NORWICH — The City of Norwich Common Council reinstated the $25 rental unit inspection fees last month, ending the hold put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspections are meant to be done on rental units after a tenant has moved out and a new one is set to move in, according to City of Norwich Fire Chief Jan Papelino. He said inspectors check for things like smoke detectors and properly working plumbing.
"CO detectors, smoke detectors, that the sinks work properly, the bathtub works properly and flows, the drains aren’t plugged, and electrical issues with outlets, and general cleanliness and stuff like that in the apartment," Papelino explained.
If any problems are found during the inspection, he said landlords are required to fix it before the tenant moves in, and will "usually fix it and then tell us it’s done, and we’ll go back and reinspect it."
Rental inspection applications can be found on the City of Norwich website, norwichnewyork.net, under "Code Enforcement." The fee to have a rental unit inspected is $25. Papelino said landlords are responsible for contacting the city for an inspection when a new tenant is set to move in.
However, if the city is not notified and a new tenant is allowed to move in without an inspection on the unit, a $200 fee is imposed on the landlord.
"It’s kind of an honor thing with a landlord, but if they get caught it’s a $200 [fee]," he said. "So it’s best to let us know before, because if you get caught it’s considerably more expensive if you end up getting the rental inspection done after you’ve already moved a tenant in."
There is also the possibility that not having rental units inspected between tenants could lead to much bigger problems down the road.
"You could have a water pipe or something that breaks, or something that could lead to more of a bigger issue," said Papelino.
He added that rental unit inspections are important "for the safety of the tenant" and "make sure where they're moving into is a safe place." He also emphasized that it's easier on everyone, and cheaper, to have inspections done when they're required rather than avoid them.
"It’s easier to call and have the inspection done like it should be rather than ... not getting it done and then having us find out about it, because that just puts us in an awkward way and it puts them in an awkward way," he said. "Occasionally we may have a new landlord that for whatever reason may not realize that they have to, but that’s pretty rare. Most of the landlords we have have been landlords for a while and understand what the guidelines are."
"We try to keep an eye out, if we see people moving out or moving in we'll make a phone call, too," he added. "Usually not if they’re moving out, but if we see people moving in and we know we haven’t done an inspection, then we make a phone call to the landlord."