By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — The council took a stand Monday against a Michigan Senate proposal that could potentially limit “the maintenance and development of stable and vibrant neighborhoods.”
The proposed legislation would limit rental inspection fees to $40, and set a mandatory six years between inspections. The current rates for an inspection in Wyandotte are $180 for a single-family house and $270 for a multi-family house. Due to the building ordinances in place, inspections are required every five years.
In a letter to the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, the council said its previous ordinances have set timeframes of three, five and 10 years, but five years was the best fit for the city.
Councilors oppose a standardized timeframe because a set period may be too long for a community with a large turnover of rental properties, like communities with a college campus, or too frequent for an area with long-term renters.
The city’s $180 fee is set at the cost to provide the service to its residents, City Engineer Mark Kowalewski said, and the city would have to use $140 from its general fund for each property inspected. The estimated costs to the city would be $29,000 yearly, he said, and if general fund money was not used to support the program, the city would have to discontinue the program.
“I have worked as the city engineer for Wyandotte since 1987, and have seen the adoption of a rental ordinance in Wyandotte,” Kowalewski said. “It has improved the quality of life for all residents and created a vibrant community by providing safe, affordable housing.
“Based on my experience since the adoption of Wyandotte’s Rental Inspection Program, I cannot recommend Senate Bill 313 for this community or city council.”
None of the councilors agreed with the stipulations in the proposal and said they “strongly disagree” with the idea that the $40 fee would cover the actual cost of providing an inspection to the residents.
The city uses three inspectors — an electrical inspector, plumbing/ventilation/fire inspector, and building inspector — who are paid $108 as a team to conduct an initial inspection and a subsequent inspection to ensure the proper repairs were made before the house can be rented again. The remaining $72 is used to manage the program.
The council finds the proposed maximum $40 fee to be “ridiculous” because the expenses for the inspectors and maintaining the program separately are “significantly higher” than the allowed income.
The proposal also would require the city to get permission to conduct an inspection from the individuals leasing the properties and not the owner, which the council agreed would make the process harder to complete.
Obtaining consent from the renter could require the completion of additional steps and incur additional administrative costs to complete, the council agreed, because any city could be forced to take legal action to vacate the rental unit until an inspection could be completed.
Mayor Joseph Peterson spoke out against the proposal and said he met with Sens. Coleman A. Young Jr. (D-Detroit) and Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) last week to discuss the legislation and the two supported the city’s opposition to these changes.
The way the ordinance is set up, Peterson said, is a tracking system for the city to ensure the rental properties are inspected in a timely manner. He said if the city has to stop inspections due to the lack of funding, there are going to be owners who do not keep up these properties because the inspections that ensured the properties are properly maintained are gone.
“If you are pleased with the way things are moving around here,” Councilman Larry Stec said echoing Peterson’s opposition to the proposal, “then I would suggest you contact your state senator and voice your concerns as well because this proposal is not in the best interest of any city.”
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])