City of Worthington puts rental inspection program on hold

WORTHINGTON – A program that has struggled to achieve its purpose since 2006 has been put on hiatus for six months to a year while the City of Worthington waits out the COVID pandemic and restructures an ordinance with virtually no enforceability.

The Worthington City Council on Monday approved a request from staff to suspend enforcement of the current Rental House Registration and Inspection Program – an action that also laid off the inspector official.

The inspection program has been ineffective since its inception, failing to provide sufficient enforcement mechanisms and meet the timeline spelled out in the ordinance. The city’s document states each registered rental unit is to be inspected every two years to ensure compliance outlined in the ordinance.

Gaining entry to a unit can take months and requires significant legal costs. Many units that have failed inspection are never brought into compliance, since the ordinance fails to provide the penalties needed to force property owners to bring the units to the minimum of requirements.

Adding the pandemic to the mix has caused even more problems. At the onset, city staff made the decision to suspend routine inspections in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. When attempts to resume the schedule were made, many of the property owners refused inspection, citing public health concerns. Public health experts believe it my b many months before it is safe to resume inspections.

In a memo from city administration to the mayor and council, it states, “With the inability to conduct inspections presently, many months into the future and indefinitely, continuing the employment of the Code Enforcement Officer/Housing Inspector is not operationally justified nor cost effective for the City.”

Complaints regarding rental housing will still be addresses via law enforcement, the fire department or public health, and in the next six to 12 months, staff will take a hard look at how to fix the problems with the rental inspection program.

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