What to expect from Arcata’s rental inspections

The Arcata City Council unanimously passed Ordinance No. 1552 – the Residential Rental Inspection Program (RRIP) during their regularly scheduled meeting on March 1. The program won’t begin until the first week of June.

What is the Program? 

RRIP was created to address the issue of life safety issues in long-term rental properties, promote greater compliance with existing health and safety standards and preserve the quality of Arcata’s neighborhoods and available housing. This program is directed for tenants and landlords/property owners who would like for the city to inspect the condition of the unit that they are renting.

In order for a property to pass inspection, it must comply with the RRIP checklist. Some items from the list are:

  • Roof components shall not be damaged or missing
  • Window(s) free from leaks or cracks, screens present and undamaged. Window(s) shall be easily openable and held in position by hardware
  • Stairs and walking surfaces shall be maintained in sound condition and good repair
  • Smoke detectors present and operable in each sleeping area and adjacent hallway

“So people would be rightfully worried on what impact that might be on them,” said City of Arcata Code Compliance Victor Garcia. “So part of the reason we do this program is to get rid of the randomness out of it and the responsibility is not on the tenant anymore to have complaints to deal with that because it does not just end when we close the case.” 

Garcia says that during these inspections they are looking for life safety concerns but also recognizes that tenants might be afraid of what if they find that the home may not be inhabitable.

Mold is another common issue in Humboldt but it is not listed on the checklist. If mold is present, they will find the cause of it. City of Arcata Building official, Joe Bishop explains that if he were to do a test, send it out and find out that the mold that he sent was dangerous, it would be invalid because he is not certified to conduct the test. 

“There is a very specific training and certification that is involved when collecting samples of mold and there’s very specific laboratories required because there are thousands of species of black mold and only two are deadly species of black mold,” he said. “That’s the problem we face and the county health department faces.”

How does the program work?

Tenants or landlords can schedule an inspection by calling the program’s office and voicing their concerns about the property. 

“Anyone can call and make an appointment. If we knock on the door and say we received a complaint, whoever answers the door is allowed to let us in,” said Bishop. “We aren’t required by law to identify what their status is because of the nature of life safety.”

When life safety issues are found, the program will write a letter to the property owner to let them know and to get them fixed within a certain period of time. Garcia explained that if this does not get resolved within that time period then that’s when code enforcement comes into play. 

Bishop says that there have been only three cases that have been red tagged/deemed uninhabitable over the last five years in his role as Building official and those cases were in very bad condition. 

What does code enforcement look like?

Bishop explained that code enforcement begins with a phone call and letter to the property manager. If those fixes haven’t been made, then it will be recorded as a nuisance. 

“That goes into fines and fees and it escalates there to the point where they are having a lot of money in fines and violations if they don’t correct the issues,” he said. 

For more information on the program,  email rrip@cityofarcata.org or phone (707)-822-5956.

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