City Considers Streamlining Regulations Realtors Say Delay Escrow Closings, Jeopardize Sales

Published : Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 5:33 PM

Pasadena could modify a City program which local realtors say has caused some home sale deals to fall apart and cancel, costing realtors, homeowners and buyers thousands of dollars and weeks, even months, of their time.

Pasadena’s Residential Occupancy Inspection Program, criticized extensively by the California State Auditor in 2016, has drawn the ire of members of the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors for years.

Members felt so strongly about the need for changes to the Program that about 75 showed up en masse at the City Council’s March 26 meeting in hopes of getting the Council to finally consider changes to the program.  City Manager Steve Mermell agreed to put the item on the agenda for May 7.

Monday night, the Council will consider three suggested outcomes for the program.

The City’s Department of Planning and Community Development will introduce proposed amendments to the Inspection Ordinance, which provides the basis for the Occupancy Inspection Program, under the Pasadena Municipal Code.

The amendments, according to an Agenda Report prepared by Planning Director David Reyes, are the result of a reassessment of the inspection program conducted because of “improved conditions” of the City’s housing stock, changes in the real estate environment, changes in the way code violation complaints are received and addressed, and material deficiencies in the program as identified by the California State Auditor’s Office.

Reyes said the recommendations would streamline the program, and redirect its focus on life and safety-related violations.

“Proposed streamlining includes limiting inspection criterion to unpermitted additions or conversions utilized as habitable space, allowing self-certification for minor code violations and exempting condominium/townhouse units from mandatory inspections,” Reyes wrote in the Agenda Report.

A major criticism of the program as it is currently managed is that inspections have been too detailed and have actually caused some deals to cancel or fall apart because of the delay and the costs associated with very lengthy property inspections.

The state auditor’s report have pointed out that Pasadena, like two other California cities cited, has failed to meet its goals for completing inspections and issuing reports on time; moreover, the report also said Pasadena “does not consistently follow up with property owners on the correction of violations identified during the inspections, despite having policies to do so.”

The Inspection Ordinance was adopted by the City Council, then called the Board of Directors, in 1973. The last significant revisions to the ordinance, and the Residential Occupancy Inspection Program, were approved in 1991, or 27 years ago.

To push through with the streamlining, the Planning and Community Development Department is recommending that the inspection program should focus only on major violations, and that condominiums and/or townhouses should be exempted from mandatory inspection and instead require only self-certification forms.

The Planning Department is recommending that the City Council direct the City Attorney to prepare the appropriate ordinance and submit it to the council within 60 days.

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