City to make sure rental units up to code

Julie M. Frank

Julie M. Frank

The City of Brookings approved $60,000 for an increase in rental housing inspections in October.

The money has been worked into the city’s 2008 budget. According to city council members Tim Reed and Ryan Brunner, the money will be spent on inspectors to evaluate rental units. A Code Enforcement Officer for housing in general will be in charge of the inspecting and enforcing of fire and safety codes.

The rental units that will be inspected are still undetermined.

It is the city’s responsibility to make sure rental units are safe and to be a voice for those renters who are uncomfortable coming forward with complaints, Reed said. Still, renters are encouraged to report complaints either through campus or the city.

The housing inspections will also help the lack of rental licenses, according to Reed. The increase of SDSU students has created an increase in rental units and not all landlords have obtained licenses.

Reed, along with the rest of the council, has been working with the Students’ Association (SA) on the issue.

“Our focus is to make sure the quality of housing is livable and safe,” said Alex Brown, SA president. “Everyone has a right to live in a nice house.”

Currently, 14 percent of housing has been inspected in Brookings, according to Brown. The city has a goal of 15 percent and even though it’s only a one percent increase, Brown said it is a step in the right direction. A rental unit should be inspected every three years.

Both Reed and Brown say if students are given a nice place to live they will have the incentive to keep it that way.

Students have mixed fillings about whether the money is a good investment for the city or not.

“It’s a good thing,” said history major Courtney Boom, about the inspections. Although she is only a freshman, Boom looks forward to renting. “You want to know your house is safe and approved (passes inspections).”

Freshman HaiLee Thomas, a pre-nursing major, agrees.

“They (students) deserve it. They bring a lot of income to the city,” she said.

However, junior Derek Koupal, a manufacturing engineer major and a renter, said the $60,000 is a “waste.”

“College kids don’t need that nice of a place to live,” he said.

Martha Koenig agreed saying the money should be used to investigate filed complaints instead of inspecting all rental units because all landlords are slumlords.

Try telling that to renters like Lindsey Kozel and Steve Iverson.

A senior health promotions major, Kozel, along with four roommates had mushrooms accompanied by mold living in their basement. In addition, their furnace broke and gas leaked leaving a harmful smell in the house and a smoke detector does not work. Kozel said their landlord doesn’t want to fix anything, and a compliant has been filed.

Kozel said their landlord owns a lot of property in Brookings and cannot keep up. They will be looking for a new place whose landlord has good references, and discourage people from renting from their current landlord.

Similar to Kozel, Iverson, a junior sociology major, said a previous landlord was “hard to deal with.” Iverson rented a house with five others and had a problem with the water system, which the landlord knew about. When the washing machine was in use, the water would back up in basement. An inspection was conducted while Iverson lived at that house that found it not up to code. The windows were too small to crawl out of, in case of a fire, and the electrical wiring in part of the house was not right.

Both Kozel and Iverson agree the $60,000 is a good investment.