The Arcata City Council unanimously passed Ordinance No. 1552 – the Residential Rental Inspection Program (RRIP) during their regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 15. Members of the Humboldt Equitable Student Housing Alliance (HESHA), also known as Cal Poly Homeless, gathered in support of this new city program which requires rental properties to be inspected for health and safety standards.
HESHA, along with other Cal Poly Humboldt (CPH) students, voiced their concerns about existing housing conditions on and off campus.
Christine Hetrick, CPH student on the HESHA Social Media team, said, “we are fighting and essentially making sure any area that is rented out in Humboldt is good quality for people to live in.”
The purpose of the program is to address the issue of substandard, long-term rental properties, promote greater compliance with existing health and safety standards and preserve the quality of Arcata’s neighborhoods and available housing. RRIP consists of 9 members from city property owners, tenants, residents and a few staff members from CPH.
Arcata City Engineer Netra Khatri said, “the program was created by looking at other similar programs in California and taking what works into the one for Arcata.”
Although Arcata Councilwoman Stacy Atkins-Salazar said that they did not have any power to impose the ordinance on CPH, due to it being a state facility, Joe Bishop, City of Arcata building official, mentioned that there are some avenues for that to happen and is looking into them.
According to Staff Report–Ordinance 4007, people who own property that is being rented for residential, single-family buildings that have more than one units will be part of the program.
For the first year, landlords that have 1 or 2 units will pay $20 for registration fees per year and $73.29 for an inspection fee totaling $93.29. Landlords with 3 or more units will pay $25 in registration fees yearly and $83.76 in inspection fees totaling $108.76.
Jesse Beacham Grijalve de Prieto, CPH student, said during public comment that they were worried that landlords could still put these inspection costs on renters in application fees.
Bishop acknowledged that this should not happen and that landlords should not increase rent as a result of these fees. “I think they can justifiably pay that fee,” he said.
RRIP has exemptions for room rentals, mobile home parks under state jurisdiction, newly-constructed homes, city staff members who rent out property and previously-inspected properties. Places with transient tax, such as hotels and vacation rentals, are also exempt.
According to Bishop, some renters are hesitant to file a complaint about their housing conditions due to the fear of losing their homes.
“This program is designed to take the need for complaint out and level the playing field,” he said, explaining that the inspections will ensure there are no life and safety issues in rental properties.