Health Department continues rental inspections

April 15, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Since the first of the year, the city of Portsmouth has collected $113,050 in rental licensing fees. Rental property owners are assessed $50 per unit. That would be the fee for a single dwelling. Owners of multiple units under one roof are given a discount. The owner of a duplex would be assessed $80. However, if a property owner has two single houses, they are still assessed $50 per house.

“We do an actual inspection,” Andy Gedeon, Director of Environmental Health for the Portsmouth City Health Department, said. “Anybody that paid before Dec. 31 (2012), that cost covers the annual inspection plus any re-inspections that we might have to do.”

Gedeon said the city had attempted to do the program several years ago and it was not successful. He said the current program is to bring everybody up to a level playing field.

“We have a lot of rental dwellings here in the city, that have really good units,” Gedeon said. “You have top notch landlords, but right beside them are landlords that have pretty much let their property go, which hurts the property value around the city and around the area.”

Gedeon said there is a stipulation in the ordinance that anything with more than six units receives a reduction in inspections.

“There are places that, for example, have 39 units, and we don’t go in and inspect every unit because those are all pretty much the same,” Gedeon said. “We will take 25 units in that structure (and inspect them).”

Does the inspection process represent a duplication of services where Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority is concerned?

“Now, being our first year, we’re required to do an inspection. PMHA will count that as their Quality Assurance Inspection,” Gedeon said. “Which means their inspectors are on the same playing field. Next year that will count as their annual inspection.”

Gedeon and Bruce Spriggs work as full time rental inspectors who have been to training and are certified to do the Section 8 inspections. During one such inspection of a brand new unit that had just been purchased a few weeks before, Spriggs may have saved the lives of a Portsmouth family.

“Bruse was doing an inspection. The house looked absolutely immaculate on the outside and on the inside,” Gedeon said. “He went down to check the gas water heater, and he noticed that the outside outlet where the vapors go had actually become disconnected, so they were pumping carbon monoxide into the basement. And when he spoke to the lady, she was actually experiencing some kind of carbon monoxide sickness symptoms. That’s what the program is for. That probably saved the family’s lives.”

Gedeon said the program has been well-received and that people may be surprised to know that most rental dwellings are in good shape.

“So far there have only been a handful of units that are really bad,” Gedeon said. “I would say there is under 10. That doesn’t mean that there is not more, but this has only been in effect for three months, so there are some bad ones out there, we just haven’t run into many of them.”

If the Department finds out someone did not get their permit by Dec. 31, 2012, they are assessed 20 percent of their license fee per month. If it is a single unit, that would be an assessment of $10 per month, compounded for each month the owner doesn’t have a permit.

“The overall purpose of the program is to help improve the look and the quality of life in the city,” Gedeon said.

Total Permits:

Single Dwellings 1,374With 12 - 4

Duplex 134With 15 - 1

Multi-Unit (3) 36With 17 - 1

Multi-Unit (4) 26With 20 - 2

Multi-Unit (5) 8With 21 - 1

Multi-Unit (6) 7With 24 - 3

Multi-Unit (7) 2With 25 - 1

Multi-Unit (8) 7With 32 - 1

Multi-Unit (9) 0With 39 - 2

Multi-Unit (10) 2With 40 - 1

Multi-Unit (11) 9

Multi-Unit (12+) 17

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.