VICTORVILLE — A rental home inspection proposal drew criticism last week from an appointed city official who was one of two planning commissioners to recuse themselves from voting on the issue due to a conflict of interest.
Commissioner Larry Huber on Wednesday held back little in expressing his opposition to a plan that would enact a $25 annual fee on single-family rental property owners while subjecting their properties to yearly inspections.
“I’m just an individual disgusted of government dictating what I have to do,” Huber said.
As luck would have it, he addressed his fellow commissioners from the audience after Commissioner Rob Kurth literally drew the short straw once it was deemed Kurth, Huber and Commissioner Bob Wilson owned rental properties and thus would be affected by the proposed ordinance, creating a conflict of interest.
But since the five-member commission needed a quorum of three in order to vote on the proposal, Kurth’s short-straw pull allowed him to stay and vote while Huber and Wilson were forced to the sidelines.
“I realize you guys are in the position you’re in because of the City Council,” Huber told the dais. “I’m not pointing fingers at you guys, but it’s frustrating. Next, it’ll be commercial property (that is inspected). I’m just against all that.”
Yet, senior city staff believe the plan fits the goals set forth in the City Council’s three-year plan — a response mirroring the stated reasons for why they’ve pushed so hard for a controversial increase in new single-family residential lot size minimums.
“Victorville is experiencing an increasing amount of decaying neighborhoods and property maintenance issues,” a city staff report reads, with those ills largely attributed to “rental properties with property owners who do not live in or near the High Desert region and who have demonstrated a lack of interest and concern in maintaining the appearance of their properties.”
Officials call the proposed $25 fee meager when compared to higher fees in other cities which have enacted similar programs.
The fee, they say, also will help pay for administrative costs associated with processing business licenses already required to rent property. Currently, rental property owners are charged just a one-time fee of $25. The proposal is also a step toward more proactive code enforcement, they argue.
Matthew Buck, government affairs director for the California Apartment Association’s division of the Inland Empire, asked the panel to consider three key pieces before they sent the proposal to the council.
Buck called upon the commission to amend the inspection program with an education component to alert property owners when it was coming. He also requested that property owners who were found to be in good standing after the first inspection be allowed to self-certify from there on out.
Finally, he asked that a crime-free lease addendum allow landlords to make renters sign agreements holding renters accountable should they commit a crime or let one happen on the property.
The proposal was ultimately passed with the provisions that the commission can review it again in a year and that a self-inspection element can be considered following the second round of yearly inspections.
Senior city staff also said they would mull exemptions for HOA residents and be open to technology that could allow water-meter readers to snap photographs of rentals and upload them to some kind of database for compliance review.
While that technology appears to be a ways away for the city, the use of part-time consultants for inspections in lieu of code enforcement officers was something both Kurth and Commission Chair Paula Porter seemed to advocate.
Shea Johnson may be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.