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CIty: Improvements needed at Inn Towne Apartments

WORTHINGTON -- When the city of Worthington renewed a focus in March on rental housing violations, multiple apartment complexes came under the spotlight.

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(Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - When the city of Worthington renewed a focus in March on rental housing violations, multiple apartment complexes came under the spotlight.

While Thompson Hotel apartments received the most attention, Inn Towne Apartments, a 24-unit apartment complex located on the corner of 10th Street and Eighth Avenue, has also been the subject of scrutiny by some city officials.

After initially reporting trouble gaining access to the property, Housing Inspector Rod Odell inspected Inn Towne Apartments in late March.

In his inspection, he tallied 62 total housing code violations, including eight instances of mold on bathroom ceilings, five instances of mold in window areas, 22 units without operational smoke alarms and nine units without ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets near a water source

The report detailed 11 cases where a ceiling needed repair and five examples of broken screens. Odell did not find any evidence of pests in his inspection.

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Owner Jesus Leon was sent a letter on April 17 laying out the corrections, which must be made by June 15.

“It’s a lot of violations, but the violations can be fixed,” Odell said.

Leon said he has made several fixes to correct the issues, including repairing bathroom ceilings, getting new screens and replacing batteries in smoke detectors. He said his tenants were the cause behind smoke alarm violations.

“They start cooking, and the alarm goes off because it smokes a lot when they cook, so they take the batteries out,” Leon said. “I have to remind my tenants to keep the alarm on.”

In the cases of mold on ceilings, Leon again said it was primarily due to tenants, who did not properly ventilate the bathroom.

Odell agreed, noting that in many cases of mold, tenants have a role to play.

“Sometimes there’s mold from the roof, but if it’s in the bathroom, the tenant isn’t operating it right,” Odell said. “They don’t run their fan or leave the door open to the bathroom and air it out.”
As for a non-working smoke alarm, Odell said it is generally a common violation, but a dangerous one.
“If you’re sleeping and there’s a fire, you want something to wake you up,” Odell said. “It’s a safety issue.”

GFCI outlets are also a safety issue, as they can often shut off electrical supply before electrocution occurs, Odell said.

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For the city, educating renters about the effects of mold and the benefits of things like smoke detectors and GFCI outlets is a priority, to help prevent violations in the future.
“I don’t think it is purposeful neglect,” Odell said. “I think it’s a matter of crossing the language barrier and educating people about our safety rules.”

Concerned that its penalties are too soft, the city is working on outlining on reshaping its Rental Housing Ordinance and will likely have a comprehensive overhaul ready by this summer, according to Jason Brisson, Worthington community and economic development director.

Heavier penalties for landlords that do not comply with correction orders, as well as more frequent inspections for landlords with a poor record of violations, are some of the ideas that have been floated.

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