Kat Gore
Special to Mustang News

San Luis Obispo plans to pursue a rental housing inspection program including a periodic inspection of rental properties to ensure compliance with state and local housing, building, fire and zoning codes.

If the program goes forward, it will be under the supervision of Chief Building Official Joseph Lease, who will develop the ordinance, present it to counsel and potentially oversee personnel doing the inspections.

“Basically, counsel has asked us to pursue a rental housing inspection program to ultimately improve the housing stock in the city while eliminating unsafe housing conditions,” Lease said.

Sixty-two percent of the housing units in the city of San Luis Obispo are rentals, and many people who rent in the city are students.

Lease said the city gets many complaints from students who are in substandard housing. However, students generally don’t like to complain because they are afraid of retribution from landlords. If the program is implemented, renters would get a periodic inspection as opposed to turning their landlord in.

Associated Students, Inc. president Jason Colombini is on the Community Civility Group and Student Community Liaison Committee. He said the program is supposed to ensure rentals are meeting the standards set by California state law, and to ensure landlords are held accountable to those standards.

“The problem right now is you have students who are scared to ask their landlord for changes to their house because they’re worried about either losing their security deposit or getting kicked out,” Colombini said.

Renters would get a notice prior to inspections, Colombini said.

“The thing I really don’t like about it, which is already a city ordinance, is technically there’s a rule that you can’t have more than five people living in a house unless they’ve got a special use permit. If (the city goes) in there and finds more than five people living in there they can kick someone out, and that I don’t like,” Colombini said.

Colombini said he’s for the program if it leads to better housing off campus, but he doesn’t want the inspections to be over-intrusive.

“This is going to be a big topic next year; it’s one of those things to watch,” Colombini said. “It has the potential to really have some positive benefits, as long as it doesn’t get out of control.”

Lease said the program will be up for a vote for final adoption around February or March of 2015.

“Our hope is, through such a program, we can improve the housing stock and help maintain our neighborhoods in the city,” Lease said.