On the Beat in Bluffton

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Inspecting the inspection

Bluffton Common Council members are on track to revise the city's rental housing ordinance. The revised ordinance — which was passed by the council on its first reading on Tuesday, Jan. 10 — makes changes throughout the existing ordinance, but the revisions most significantly changes inspection language.

15.05.020 Inspection

Inspection Officers shall be appointed by the Mayor and are authorized and directed to make inspections to determine the condition of dwellings, dwelling units, rooming units and premises located within the City of Bluffton in order that they may perform their duties of safeguarding the health and safety of the occupants of the dwelling and the general public. An inspection of a Rental Building or Rental Unit may occur only when an Inspection Officer has a reasonable suspicion that a violation of this chapter is occurring at such Rental building or Rental Unit.

Whenever in this chapter it is provided that anything must be done to the approval of or subject to the direction of an Inspection Officer, or any other officer of the City of Bluffton, such authority shall be construed to give such officer only the discretion of determining whether the regulations and standards of this chapter have been complied with, and no provision shall be construed as giving any officer discretionary powers as to what such regulations or standards shall be, power to require conditions not prescribed by this chapter, or power to enforce the provisions of this chapter in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

If an Inspection Officer has reasonable suspicion that a Rental Unit or Rental Building is in violation of this Ordinance, the Inspection Officer shall notify the owner and those in possession of the Rental Building or Rental Unit of its intention to inspect the premises and shall make arrangements for entry and said inspection.

In the event the owner or those in possession of the Rental Building or Rental Unit refuse an inspection, the Inspection Officer may obtain an inspection warrant from any court of record in Wells County, Indiana in order to determine whether a violation of this ordinance is occurring.
The Court shall issue an inspection warrant subject to the following conditions:
  • The Inspection Officer must establish that there is probable cause for believing that a violation of this Ordinance is occurring that legally justifies the inspection;
  • An Affidavit establishing that one of the conditions set forth in the preceding paragraph must be signed under oath or affirmation by the Inspection Officer;
  • The Court must examine the Inspection Officer under oath or affirmation to verify the accuracy of the affidavit.
An inspection warrant is valid only if it:
  • Is signed by the judge of the court and bears the date and hour of its issuance above that signature, with notation that the warrant is valid for only forty-eight (48) hours after its issuance;
  • Describes (either directly or by reference to the affidavit) the Rental Building or Rental Unit where the inspection is to occur so that the executor of the warrant and owner or the possessor of the Rental Building or Rental Unit can reasonably determine what property the warrant authorizes an inspection of;
  • indicates the conditions, objects, activities, or circumstances that the inspection is intended to check or reveal; and
  • is attached to the affidavit required to be made in order to obtain the warrant.
An inspection warrant issued under this section is valid for only forty-eight (48) hours after its issuance, must be personally served upon the owner or possessor of the Rental Building or Rental Unit and must be returned within seventy-two (72) hours.

An Inspection Officer shall, prior to entry, positively identify himself or herself as a person authorized pursuant to this chapter to enter upon said premises.

At the time of each inspection, all pets must be controlled so that the Inspection Officer can move about the dwellings and surrounding property without interruption.

The owner or the person assigned to manage the Rental Unit shall be entitled to seventy-two (72) hours written notice from the Inspection Officer prior to conducting the inspection as set forth in the preceding section of this chapter.

This provision shall not be construed to limit or restrain the right of the Inspection Officer to make an inspection pursuant to any of the provisions of IC 36-7-9-1 et seq.

Every rental unit operated and maintained in the City shall be subject to inspection under provisions of this chapter. The inspection shall be made to ascertain that the facility conforms to all requirements of this chapter.

Every occupant of the rental unit shall give the owner thereof or his/her agent or employee access to any part of such dwelling or rental unit or its premises at all reasonable times for the purpose of making such repairs or alterations as are necessary to effect compliance with the provisions of this chapter.

The Inspection Officer shall issue to the owner of every inspected rental dwelling unit an inspection certificate as proof that the unit is in compliance with this chapter.

If an Inspection Officer finds that a rental unit fails to comply with any standard set forth in this chapter the Inspection Officer shall give notice of the violation to the owner and Occupant of the rental unit. The notice shall be in writing and shall describe the violation found. The notice shall be provided pursuant to the provisions of this chapter to:
  • The owner at the address as contained in the records of the Treasurer of Wells County, Indiana, and
  • The occupant of the rental unit at the address of the unit.
The person or persons responsible for correcting violations under this chapter shall correct such violations within thirty (30) days of:
  • Receipt of the notice described herein; or
  • The date the notice is returned to the Inspection Officer as undeliverable.
If an owner has fewer than ten Rental Buildings, not more than one can be required to be brought into compliance with standards as set forth in the chapter within any thirty (30) day period. If an owner has more than ten Rental Buildings, no more than two or ten percent of the Rental Buildings, whichever is greater, shall be required to be brought into compliance with standards set forth in this code within any thirty (30) day period. A Rental Building shall not be counted in the above limits after thirty (30) days from its first inspection.

For the complete ordinance, contact the mayor's office at 260-824-2500. For more information about the Common Council meeting, see the Wednesday, Jan. 11, News-Banner.

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