resident of Kent watching more and more houses in single-family areas being used as rentals, there is a problem.

On my street we have had several cases of college students (parents buying a house rather than renting) moving into a house and at first it seems OK.

Then in a short while there are many cars and lots of foot traffic. I’ve seen five to seven cars parked in the house’s driveway and on the street for months at a time. Large gatherings late into the night with trash strewn on the street and devil strip. I know from friends this has happened on their street also.

Tom Becker, Kent

Oct. 18, 2021

I live in an apartment complex, and because I am low income I get help from different agencies. My apartment has been inspected four times this year. Welcome to my world.

There is no such thing as privacy anymore unless you are rich. Might as well shut up and accept the way it is. What I can’t understand is why these people need to inspect my apartment so many times a year. They all interact and share information. You would think they had better things to do.

I used to clean and straighten my place, now I don’t even bother making the bed. I didn’t even stay home for the last one since they have a key. These people are complaining about one inspection?

I say let it go. There are more important things to worry about.

Brenda Thacker, Kent

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