Dubuque housing department asking for more employees to keep up with rental property inspections

By  | 

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- There are so many rental properties in Dubuque, the city is up to two and a half years behind on inspecting them.

The city's housing department has to inspect licensed rental properties every five years. However, with only three inspectors on staff, they've fallen behind that standard.

That's why Alvin Nash, Director of the Housing and Community Development Department, is asking the city council to approve a budget which would have funds for a fourth full-time employee.

Nash says his inspectors spend their days responding to tenant or landlord complaints, as well as completing their routine, five-year inspections.

He says complaints vary in nature.

"Everything from a code violation inside of the rental property, outside could be trash or weed complaints," he described.

Inspections Supervisor Ben Pothoff says life-threatening complaints are addressed immediately.

Addressing these complaints can put the employees behind on their routine inspections.

"We saw that we were falling behind. We think that has an impact and causes more complaints because you’re not getting through the properties on a routine basis," Pothoff said.

Nash said, "we think that an inspector will help us to get closer to being more efficient, responding in a more timely fashion and also meet that cycle of that five year cycle that we’re supposed to be."

In addition to a full-time employee, Nash also hopes to hire a part-time employee for the summer.

He said those months bring more challenges and work to their department with college students moving out of properties.

Nash said, "it’s a big influx of inspections that we need to pay attention to."

In addition to these employees, Nash and Pothoff believe they can become more efficient by focusing more on properties that require a lot of attention, and less on properties with a good background.

They call this a tiered approach.

Nash says the top tier would include professional, well-kept properties with a reputation for keeping things up to code.

He says the Applewood IV senior housing apartment building is an example of a property that could be included in this top tier.

Pothoff adds that this top tier would most likely include professional rental properties that have single buildings with many units.

"We’re looking more at like allowing single sites with perhaps more than 12 units or something along those lines. We don’t have that exact line in the sand drawn yet. It’s not going to be a scattered site," Pothoff explained.

Pothoff says scattered sites would include management groups or landlords with many units in different locations. He said in those cases, one property could be in great shape while another is in poor shape.

Pothoff says the second tier would include those rental properties that are currently being checked every five years, and don't have enough history to be at the top or bottom.

The third tier would include properties that need more assistance.

Pothoff says with less time focused on the top tier properties, his staff could focus and follow up on these problem properties more often than every five years.

"We probably don’t want to walk away from it in five years. We should probably go back in a year or two and see if things are being maintained and they’re moving in a right direction," Pothoff said.