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During our open forum on Dec. 16, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to approve the Rental Housing Inspection Program (RHIP), which will affect current and future Cal Poly students living in rental homes off campus.
“The RHIP is a program created by the city of San Luis Obispo that will give them the authority to inspect rental property within the city,” said Jake Rogers, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Executive Cabinet Chief of Staff.
Based on the 2010 Census, 61.8 percent of San Luis Obispo housing units are rentals.
All rental units will undergo an inspection once every three years. Landlords will be subject to fines if, upon review, rental property conditions violate city ordinances and pose potential safety hazards for current tenants.
“If violations are not corrected, the city may issue administrative citations, including fines to the property owner,” Building and Safety Supervisor of San Luis Obispo Community Development Rafael Cornejo said in an email to Mustang News.
Homeowners are responsible for paying any fines, Cornejo noted.
In addition to possible issued fines to the owner, the program also requires an annual fee from the homeowner to help fund the inspections.
Due to a shortage of affordable housing, the program aims to ensure students will not have to live in unsuitable housing conditions.
Electrical engineering junior Alfredo Sanchez agrees the program will benefit students who are forced to live in poorly managed rental homes due to lack of availability.
“I think, in some cases, homeowners will take advantage of that (the housing demand), and they’ll either raise the price tremendously high or neglect their homes,” Sanchez said.
ASI will be involved with the formulation of the program’s policy to assure student voices are heard.
“Our Board of Directors (BOD) chose not to take a stance in whether we were in favor of the program or not, but we do want to have an active hand in helping shape (it),” Rogers said.
The RHIP is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“All rental homes will be subject to inspection,” Rogers said. “Existing residents may experience an inspection once the program is created.”
As a current tenant, Sanchez expressed concern over the future policy.
“In my case, I technically should not be living in my home because the homeowner converted the garage into a livable room,” Sanchez said.
The BOD is aware of the potential issue with landowners passing fines onto their tenants for pre-existing conditions that violate housing safety standards.
“Our solution to that problem is that landlords can have their property inspected either by the city or by a private individual prior to the tenant moving in to document that the house is up to code,” Rogers said. “If any violations are found, it can be concluded that (it’s) the fault of the tenant.”
ASI plans to reach out to students to notify them of their rights under the new policy once it is implemented, Rogers said.
Exact details of the inspection policy are not final.
Aside from the implementation of the RHIP, the City Council has not provided any direction to act on the proposed neighborhood stabilization programs.
The stabilization program proposals are currently up in the air but are moving forward, San Luis Obispo Community Development Director Derek Johnson said.
“I do think that the city will probably continue to pursue the type of program where they’ll be buying houses so that they can then be purchased by owner occupants,” Rogers said. “However, I don’t think that that’s going to be counter intuitive to the RHIP.”