University of Texas law professor Heather Way and students Stephanie Trinh and Melissa Wyatt researched and wrote an 88-page report about how Austin and many other cities handle “problem” apartment properties — usually older properties with blighted conditions, persistent code violations and/or crime.
The report will be released publicly Monday, and is available online at http://bit.ly/14kACVa. Among other things, the report recommends the city of Austin should:
- Require rental properties citywide to register with the city and submit to regular inspections. The program should be funded through registration and inspection fees charged to owners. The program should exempt properties that are less than five years old.
- Have code inspectors comprehensively inspect known problem properties, instead of the current approach of reacting to individual citizen complaints.
- More aggressively fine and prosecute repeat violators – landlords who keep tenants living in substandard conditions.
- Create a remediation program, possibly with funds collected through tougher code enforcement, to repair problem properties when owners fail to do so.
- Publish a monthly report on the city’s website listing multi-family properties with the most code violations.
- Create a nuisance abatement team including prosecutors, code inspectors and police officers to target problem properties.
Create a unit in the city attorney’s office to more actively enforce city codes at rundown apartment complexes and prosecute owners if necessary.
Require landlords to provide new tenants with a tenants’ rights handbook and to prominently display signs explaining how tenants can report code violations.
Increase training for landlords and city staffers, such as police officers and inspectors, to prevent properties from becoming blighted and crime-ridden.