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Rental inspection ordinance is modified

February 26, 2002|By STACEY DANZUSO

Chambersburg Borough Council will decide tonight if it will give borough landlords one more chance to comment on a revised rental property inspection ordinance before it votes on it next month.

Council members have been tweaking the systematic inspection ordinance for months and looked at several changes last week.

Tonight they plan to announce a plan to adopt the ordinance at a March 12 meeting and will decide whether to hold another public hearing, according to borough officials. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall.

At the last public hearing in December, dozens of property owners turned out to oppose the proposed ordinance.

Since then, the borough staff and council have responded by lowering the annual fee for inspection and allowing landlords to hire independent inspectors instead of paying the borough.

The latest revisions include:

- Charging an annual fee of $10 per rental unit for dwellings inspected by the borough once every three years.

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- Charging a $35 fee for each subsequent re-inspection if there are violations of the borough housing code.

- Allowing rental property owners to employ an independent contractor from a list of inspectors the borough finds properly certified in lieu of paying the borough to perform the inspection.

- Inspecting only hotels or motels advertising a special weekly or monthly rate. The ordinance does not require inspection of hotels or motels primarily providing overnight lodging.

- Issuing a Certificate of Compliance rather than a Certificate of Inspection to represent compliance with the inspection requirements of the ordinance. The certificate does not denote compliance with any other codes or standard of safety.

- Charging a nominal fee to cover the costs associated with issuing a Certificate of Compliance.

The fee for the Certificate of Compliance was added during discussions last week after council members questioned how the borough would cover its costs if the landlord uses an outside inspector.

"If they use an independent firm, how does the borough collect its fee for the permit? There is still paperwork," Councilman Scott Thomas said.

That fee has not been set, Assistant Borough Manager David Finch said Monday.

The program was originally designed to be self-sufficient, covering the costs of two borough code inspectors with the fees it charged for annual rentals. But by opening it up to independent contractors and lowering the annual fee, the borough is uncertain if it will recoup the $70,000 program cost or if it will have to pull money from the general fund to support it.

"It's too early to tell. We won't know how many places will need to be re-inspected," Finch said.

Other details came up during the last discussion, but Council President Bill McLaughlin recommended the council move forward and adopt the ordinance.

"We can talk about this forever and will never have an answer to all questions that come up," McLaughlin said. "I say we adopt it and deal with matters that arise as policy issues."

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