SAN ANTONIO -

A new ordinance went into effect March 1 that will allow the city to keep a closer eye on boarding houses.

"It’s about keeping people safe," said Rod Sanchez, director of development services for the city. "We have a vulnerable population that are staying in boarding homes."

Unless a boarding house has been operating legally and is grandfathered in, there will be changes owners will have to make.

They will need to add a fire-suppressant sprinkler system, for instance, and make sure they have smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, in addition to new up-to-date electrical wiring.

"We want to make sure people are safe," Sanchez said.

"I’m just wondering what are they going to do to me. I’ll do whatever they say," said Estela Lamaster, who has owned a boarding house on the east side since 1987.

Owners were required to file an application by the end of February if they wanted to obtain a boarding home permit.

If they wanted time to install a sprinkler system, they have until Jan. 1, 2014. 

If they waited until March 1 or after, the timetable is shortened.

Inspectors have begun making the rounds to homes to check their compliance. 

Lamaster isn’t worried about her home but said another set of eyes are always good.

"Other people come into the home and may see things you don’t see," Lamaster said.

Sanchez admitted even though homeowners are required to fill out an application and receive an inspection, there are many homes that will try to stay under the radar.

"Over time, we're going to find them, " said Sanchez.