Rental Registration and Certification Program
Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers!)
Q: What is Rental Registration?
A: Rental Registration is the process of filling out a form, called an Application for Rental Registration, for properties that are to be rented. The Application for Rental Registration provides information on the owner and the designated local agent who will be managing the property. The owner and/or agent is responsible to keep the property in compliance with city codes and obtain a Certificate of Compliance. A new rental registration form must be completed any time information about the owner or local agent changes…even just a phone number. Click here for a form available online to do this.
Q: What rental properties need to be registered?
A: The simple answer to this is “all of them”. Every rental property, from a single family house up through the largest hotel, must be registered as a rental and have a periodic inspection for certification.
Q: How do I obtain a Certificate of Compliance?
A: A Certificate of Compliance (or certification) occurs after a property passes inspection by a city housing inspector. Additionally, any violations that are cited by the inspector must be repaired and checked during a reinspection prior to certification.
Q: How long is the Certificate of Compliance valid?
A: The initial (first) certificate on every property is good for 28 months. When renewal is necessary the standard renewal period is also 28 months, however, properties that receive renewal prior to certificate expiration and meet several other requirements, may receive a 40 month certificate. Underperforming properties, or properties excessively delinquent in renewing their certificates, may receive as few as 16 months.
Q: I received a Conditional Certificate – what does that mean?
A: A Conditional Certificate may be granted when there are exterior violations that need correction, but weather prevents them from being accomplished. A Conditional Certificate will have a date the violations must be corrected and will list the violations on the certificate document. You do not need to contact the city if you complete the repairs, as inspectors will automatically inspect the exterior violations after the due date. If you need any additional time it is vital you contact the inspector to request additional time to avoid enforcement.
Q: What costs are associated with rental registration?
A: There are a couple different fee types associated with rental registration and certification. An Annual Rental Registration, billed each March (for the period of April 1-March 31) is currently $108 plus $1 per unit ($109 for a single family dwelling). Additionally, inspections and reinspections are invoiced as they take place, and are currently $75. There is an incentive to have inspections and all reinspections take place prior to certificate renewal; the cost currently is $54. There are no free reinspections. Additional costs may be incurred if enforcement becomes necessary for failure to renew the certificate prior to expiration or failure to make repairs after a correction notice is issued. Each Enforcement Letter comes with a $75 cost recovery fee and may be issued up to every 10 days.
Q: I have heard that if I have my family living in the rental unit, it is not required to be registered or certified.
A: It is true that immediate family may live in a property and it is not considered a rental. This includes children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters (and their families). Other extended family is NOT considered immediate family (cousins, aunts, uncles, great grandnephew, etc.).
Q: What if I am a homeowner and have roommates?
A: If you have roommates your property is considered a rental and must be registered and certified. There are exceptions to this, however, for life partners and co-owners (both persons on the deed/title to the house).
Q: I’ve heard I can only rent out my place to two or three people, is this true?
A: It depends on where your house is located. Certain zoning districts, particularly single family residential areas, do have occupancy limits. If you are in a single family district and are a landlord and will be renting your dwelling out, the occupants must be a family, or no more than two unrelated individuals. If you, as the owner, live in the house you may have two additional unrelated besides yourself. If you need any information on what zoning district your dwelling is located in or if there are applicable occupancy limits, please call 337-8026 and ask to talk to the Zoning Inspector.
Q: During the inspection, what are you looking for?
A: The inspector is inspecting the property against requirements of the International Property Maintenance Code plus several local addendums. Links to these requirements, as well as an inspection “cheat sheet”, can be found on the city’s website.
Q: Do I need to be present for the inspection?
A: Either the property owner or property agent (or another representative, i.e. maintenance worker, leasing agent) need to be present at the inspection.
Q: What if you find violations during the inspection?
A: If the inspector cites any violations, you will receive a Correction Notice. A Correction Notice typically gives 30 days to make repairs. If the property is occupied and any safety items are found, they should be remedied within five days. Work with your inspector for any special circumstances.
Q: What is a condemnation?
A: A condemnation means that the dwelling is not fit for human habitation. The reasons can be varied and can be temporary or long term. For example, if the water is allowed to be shut off, or the furnace isn’t working in the winter, the house may be condemned. Also, certain structural problems, or sanitary issues could also result in a condemnation. A condemnation may be lifted when the conditions resulting in the condemnation have been confirmed remedied by a city inspector.
Q: My tenants have caused damage to the rental unit; will you condemn my unit to get them out quicker?
A: When the city condemns a unit it is due to the condition of the unit. Landlords must file evictions through the court system if tenants refuse to leave after a condemnation has been issued and/or if they want tenants removed for any other legitimate reason.
Q: Why do I have to replace the drain (trap) under my sink to a P-trap? It’s not leaking.
A: Many older homes were constructed when S-traps were standard. However, the plumbing code has prohibited S-traps, and a variety of other illegal traps, for many years. Unfortunately, home improvement stores still sell replacement S-traps, and there have been many illegal S-traps installed. Homeowners can repair their own drain, and a permit is not required for such a simple repair. Even plumbers often take the easy route and just replace what had been there. S-traps allow syphoning of the trap water, and allow sewer gases into the living space. If city inspectors find any S-traps that are not original to the structure – it will need to be replaced.
Q: Is a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector required?
A: A CO detector is a great idea, but is not required. A CO detector is available at any home improvement store, or places like Meijer, Target, Amazon, etc. Typical models plug into the wall and should be in any home where fuel burning appliances are present. Tenants should be encouraged (in the lease agreement if possible) to provide their own CO detector that they can install per manufacturer instructions.
Q: Where are smoke detectors required?
A: Smoke detectors are required in the following locations:
- All bedrooms
- All rooms other than bedrooms used for permanent sleeping
- In each hallway outside of a bedroom or group of bedrooms
- One on each floor (basement included)
- Attics only if used for living space
Q: The tenants have removed the hardwired smoke detectors. Can I replace them with battery operated smoke detectors?
A: Once hardwired smoke detectors are installed they must remain. All new building codes require hardwired, interconnected, smoke detectors. There are now wireless options available (only the base unit has to be hardwired). It is recommended you cover tampering and removal of smoke detectors in the lease agreement.
Q: Are window screens required?
A: All openable windows must be provided with tight fitting screens. The code requires that they be available from April 15 to October 31. Between November 1 and April 14, they can be stored. It is recommended you cover tampering of/damage to screens in the lease agreement.
Q: Why can’t my tenant set up a bedroom in the basement?
A: Older basements were typically not constructed to be habitable space. There are specific requirements for a basement to be habitable, and even more requirements if it is to be used as a bedroom. Requirements include natural light, natural ventilation, ceiling height, separation from utilities, and a bedroom egress window. Consult with your housing inspector to see if your basement is habitable. Some basements that were converted to “living space” by owner occupants find out that the habitable standards are not met when the property is converted to rental.
Q: My house has bed bugs – what do I do?
A: Bed bugs are NOT regulated by a city code and the city inspectors do NOT inspect for bed bugs. Bed bugs are not necessarily a sign of filthy living conditions and are not known to carry communicable disease. Bed bugs are an annoyance for persons who are sensitive to their bites, but not everyone reacts. Bed bugs are very mobile, and can originate from anywhere and can be brought in on clothing, luggage, furniture or other items. Further, they can go for extremely long times without feeding. If you believe your unit has bedbugs, you must work with your tenant and call a professional exterminator to deal with the issue.
We hope your questions were answered. If not, feel free to send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for a PDF of these frequently asked questions.