City Council approved an overhaul of Lancaster’s rental inspection system and fee structure this week, changes that will take effect at the start of 2023.
Under the new system, rental licenses will be valid for two years, rather than having to be renewed annually.
Rental units will be subject to city inspection at least once every six years. Inspection will be more frequent for landlords and properties with a history of violations. Up to now, the city’s systematic inspections have run on a uniform four-year cycle.
The inspections will take about 90 minutes on average, up from 15 to 20 minutes, said James Nixon, chief of the city’s The Bureau of Property Maintenance and Housing Inspections. That’s mostly due to folding in lead inspections, he said: Inspectors will typically take eight dust wipe samples, which requires about 45 to 50 minutes, he said.
Additionally, the bureau plans to conduct more thorough and uniform inspections and take time to advise owners on how to keep their properties in satisfactory condition, Nixon said.
In April, City Council passed an ordinance requiring all rental properties to be certified lead-safe. Previously, only properties rented to families with young children were subject to the requirement.
The two-year rental licenses will cost $250 per unit, up to a maximum of $1,750 for properties with seven units and up. The fee includes the license, an initial inspection and one re-inspection. Further reinspections will cost $125.
Currently, initial licensing costs $50 per unit for one- and two-unit rentals and $200 for other property classes. Annual license renewals cost $25 per unit for rooming houses, dormitories and hotels; and $50 per unit for other property classes.
The changes are part of a broad revamping of the city’s fee structure. They are intended to capture the true cost to the city of providing services, as determined by a recent fee study.
The city assesses fees in connection with permits and licenses issued for a broad range of activities, including construction and renovation work, the sale of food and alcohol and utility work in city streets.
In some cases, the city is choosing to continue absorbing some of the costs to keep fees affordable, Director of Administrative Services Patrick Hopkins said.
For a full list of the fee changes, click here. Like the rental inspection changes, they take effect in January.