“Bad actor” landlords who refuse to fix up their properties will now have to pay for extra code enforcement inspections.
In a unanimous voice vote Thursday, with the exception of one absent member, the San Antonio City Council passed a new Proactive Apartment Inspections Program (PAIP). It stems from the attention that properties with numerous citations, like Seven Oaks Apartments, attracted in the summer of 2022.
District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez was not present for the vote.
Under the new program, apartment complexes must register with the city if they receive three citations within six months. Once in the PAIP, these “bad actor” landlords would have to pay $100 per unit annually and have their complex subject to at least half a year’s worth of extra monthly inspections.
City staff estimate 15 to 20 apartment complexes, with an average of 200 units each, will go through the program each year, though none will be put in immediately. The citation tallies won’t begin to count until April 2, when the program takes effect.
Several members of the Texas Organizing Project, which had gotten involved with the numerous issues at Seven Oaks, told the council they were there to “declare victory” while also warning some landlords might try to pass any extra costs onto renters.
A representative from the San Antonio Apartment Association appeared to confirm that possibility.
“Although we are not opposed to the Proactive Apartment inspection Program, it’s important to remember that every dollar that goes towards fees to operate programs like this undermine housing affordability and contribute to the increasing operating costs to maintain quality housing for our residents,” Celine Williams.
Code Enforcement issues citations after a property owner fails to fix a violation, typically within a 10-day window. The resulting fines can run from $300 to $1,000, depending on if it’s a repeat violation.
To be forced into the PAIP, a property must receive three citations for “designated violations” within six months.
The designated citations to be tracked for the program would be for code violations relating to safety and basic habitability, such as structural issues, electrical problems, sewer backups, lack of heat, and pests.
Although properties could still be cited for code violations related to issues like overgrown grass, those citations would not count toward putting them on the “bad actors” list.
In addition to the normal reactive visits based on 311 calls, properties in the PAIP will be subject to monthly inspections of up to 5% of their units, with a minimum of two at the smaller properties. Code enforcement officers can examine more based on their standard procedures.
The extra inspections aren’t permanent. Properties would be able to graduate from the program by fixing all the violations and making it through six months with fewer than three citations.
If a property ends up back on the list for a second time within four years, it would have to stay on it for at least 12 months.
Development Services Director Mike Shannon has proposed a six-member team to handle the inspections. He had previously estimated the full team and its equipment would cost $388,000 in the first year and $300,000 in the second.
In anticipation of some kind of initiative for apartment inspections, the city council has already approved two new code enforcement positions for the current budget year.
The PAIP would only apply to apartment complexes with at least five rental units. Single-family rental homes, duplexes, and quadplexes don’t fall under the program.