Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Richardson Has a Solution in Search of a Problem

During 2012, so far, out of 644 rental home inspections, only 1 rental home has failed the inspection. That represents a solution Richardson leadership has developed in search of a problem. With inspection fees of $75 a year and re-inspection fees even high, it seems to represent more of a “money grab” for the City of Richardson than an effort to insure rental homes are safe.

Richardson instituted a rental home inspection program a while back. Most people don’t know about it because it has no effect on them, yet. But things will probably change in the near future. One tenant of Richardson sees the actions of Richardson government rather heavy handed: “The heavy-handedness of a local government having this kind of power and response is unconscionable,” Peter Balbus said.

There are three websites with commentary about the rental home inspection program in Richardson:

In a nutshell, in 2005 Garland passed into law ordinance 5895. Garland inspectors wanted to inspect rental homes and Roy Dearmore sued the city in 2005. Judge Sam Lindsay found that "Inspections and searches of unoccupied property would clearly infringe on the property owner's right under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. In these limited situations, where the property is unoccupied, the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution outweigh any interest that the government has in protecting the health, safety or welfare of the public. If it becomes necessary to inspect unoccupied properties, the City could readily, with a modicum of effort, obtain an administrative search warrant to inspect any property that may pose a danger to the public."

As a result, Richardson in the recent past revised its law requiring rental home inspections to “Require inspection upon Change in Occupancy – Within 30 days of tenant moving in.” While this change does respect the 4th amendments right of privacy for the owner of an unoccupied property, it does not respect the rights of a tenant who rents a home.

The owner of a rental property in Richardson is now required to register a rental home with the city and pay a $75 fee. After a tenant moves in, they are to setup a time with the city inspector to inspect the rental property.

After that is done, the home is inspected if the tenant agrees to have their 4th amendment right violate with the inspection. If he does not allow the inspection to go forward, then a new provision added in 2012, 6-474 (c), calls for an “Inspection Warrant” to be issued so the inspection can forcibly be done. See

There is some concern that the home inspections will not stop there in the future. If the City of Richardson, can for the safety and welfare of the people, require rental home inspections, then why should they not in the future, for the safety and welfare of the people, require all residential home inspected? Another possibility is the requirement of a pre-sale home inspection where a person could not sale the home without the blessing of the city.

As first stated, out of 644 rental home inspections done so far in 2012, there has been only one home fail the inspection. The makes it appear that there is not a problem with the condition of rental home in Richardson. It also makes it appear that this rental inspection program in nothing more than a heavy handed government doing something just because they can, not because it is needed.

It also shows a serious problem with non-compliance with the ordinance. It is estimated that there are more than 2500 rental home in Richardson. It seem that the vast majority of rental home owners have no interest in complying with the city’s heavy –handed tactics and are simply ignoring the law, civil disobedience.

There is probably a much better way to deal with what the city officials and some people think of as a serious problem. Rather than requiring the inspection of all rental homes, maybe the program should be complaint based. If a tenant has a problem the landlord will not deal with, setup a program to take complaints and then deal with it on a case by case basis rather than using a sledge hammer to drive a finishing nail.

The landlords and tenant fighting together over Richardson’s rental home inspection should signal to the city officials that there is a problem and that this will end up in court. The court costs will not be paid for by those who are making the boneheaded choice to apply a solution where there is no problem, but it will be paid for by the taxpayers.


  1. >During 2012, so far, out of 644 rental home inspections, only 1 rental home has failed the inspection.

    That's exactly what happened in Garland. Slumlords went underground. Good landlords come forward and register their properties, so the city is inspecting well-maintained properties, while bad landlords will NEVER register theirs.

    The city is wasting its resources on going after good landlords (with citations, issuing warrants and taking the police to the rentals) instead of cracking down on bad landlords who don't want to take care of their properties.

  2. We don't think the rental registration program is about revenue because the fees ($75 x 2500) barely cover the salaries of two inspectors. (It usually costs an employer 1.5 times an employee's actual salary.)

    We think it's about expanding the turf of the city Community Services dept. Now they have 30 managers and inspectors. They only had a few inspectors just a few years ago.

    Starting this year, they even have a dedicated officer for the Rental Registration Program. It's not a coincidence that the city got aggressive with inspections this year. They need to justify their existence.

  3. As far as the city is concerned, they think they are using their resources well. It is not just about control, but also financial gain.

  4. LLPro:

    You think the fee revenue ($187,500 $75 x 2500) barely covers the salaries of two inspectors? The City should hire you as one of its many consultants to advise on city salaries - we have the highest paid municipal employees in the area, but $93,750 apiece for inspectors is REALLY EXCESSIVE. That salary would definitely pay for the high peaked caps, leather trench coats and highly polished jackboots, reminiscent of uniforms from long ago that seem to fit the intrusive purpose of the inspectors.

  5. Yes, not that far off, including benefits and payroll taxes. (I used to be an employer as well as a well-paid consultant :)

    I'm sure those city employees get good health insurance (and pensions) with our rental registration fees and property taxes, while we self-employed landlords are stuck with lousy insurance, which pays for nothing, and NO PENSIONS!