Lebanon Rental Inspections
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On February 27, 2013, the Lebanon City Council voted 4 to 3 to defeat a convoluted, costly, and intrusive rental registration and inspection program that was strongly supported by Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis: see the proposed Lebanon O.P.E.N. Rental Inspection Program described online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_OPEN_program.htm. Lebanon City Council members Keith Campbell, John Copeland, and Mike Kincaid were able to determine the proposed ordinance was so poorly conceived it did not deserve passage. Steve Large all along properly identified the ordinance as a costly government intrusion. Lana Kruse, Jeremy Lamar, and Preston Myers cast Taxpayer UNfriendly votes in favor of the O.P.E.N. program.
The Mayor and two of the three City Council members supporting the rental inspection program, which would have adversely impacted the residents in Lebanon’s 1,560 rental units, were defeated in the 2015 primary election. In spite of this, the lame duck Mayor and City Council members signaled their interest at the May 26, 2015, City Council meeting in again considering the rental inspection program.
The proposed rental inspection program is a completely unnecessary bureaucratic boondoggle. Local ordinances and state law ALREADY include provisions that ensure the quality of housing is adequate for protection of public health, safety and general welfare through the establishment of minimum standards for (a) basic equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, and thermal conditions; (b) safety from fire and accidents; (c) the use and location and amount of space for human occupancy; and (d) an adequate level of maintenance. These provisions also provide for the determination, administration, and enforcement of the responsibilities of owners, operators, and occupants of dwellings.
The local unsafe building ordinances are being enforced better than ever without additional cost and unwarranted invasions of privacy. The Lebanon Fire Department (LFD) continues to add residences with two or more rental units to the apartment buildings included in its annual inspections database. Joint LFD inspections are conducted inside rental units when unsafe residence living conditions are reported to the Lebanon Planning Department or the Boone County Health Department. The annual LFD rental inspections cover the common areas of rental properties, and the LFD is being invited more often to inspect inside rental units. The increased LFD enforcement efforts are being accomplished using existing personnel without having to impose rental inspection fees that can be passed along to renters.
The increased rental inspection activity by the LFD does not reduce the personal responsibility of renters to ensure their life safety. Two recent Lebanon fire fatalities show how tragedies can still occur in spite of effective ordinances and scheduled enforcement inspections: see http://www.finplaneducation.net/lebanon_fire_fatalities.htm.
Details regarding the local ordinances and how concerned citizens can request inspections for unsafe residence living conditions are presented below.
Unsafe Residence Living Conditions Reporting Options
There is an ongoing need for concerned Lebanon citizens to understand they can initiate effective responses from public agencies when they suspect there are unsafe living conditions in their residence or a neighbor’s residence. Some citizens may be reluctant to identify themselves when they report unsafe residence living conditions if they believe they put themselves in danger or are fearful of landlord retaliation and other worrisome consequences. It is important for citizens who are reluctant to have themselves identified to understand they can effectively report concerns about unsafe residence living conditions and remain anonymous. Four options for concerned Lebanon citizens to report unsafe residence living conditions are listed next.
911 Emergency Call System
Anyone in Boone County can use the 911 emergency call system operated by the Sheriff’s department to anonymously report an unsafe residence living condition. Listed next is a summary of how such an anonymous call will be processed.
(1) A call for service will be recorded. The person who initiates the call for service will not be identified if anonymity is requested. The call for service is a public record, and the person who makes the call will not be identified in the public record if anonymity is requested.
(2) A call type is assigned to the call for service. The assigned call type determines which public agencies respond to the call for service. Some call types initiate a response by the applicable fire department. Applicable law enforcement personnel will generally respond to other call types. A police officer will involve other public agencies as needed to effectively respond to an unsafe residence living condition.
(3) All agencies responding to a call for service enter a disposition code into the public records system depending on what actions are taken.
(4) A final detailed report on the call for service is entered into the Records Management System. Fire department reports are maintained in the Fire House section of the Records Management System. Other agencies submit their reports to the Interact section of the Records Management System. Any concerned citizen can submit a public records request to determine the outcome of an anonymously reported unsafe residence living condition.
Lebanon Fire Department
Lebanon residents can anonymously report an unsafe living condition directly to the Lebanon Fire Department by calling the administrative line at 765-482-8832. The Lebanon Fire Department inspects the common areas of apartment buildings at will. To inspect inside an apartment, the Lebanon Fire Department generally requires the permission of the apartment resident. Any concerned citizen can submit a public records request to Lebanon Fire Chief Chuck Batts to determine the outcome of an anonymously reported unsafe residence living condition.
Lebanon Fire Department inspections are conducted to determine compliance with the Life Safety Code and other applicable National Fire Protection Association standards.
Lebanon Hot Line
The City of Lebanon has implemented a hot line that concerned citizens can call to report unsafe living conditions in Lebanon residences. It appears that someone who calls the hot line will not be identified if anonymity is requested. Hot line details included in the January 9 Lebanon Reporter are summarized next.
(a) Reports of unsafe living conditions in Lebanon residences can be made by calling 765-485-3090 (callers may hear a recording) or E-mailing email@example.com.
(b) Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis is quoted as stating, “These will not be anonymous calls. We will not divulge names, but we want to be able to respond to the person who complained.”
(c) A code enforcement employee in the Lebanon Department of Planning and Zoning will follow up each report of unsafe living conditions.
