With city inspections of rental properties looming next year, one property management firm has become proactive by forming its own rental inspection unit.

Victorville-based Bluestar Properties, which manages about 50 rental buildings with some 400 rental units in Hesperia, last fall got a jump on the upcoming city mandate when the company hired Tim Iddings to perform once-a-month inspections.

"We're being proactive with the cities," said Benton Lamson, co-owner of Bluestar. "We're the only one (property management company) doing this."

Like city building inspectors will do beginning next year, Iddings checks apartment complex exteriors for any number of violations including broken windows, faulty doors, inoperable vehicles, graffiti or dead grass.

"He'll walk around the full property every month," said Lamson.

And once a year, Iddings enters each property to install a battery in smoke detectors.

If a violation is found, the field inspector will prepare a "Tenant Notice Contract Violation" with item violations noted and further details added, if necessary. Under terms of Bluestar's rental agreements, a tenant will have 30 days to correct the problems upon which time a follow-up inspection will be made. Those who fail to live up to the terms of their agreements will receive a second notice followed by a three-day notice to vacate, if the second notice is not followed.

"They're on a pretty tight leash," Lamson said.

With about 1,600 unit inspections monthly throughout the Victor Valley, Iddings averages about 20 violation write-ups a month.

"The most typical one is a broken window," Iddings said.

But some violations have been more egregious. One tenant who Bluestar discovered was operating an unlicensed auto repair business in the back of his rental unit had dumped as much as 100 gallons of used motor oil in an open pit.

"Hazmat came and everything," Lamson said.

The average, more responsible tenant, however, may be skeptical of the inspections at first, but soon "these tenants are happy."

Not only do the inspections help keep the rental units in good condition for the tenant, but overall maintenance costs are kept in check. And that's not only good for Bluestar's business, but it keeps the property owners happy knowing their rental units are kept in good shape and rented by responsible tenants.

Additionally, Bluestar's proactive move will help rental property owners stay abreast of some maintenance issues and fees when Hesperia rental housing inspectors begin inspections next year.

In May, the Hesperia City Council approved the Rental Housing Certification ordinance. Under terms of the ordinance, owners of the city's estimated 7,500 rental units will be required to pay for inspections. In the event a re-inspection is required, the cost will be $85 for four or less units and $85 plus $5 per unit over four units. A late fee of $50 will be added for applications not received within 45 days of request or by Jan. 1, 2008.

Victorville and Apple Valley have enacted similar ordinances.

Cities are mandating inspections to reduce blight and improve public safety. While achieving that goal is appreciated mutually, the property management firm that collects more than $7 million annually in rents also has an additional, simple concern.

"We just want our properties to look the best in the valley," Lamson said. "We want people to say, 'Oooh, that's a Bluestar rental.'"