Town considering rental rules program

FRONT ROYAL – Town planners want to hear from the public and an attorney before moving forward with a property maintenance program.

The Planning Commission also needs to know how much an initiative would cost taxpayers. The commission met Wednesday to continue its evaluation of property maintenance and rental inspection codes. Town Council recently referred the matter to the commission for its review.

The commission discussed what the town can and cannot do and weighed the cost and benefits of such programs, Camp said. Warren County Building Official David Beahm has participated in the discussions, Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said Friday.

The commission discussed what the town can and cannot do and weighed the cost and benefits of such programs, said Camp. Warren County Building Official David Beahm has participated in the discussions, Camp noted.

“I’m not expecting to do a full ordinance because right now we’re just trying to evaluate the feasibility, the cost-benefit analysis of doing a program and then giving council a recommendation on the way we should do it,” Camp said. “Once you do all that, writing the ordinance is the easy part.”

Residents have over the years and as recently as this month complained that some rental units are in deplorable condition and yet the town lacks the power to require owners and landlords to maintain the properties. The town receives complaints from residents about rental properties, mostly multi-family buildings, and improper maintenance, Camp said.

“A property maintenance program would allow an inspector to go in and look at apartment units to make sure that they’re livable and require basic maintenance,” Camp said. “So, you know, it’s definitely a step up from right now. We have the minimal codes to protect the public.”

The 2010 U.S. Census data shows that rentals made up approximately 41 percent of the town’s housing stock. The town does not have rental inspection or property maintenance programs. The town can enforce its nuisance ordinance to try and force property owners to fix dilapidated structures or to cut high grass. However, the town faces a high threshold before it can deem a property a nuisance.

The commission is looking mostly at rental inspections and derelict structures, identified as the two greatest needs in town, Camp said. Officials are looking at how the town can improve the standards of some of the rental units for the public safety of the occupants.

The town could either add the program to its services or work with the county building inspections department, Camp said. Either option would require additional employees, he added.

“We’re trying to set the program up so it’s more manageable so it requires less staff, sort of starting in a more defined area,” Camp said. “We want to make sure I guess all that’s legally in line with the state code.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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