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Rental inspector gives report

WORTHINGTON — Scott Gigrich has been on the job as the city’s code enforcement officer/housing inspector since September 2013. 

On Monday, he gave an update to the city council on what he has accomplished.

“As of right now, there are 1,411 rental units in town, and 619 units have been inspected,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “There are 473 that have received a certificate of compliance. During this time, we’ve also discovered 137 units have not been registered. They were being used as rental units, so we have been able to find people that have not registered or been inspected.”

Per the rental ordinance, all units within the limits of Worthington need to be registered annually, and inspected every two years or when a complaint is filed. A yearly fee of $30 must also be paid.

While most of the units have been compliant, Gigrich said he’s seen a variety of issues with the ones that aren’t.

“We’re finding some bed bugs, cockroaches, broken or missing windows, smoke alarm problems, bad wiring, what we call illegal bedrooms — maybe bedrooms in an attic or in a basement, bedrooms in a garage,” he said. “We’re finding open sewer lines, unapproved units and other different fire hazards.”

Council member Diane Graber asked how many of the units had bed bugs.

“I don’t want to throw out a number,” Gigrich said. “I know from being in town and talking to people, there’s a lot of talk about bed bugs being in town. From what I have seen, there has not been any major infestations of bed bugs. What we’ve been finding is several bed bugs or some dead bed bugs, but we have not seen any major infestations.”

At the meeting, Graber asked which of the issues were the most common.

“It’s a mix, it really is,” Gigrich said. “I’m seeing cockroaches is a problem. We’re seeing some problems with smoke detectors being tampered with — dead batteries, or renters removing them. People taping plastic bags over them so they don’t sound off. As I’m out there, too, we’re passing on information — trying to do a little education when we’re out there.”

Director of Community/Economic Development Brad Chapulis said Gigrich has coordinated with other agencies as needed.

“Scott has done a very good job of keeping the rest of city staff up to speed as well as bringing other agencies, such as the Nobles County Public Health, into these conversations,” Chapulis said. “We have been working with them to put together a program that does get into education and things of that nature. But right now, we’re in the infancy stage of that, and not to a point to bring something out to the public.”

Council member Rod Sankey asked how receptive landlords have been.

“For the most part, everybody has been really receptive,” Gigrich answered. “Everybody has been taking care of their issues and their problems.

“There is a lot of good out there,” he continued. “A lot of landlords are taking care of their properties. There are a lot of good renters who are taking care of their responsibility as well.”

Moving forward, Gigrich said a possible ordinance putting some responsibility on renters could be considered.

“I’m going in a lot of rental properties where renters are creating a nuisance, maybe wrecking the place a little bit,” Gigrich said. “As of right now, it’s the landlords that are responsible for it. I think we need to think about so if renters create the violation, they are responsible.”

Mayor Alan Oberloh said he would like to see something like that brought to council.

“I would think if that’s the case, then every landlord in the city would want us to push that through immediately,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I hear they don’t fix things — they fix them and they (tenants) are just going to wreck it again.

“The screen window thing is the biggest one,” Oberloh continued. “Why would I waste my time fixing screens if they are going to wreck them again in a week, anyway? If we had an ordinance to say that, it would give backbone to the landlords.”

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.