The Lebanon Code of Ordinances includes Ordinances 92.130 through 92.999 under the heading of “Unsafe Buildings Ordinances.” The Lebanon Unsafe Buildings Ordinances implement the state’s Unsafe Building Law found in Indiana Code 36-7-9. Lebanon Ordinance 92.132 specifically states “All buildings or portions thereof within the city which are determined after inspection by the Building Inspector to be unsafe, as defined in this subchapter, are hereby declared to be public nuisances and shall be abated by repair, rehabilitation, demolition or removal.”
Boone County Health Department
Greg Inman, Boone County Health Department Environmental Director (Phone 765-483-4458, Fax 765-483-5243, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), indicates that everyone is requested to put their name on an unsafe residence living conditions complaint form “unless they feel that doing so will put them in danger.” Mr. Inman as the Health Officer typically conducts inspections when apparent ordinance violations are brought to his attention by concerned citizens. Absent an immediate hazard, it might take Mr. Inman and his other staff person as long as a month to respond to a complaint – but, we can rest assured that the Boone County Health Department will facilitate a conscientious response. The applicable state law for the Boone County Health Department is listed next.
Indiana Code 16-20-1-25
Unlawful conditions; abatement order; enforcement; providing false information
Sec. 25. (a) A person shall not institute, permit, or maintain any conditions that may transmit, generate, or promote disease.
(b) A health officer, upon receiving a complaint asserting the existence of unlawful conditions described in subsection (a) within the officer's jurisdiction, shall document the complaint as provided in subsection (d). Upon verifying the information contained in the complaint, the health officer shall order the abatement of those conditions. The order must:
(1) be in writing;
(2) specify the conditions that may transmit disease; and
(3) name the shortest reasonable time for abatement.
(c) If a person refuses or neglects to obey an order issued under this section, the attorney representing the county of the health jurisdiction where the offense occurs shall, upon receiving the information from the health officer, institute proceedings in the courts for enforcement. An order may be enforced by injunction. If the action concerning public health is a criminal offense, a law enforcement authority with jurisdiction over the place where the offense occurred shall be notified.
(d) A complaint made under subsection (b) must include adequate details to allow the health officer to verify the existence of the unlawful conditions that are the subject of the complaint. A health officer shall provide a copy of a complaint upon request to the person who is the subject of the complaint.
(e) A person who provides false information upon which a health officer relies in issuing an order under this section commits a Class C misdemeanor.
The Environmental Health Division of the Boone County Health Department has considerable authority to administer the Boone County Housing and Environmental Standards Ordinance: see http://www.boonecounty.in.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=dHK-xGL41sw%3d&tabid=192&mid=822. The purpose of this ordinance is to ensure that the quality of all Boone County housing is adequate for protection of public health, safety, and general welfare by establishing minimum standards for (1) basic equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, and thermal conditions, (2) safety from fire and accidents, (3) the use and location and amount of space for human occupancy, and (4) an adequate level of maintenance.
The provisions in the county ordinance are applicable to all county dwellings and are intended to (1) protect, preserve, and promote the physical and mental health and social well-being of the people; (2) prevent and control the incidence of communicable diseases; (3) reduce environmental hazards to health; (4) regulate privately and publicly owned dwellings for the purpose of maintaining adequate sanitation and public health; (5) protect the safety of the people; and (6) promote the general welfare. The purpose of the county ordinance is to “insure that the quality of housing is adequate for protection of public health, safety and general welfare” through the establishment of minimum standards for (a) basic equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, and thermal conditions; (b) safety from fire and accidents; (c) the use and location and amount of space for human occupancy; and (d) an adequate level of maintenance. The county ordinance provides for the determination, administration, and enforcement of the responsibilities of owners, operators, and occupants of dwellings.
Paragraph 1101 of the county ordinance provides that the Boone County Public Health Officer or his authorized representative “is hereby authorized and directed to make inspections to determine the condition of dwellings, dwelling units, and premises located within Boone County, in order that they may perform their duty of safeguarding the health and safety of the occupants of dwellings and of the general public. For the purpose of making such inspections the Health Officer is hereby authorized to enter, examine, and survey, at proper times upon presenting proper credentials of identification, all dwelling, dwelling units, rooming units, and premises. The owner or occupant of every dwelling, dwelling unit and rooming unit, or the person in charge thereof, shall give the Health Officer access to such dwelling, dwelling unit or rooming unit and its premises, at proper times for the purpose of such inspection, examination and survey. Every occupant of a dwelling or dwelling unit shall give the owner thereof, or his agent or employee, access to any part of such dwelling or dwelling unit, or its premises, at all reasonable times for the purpose of making such repairs or alternations as are necessary to effect compliance with the provisions of this ordinance.”
Paragraph 1201 of the county ordinance provides that “whenever the Health Officer determines that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there has been a violation of any provision of this ordinance which affects the health of the occupants of any dwelling, dwelling unit or rooming unit or health of the general public, the Health Officer shall give notice of such alleged violation to the person or persons responsible therefore, or to any known agent of such person, as hereinafter provided.”
Paragraph 325 of the county ordinance provides that “if, upon reinspection, the Health Officer or his designee determines that abatement has not occurred so that the environmental public nuisance continues to constitute a menace to the health and safety of the people of Boone County, then Health Officer or his designee may enter upon the premises and abate the offending condition.”
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This page was last updated on 06/02/15 .