August 27, 2014

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Lorain inspection law under fire

LORAIN — Everyone agrees many homes in Lorain need improvement, but there was sharp disagreement Monday about whether mandating housing inspections will do the trick.

A proposed “point-of-sale” inspection ordinance would require single or two-family home property owners to get an inspection and rectify violations within 90 days before sales. If uncorrected, buyer or seller must put repair money — between $100 and $15,000 — into escrow. Sales would be blocked until repairs are made and failure to make repairs could result in first-degree misdemeanor convictions and up to six months imprisonment, a $1,000 fine or both.

A $100 inspection fee would pay for a full-time inspector with inspections beginning in January. Council may vote on the proposal July 29.

About 100 people attended a City Council hearing on the ordinance. Proponents said inspections would discourage absentee landlords and speculators “flipping” cheap, rundown properties without making repairs.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re going to perpetuate blight,” Mayor Chase Ritenauer told the audience. “It’s a quality-of-life issue.”

Opponents said inspections would decrease sales and punish buyers and sellers who can’t afford repairs. Homeowner Richard Watchhorn said he has spent about $45,000 on his home at 668 Hamilton Ave. since buying it for $63,000 in 1991.

Watchorn said his home is “underwater” — worth less than market value — and he couldn’t afford repairs if he tried to sell. “You need to leave the homeowners alone and go after these rental properties, which are laying down on the ground,” Watchhorn told Ritenauer.

Landlord Vassie Scott, Lake Erie Landlord’s Association legislative chairman, said he’s spent $120,000 on five rental properties this year, $25,000 on repairs and $15,000 in property taxes. Scott said the ordinance needs to be tweaked making it easier to access escrow money for repairs

“Allow me to run my business as efficient as possible,” said Scott, also a member of the Lorain County Community Action Agency board. “If I choose to buy in Lorain and put quality tenants in there, do not slow me down.”

Michael Brosky, vice president and secretary of First Federal Savings of Lorain, said more than 55 percent of loans his bank financed wouldn’t have been possible under the ordinance, because buyers or sellers couldn’t afford repairs.

However, homeowner Beth Henley, of 2923 Cleveland Blvd., said the ordinance would reduce blight. “If we don’t do something, we are just going to continue to flush ourselves right down the commode,” she said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

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  • Chris Schneider

    This is such a terrible idea by Lorain officials.

    So…lets say I decide I want to buy a house in Lorain that needs some fixing up. The point of sale inspection comes back and says I need $15,000 worth of repairs…ouch, but manageable when mortgaging a new home.

    Here’s where it gets realllllll slimy…I have to come up with that $15K and drop it into escrow, then I still have to get another $15K so I can actually pay the contractors to make the repairs and once I buy the house I get my $15K back?!?!? Who in the world thinks this will actually work? So that $60K house I am looking at is now costing me $90K until I close and get the escrow check back? Why would I move to Lorain if I can find an $75K house elsewhere…or heck, by that time I might as well just look at the 90K range which increases several options for a house in today’s market.

    Go drive through the lovely and bucolic streets of Garfield Heights who also have a Point of Sale inspection…you can find great deals on houses until you realize you will have to cough up your life savings to have it fixed and to have the escrow check held while the repairs are being done.

    Insane.

  • Tom

    I still don’t understand what’s wrong with having the proposed buyer pay for an inspection that can cost about $300. If the inspecting company says there are issues that need to be fixed, you can either understand that when you buy the house, you’ll have to put money into it, or don’t buy the freaking house. Case closed. Why is that a bad system? The blight in Lorain will continue until jobs come back, plain and simple.

  • Woody

    From RCO:

    “115.2 Maintenance.

    Residential buildings, structures and the building equipment shall be maintained in a safe and sanitary condition and in accordance with the condition(s) established in current and any previous plan approvals and certificates of occupancy. Devices or safeguards which are required by this code shall be maintained in conformance with the code edition under which installed. The owner or the owner’s designated agent shall be responsible for the maintenance”

    First you are already required to maintain your property.

    Second unless a ‘so-called’ violation (when did this violation occur?) is going to cause immediate harm to someone I do not believe the government has policing authority.

    If you are going to inspect the electric during this inspection you will need to send an ESI there also.
    http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3783

    I do not think the government can come in unless:

    “105.1 Required.

    Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move or change the occupancy of a residential building or structure, or portion thereof, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical, plumbing system, other residential building service equipment, or piping system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required approval.”
    IMHO