Rental Inspection Compliance Program
General Information about Code Enforcement
Roanoke's rental inspection ordinance (Chapter 7, Article III, of the Code of the City of Roanoke) which pertains onlyto the areas highlighted on the map below, requires that rental units pass an inspection at least once every four years in order to be legally rented. Upon passing the inspection the unit is granted a “Certificate of Compliance” and the landlord may rent and re-rent the unit until the next inspection is due, unless severe maintenance issues, damage or system failure renders the unit uninhabitable. In that case the certificate may be revoked. Procedures for inspections and citations done in-between times (usually due to a tenant complaint) are explained in the “Building Maintenance Program” section. That section also covers procedures for parcels outside of the Rental Inspection area, which are not subject to mandated inspections every four years.
Rental Inspections are based upon the Virginia Maintenance Code (VMC) and are performed by inspectors from the Code Enforcement Department. These inspections are not as stringent as those for new construction, but minimum standards for maintenance and safety, derived from the VMC, must be met in order for a unit to be awarded a certificate. A landlord renting a unit without a valid certificate runs the risk of court prosecution.
The Rental Inspection Program targets the older, “core” City neighborhoods, with a few outlying parcels added due to a historically high level of complaints and code enforcement activity. The core neighborhoods were picked for the program because the rental units in these areas are generally more likely to suffer from deferred maintenance and safety issues than units in newer neighborhoods. The program is mandated for the following neighborhoods and parcels: Highland Park, Mountain View, Belmont, Morningside, Fallon Park, Kenwood, Gainsboro, Hurt Park, Gilmer, Harrison, Melrose, Loudon, the west side of Lafayette Boulevard in Villa Heights, Orange Avenue, Hanover Avenue and Staunton Avenue in Washington Park, Forest Hill Avenue Trailer Park, Tinker Creek Manor Apartments and Westcreek Manor Apartments on Westside Boulevard.
A closer inspection of properties located within the Rental inspection District is available for your convenience.
THE RENTAL INSPECTION PROCESS
When City staff learns that a property in the Rental Inspection District is being used for rental a notice is sent to the owner. This letter explains the Rental Inspection Program (RIP) and what is required for compliance. A property status form is provided for the owner to fill out and send back. Vacant or currently owner-occupied properties must be inspected and certified prior to rental. As long as a property remains owner-occupied a RIP inspection is not required.
TO REPORT A VIOLATION
- If the owner still does not respond to the notice or refuses the inspection, the Code Enforcement inspector assigned to the zone in which the property is located may file a summons against the owner. The court may levy a fine to an owner for refusing a “RIP” inspection.
- If the owner responds to the notice, an inspection appointment is arranged either with the owner or manager. A Code Enforcement inspector inspects the property to determine whether there are any violations of the Virginia Maintenance Code.
- If there are no violations, the inspector will issue a Certificate of Exemption, good for four years, to the owner. The property may be legally rented and re-rented during that time unless the Certificate is revoked. Prior to expiration of the Certificate the owner will receive a notice by mail that another inspection is due.
- If there are violations, the inspector must decide whether to:
- Write a basic “Repair Order”, for typical maintenance or safety problems and establish a compliance date based upon the amount and type of work that must be done. In this case, tenants, if present, would be allowed to stay in the unit while repairs are done.
- Write a “Notice of Unsafe Structure” order. This is for more severe code violations. If any of the basic utilities (heat, hot and cold water, electricity) are unavailable, a short time frame will be given for restoration, followed by condemnation placarding if not restored. If the unit is unsafe to live in condemnation will be immediate and occupants will have to vacate the unit.
- A notice is sent to the owner, and the same letter posted at the property. This is the “order” listing what must be done for the unit to pass a follow-up inspection.
- If the owner requests an extension it may be granted based upon the specific circumstances.
- When the owner believes that work has been completed an inspection is arranged. If the unit passes the inspection a Certificate is issued. If it does not pass inspection the owner will be informed of what needs to be completed and another inspection will be necessary.
- If the violations are not corrected within the time provided, and no re-inspection has been arranged, the inspector will attempt to contact the owner and ask for a reinspection. Reasonable effort is made to “work with” owners to achieve compliance outside of court.
- In order to discourage reinspections in which repair work is incomplete, initial inspections are billed $25.00 but reinspections are billed $50.00.
- If the Code Enforcement inspector believes that the owner is not, in good faith, attempting to comply with the order a court summons will be filed.
- In court, the judge will either grant the defendant more time to complete the work on the order, or fine the defendant, depending upon the specific circumstances of the case and how many times it has been heard in court.
- If court action fails to bring about compliance a case may be re-filed until the order is complied with, or the property is vacated and secured or sold.
- Note that it may take several weeks or even months (especially if court is involved) for the process to play out before violations are actually corrected. During this time, the City is actively pursuing correction of the violation, and we appreciate your patience.
To report a violation, call the Citizen Service Center at 540-853-2000, option 2, or complete and submit the online Request for Service form
IF YOU WERE CITED...
If you were cited for a violation and would like to speak with an inspector, please call the Code Enforcement Office at 540-853-2344. Our goal is to obtain voluntary compliance. Most reasonable requests for extra time are granted. Code Enforcement inspectors are also a good source of information, such as charities, grant programs, etc., that may prove valuable in bringing a property into compliance with the code.