Rent inspection pilot program being developed at College Station

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) — College Station city leaders met Thursday to discuss options for developing a rent inspection program.

After receiving complaints from residents about substandard rental properties, College Station City Council said it was time to move forward with some type of program to help address the concerns.

Residents are calling on city leaders to carry out proactive rental housing inspections, but with more than 27,000 rental units and more under construction, that task is easier said than done.

Among the items reviewed by the board are inspections carried out either when tenancies become vacant or inspections carried out every three, four or five years.

Council has also instructed city staff to determine how a pilot program can be implemented. One suggestion is to focus on the properties with the most complaints and then expand the program from there.

In her presentation to city leaders, Debbie Eller, director of community services for College Station, said rent inspection programs have their benefits. She says any program developed will go a long way to protecting the most vulnerable tenants and preserving safe and healthy rental housing in the city.

“We are concerned about our residents,” Eller said.

“At this time, we have no way of actively tracking the complaints we receive each year regarding rental accommodation and therefore the concerns expressed by our residents are still significant.”

Implementing a program will also come with its own set of challenges. In addition to the number of rental units in the city, the limited number of property inspectors and staff to manage and monitor the program will be an issue.

City staff should also consider how the program will be enforced and the potential costs associated with inspection fees, penalties and fines.

Rental property owners we spoke to say they have a vested interest in keeping their properties in good condition to attract and retain residents, as well as maintaining property value.

The city council also clarified that all tenants should be able to live in homes that are free from unsafe or unsanitary conditions.

“We owe it to our citizens and residents here to make sure they live in a safe house, a safe apartment and I think there are ways to do that,” College Station Mayor Karl Mooney said.

City leaders and leasing professionals say that in addition to tenancy inspections, they would like to see more focus on educating tenants about their rights and the resources available to them.

“When we met with some of the tenant advocacy groups, that was one of the things they weren’t aware of,” said Bryan College Station Apartment Association executive director Sharon McCauley. “There are resources that we can help them with. So hopefully that will come out of the meeting and this discussion tonight.”

Ryan H. Bowman