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story.lead_photo.caption The Little Rock Board of Directors is shown in this file photo.

The Little Rock Board of Directors plans to update the city's rental inspection ordinance, moving code enforcement officers from a two-year inspection cycle to a five-year one.

Activists and officials say the city has never met its current standard of inspecting every registered rental unit for code compliance within two years, and the updated ordinance will make the process more efficient.

City directors Tuesday added the proposed ordinance to the agenda for the board's Sept. 17 voting meeting.

City Manager Bruce Moore said Tuesday that he had been meeting with a group of residents for "a number of years" to work on updating the ordinance, looking at best practices across the country. The city adopted its rental inspection program in 1994.

Little Rock has nearly 28,000 registered rental properties, said Victor Turner, director of the city's Housing and Neighborhood Programs Department. Wards 3 and 5 -- midtown and northwest Little Rock -- have the highest percentage, he added.

Turner said there was no way the department could inspect every unit every two years with its current staffing. Inspecting 20% of all units each year is more manageable, he said.

"This is in line with best practices, it is in line with what agencies do, a sampling," he said. "What we were doing was antiquated, trying to do every single one every two years, which, it doesn't make sense and wasn't possible."

The ordinance requires code enforcement officers to inspect at least one randomly selected unit in every building, rather than all the units.

Moore said that provision won't preclude officers from inspecting the entire complex if they see violations.

"If there are problems, we're still going to inspect the entire unit," Moore said. "This just gives us a threshold."

If the ordinance passes, a random 20% of registered rental units will be selected for inspection the first year. Rental unit owners will be provided with a "notice to comply" request on each attempt to inspect a property.

Brand new construction will be exempt from the original cycle, meaning it will be six years before those units are subject to inspection, City Attorney Tom Carpenter said.

Turner said the code enforcement office is nearly at full staffing, with 35 officers in place and interviews for two more having taken place Tuesday.

Some city directors, including Vice Mayor B.J. Wyrick, Ward 1's Erma Hendrix and Ward 6's Doris Wright, expressed concerns about whether the city had enough code enforcement officers, and whether the positions pay enough to keep people in the jobs long-term.

Jim Lynch, with the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, sent an email Sunday to several members of neighborhood groups, asking them to urge their city directors to vote "yes" on the new ordinance and attend the Sept. 17 meeting to show support. The coalition had worked on the changes with the city staff for five years, he said.

"These amendments are long overdue and badly needed to make code inspection of rental units more effective," Lynch wrote.

Metro on 09/11/2019

Print Headline: 5-year rental unit inspections cycle put on LR board's agenda

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