Published : Friday, August 31, 2018 | 5:04 AM
The Council voted 7-1 this week to amend the city’s Occupancy Inspection Program, effectively replacing presale visits by city inspectors with a program that allows home buyers to self-report that the homes are, or will soon be, up to code.
“It’s an excellent change,” said Podley Properties founder Bill Podley, adding that the inspection program has grown outdated and places unnecessary hurdles in the way of home sales.
“When the program was first initiated 30-plus years ago, we had lots of housing that had problems, was substandard in one way or another, and we didn’t have the kinds of inspections we have today. Virtually every property today has a physical inspection by a buyer-paid outside inspector. And that inspector does a thorough review of the homes,” he said. “We didn’t have those when the City occupancy program was initiated.”
“So the City Council understood that times have changed. There’s a lot more disclosure,” Podley said. “The one issue that they just want to try to catch, if they could, is if somebody has done an addition without a permit, that needs to be disclosed.”
Podley was part of a task force formed by the Pasadena- Foothills Association of Realtors to negotiate with the city about the policy.
The current way of doing things is riddled with problems, he said.
“The state did an audit a couple of years ago and found our program lacking. And we knew that the City was losing money on the program,” according to Podley. And then there are, “consistency problems.”
“One inspector will say do this, and the other one will say do that,” he said. A person would buy a house in 2016 and pass inspection, and then the new owners decide to sell in 2018, and they find a whole bunch of things that they didn’t find in 2016. That’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with. And so the City Council — City staff and City Council, for the most part, understood the program needs to be revamped.”
While he said he would have liked to see the Occupancy Inspection Program ended altogether, the change is a big improvement.
“So that’s really the bottom line: It’s going to save sellers and realtors frankly a lot of time and hassle,” Podley said.
A City staff report found Pasadena is in the minority when it comes to similar inspection programs. Only 16 of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities require inspections at the time of sale.
“Most cities direct housing inspection resources towards rental stock to ensure property owners are providing tenants safe, well-maintained housing,” according to the report. “In lieu of proactively inspecting homes at point of sale, other cities have opted to shift the onus to the prospective buyer. This is accomplished by requiring a property records report be disclosed to the buyer prior to the sale or transfer of the property.”
The lone dissenter in the Council vote was Mayor Terry Tornek, who has said he’s concerned that abandoning inspections would lead to abuse and code violations. Though he said the program has not been well-managed.
Todd Hays, a realtor at Podley Properties and a Director for the California Association of Realtors who also served on the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors’ task force, said he was also pleased with the outcome.
“We’ve been working with the City Council trying to fix the City Occupancy Inspection Program for three and a half years,” he said.
“There was no continuity from inspection to inspection and no one was really quite sure what was going to be the outcome,” Hays said.
“We’ve been working with the City to try and fix what couldn’t be fixed. And I think that became apparent on Monday and I think the Council took the right action to fix something that had been broken for a long time,” he said.
Upon voting for the new policy, the Council directed staff to draft a new ordinance within 60 days. For now, the old program remains in effect.