The Garden City Telegram
8/3/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Rental work

Local housing warrants higher level of scrutiny.

Garden City Commissioner Melvin Dale recently raised a question on many local citizens' minds.

Dale, in addressing possible topics for a city commission town hall meeting, cited local housing quality and related safety issues as something for the public to consider.

Dale wasn't on the city commission when the governing body last took up the possibility of such a program, discussions that came about in the wake of a January 2012 fire that killed Nichole Savoy, 26, and her two young daughters in a rental home where the landlord didn't supply smoke detectors.

Dale did, however, work in law enforcement and as a fire investigator, and has seen firsthand various problems with rental properties.

He knows local rental housing may not be up to code or safe for tenants, and asked for input from the public to give the commission a sense of whether a rental inspection program would be workable.

"I'm concerned with houses being rented and occupied that don't meet the standards we should expect in a property," he said.

City leaders have mulled possible strategies in recent years, to include annual rental inspections by the city, inspections when new tenants move in, or tenants and landlords working together on inspection checklists.

All have merit, yet the city still has no such program in place.

It is worth noting that the fire that killed Savoy and her young children occurred outside Garden City limits. Finney County officials also have been slow to craft new ways to ensure rental properties are suitable for tenants.

Ideally, the city and county would work together on an inspection plan that encompasses all local residential rental properties, as there are suspect rental units throughout the Garden City area.

Reputable landlords who follow the law — and there are many — should have nothing to fear from such scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the topic of rental inspections did indeed come up during the recent town hall meeting. Let's hope the exchange represented a step toward further discussion and consideration of a plan for change in a community that has to consider residents' safety its highest priority.