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Scofflaw Landlords Face Fee for Inspections : Ordinance: Owners who fail to heed repair orders in a timely way may be charged for follow-up enforcement checks--part of the city's cost-recovery plan during belt tightening.

September 30, 1993|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Glendale property owners who repeatedly ignore orders to correct building and safety violations will be charged fees for inspections under an ordinance introduced Tuesday by the City Council.

While the fire, building, planning and other departments have charged inspection fees for years, the ordinance, to be adopted next week, marks the first time fees will be levied by the Department of Community Development and Housing.

The new fees are part of the city's drive to recover costs of services provided in the wake of a tightening city budget.

Council members in budget study sessions earlier this year directed all departments to explore ways to recover costs of services.

The neighborhood services program of the housing department includes among its regular duties drive-by inspections of residential property throughout the city, said Madalyn Blake, department director.

About 1,200 property owners per year are notified of violations and ordered to make repairs. Those notices generate about 8,000 follow-up inspections, one-third of which represent three or more visits to the same property before violations are corrected, Blake said.

Under the new ordinance, which will take effect in early November, owners will be charged $62 for every repeat visit after the second inspection. Owners who contest the fees can appeal to a hearing officer, but that will cost $25. Fees owed can then be levied against property tax bills.

The new fees are expected to generate about $84,000 a year--the cost of the reinspection program, Blake said.

Application of the fees is designed to be flexible. Charges may be waived if an inspector determines that an owner is attempting to make corrections but has not quite completed repairs according to the city's standards.

The department will be particularly lenient toward elderly and handicapped owners who might lack the financial resources to make repairs. In many cases, the department can provide funding to help those individuals, Blake said.

However, the new fees are designed to force repeat violators--often absentee landlords--to make repairs sooner under the threat of added costs. The fees are separate from criminal prosecution, which also can result in fines and possible jail sentences.

"We have a number of property owners who just don't comply, no matter what," Blake said. While criminal prosecution is time-consuming, she said the threat of reinspection fees that could be added to tax bills might force a quicker response.

Deputy City Atty. Christina Sansone said violations most often left uncorrected are broken windows, deteriorated roofs, termite infestations, improperly vented water heaters and other fire and safety hazards.

Officials Tuesday said about 85% of property owners make repairs when notified of violations, but that some delay action for two years or more.

"We need to put some teeth into the law," Councilwoman Eileen Givens said.

Final adoption of the ordinance is scheduled Oct 5 and fees will go into effect Nov. 5.

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