It’s back to the drawing board for a plan to amend an ordinance that would change how the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) handles pre-occupancy inspections for landlords looking to rent vacant apartment units.
Over the past six months, Councilor-At-Large Michael Marchese has been pushing forward a plan that would give landlords more leeway to prevent apartment inspections without first notifying the landlord.
The proposed change has raised the ire of James Soper, the City’s Inspectional Services Director, as well as public safety personnel. The major issue has been the wording in the ordinance which requires the City to notify landlords before conducting an inspection.
In effect, Soper and Fire Chief Tony Carli said this would prevent tenants from requesting an inspection if an inspection is taking place in another unit and would limit inspections of units where inspectors believe there may be an emergency situation, such as a fire or gas leak.
“I’m asking you not to change the ordinance,” said Carli at Monday night’s City Council meeting. “It is one of the biggest tools we have to fight problems in homes.”
Marchese countered that his proposal has nothing to do with safety. He said inspectional services is required to do an inspection before occupancy of a vacant unit and any common areas in a building.
“They are supposed to do an inspection so it is safe for new tenants, so I am not sure what the issue is,” he said.
What the ordinance does do is prevent inspectors from entering other parts of a building, or other units, without first contacting the landlord.
“We have no intention of running amok,” said Soper.
But, he added inspectors should have the right to inspect an area if they believe there is an illegal unit or if they are asked to inspect a unit by another tenant.
“The change (the councilor) does not seem to be getting is the wording in Section D, which limits inspectors to go into another apartment if asked,” Soper said.
He said Marchese’s changes would also violate state law.
Ward 1 Councilor Fred Capone presented an amendment to Marchese’s proposed changes that he said would be fairer to tenants and still help protect the rights of landlords. That amendment will be taken up in committee before coming back to the Council for a vote.
“The intent is to stop tenants from piggybacking on apartment inspections,” Capone said. Unless it was an emergency situation, Capone said tenants would have to contact Inspectional Services for a separate visit.
Soper said he would be happy to give more input into Capone’s amendment in committee.
“I feel bad that the councilor (Marchese) spent six months on this, when it should have been stopped from day one,” said Ward 5 Councilor Rosa DiFlorio. “I want to make sure we do not put language on the books that is not enforceable.”
•In other business, the Council voted to postpone a request from the mayor to transfer funds between several City department salary accounts.
The Council did accept a $1,000 donation from Schnitzer Steel Industries for the city’s toy drive, and a donation of $600 from the Carmen A. Schiavo Association for the city’s Department of Veteran Services.
•In the plastic bag realm, the Council had a first hearing of an effort to ban thin plastic bags, a ban similar to the one in Boston that goes into effect this Friday, Dec. 14.
The Everett ordinance would now go to committee for further discussion. One aspect, however, that was stressed by councilors is that any retailer who has a surplus of plastic bags would have one year after the enacted ban to use them up without getting fined. A similar ban in Chelsea was pushed back last year by many retailers who said it would levy more costs upon them.