Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Moving Violations: Mandatory Home Inspections Urged

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Moving Violations: Mandatory Home Inspections Urged

Article excerpt

Deteriorating housing around the county is causing government inspectors and elected officials to call for mandatory inspections of dwellings when they change occupants.

Owners would be forced to make repairs before houses could be sold or apartments could be rented.

Wentzville is the only major city in the county to require such inspections. The program began five years ago and officials report it is preserving housing stock.

Meanwhile, St. Charles County is in "desperate" need of such inspections, says the head of the building department. Officials in the city of St. Charles say they are frustrated without the inspections; St. Peters has "resolved" to start them.

Cottleville Mayor Steve Kochanski says a minor fire Tuesday in an old house in his city has persuaded him to take up the cause again. He said the fire started in an inadequate electrical panel. In the mayhem that followed, a woman fell through a rotten floor.

He said many older homes that are rented out desperately need repairs. Because the city has no inspection program, owners never fix up the places. He said aldermen have opposed inspections in the past because they felt sorry for the elderly people who own many of these homes.

"But now, we either get the town cleaned up, or it's going to turn into a rathole," he said.

The problem isn't just with old cities. Even the relatively new city of St. Peters is meeting with real estate salesmen and apartment owners to prepare for an inspection program.

St. Peters officials realize that if people don't take care of their homes now, the city will face the same sort of problems confronting older communities.

St. Charles

St. Charles building inspector Mike Pavlakes said run-down property attracts people who do not keep up property, and that cycle becomes self-perpetuating.

"The is a real source of frustration," Pavlakes said. "All we do is run around trying to put out fires."

He said the city needs comprehensive inspections, especially on rental property. His department would need three or four more people, plus vehicles and a secretarial staff, to make the additional inspections, he said.

Pavlakes and a staff of four full-time and two part-time workers inspect new construction in the city. Inspections on existing property is required only for commercial buildings.

Pavlakes said he was upset six months ago when the City Council defeated a plan for a comprehensive inspection program. He warned: "The problem gets worse as time goes by."

He said the city would be better off even if it just required inspections on rental property because he gets relatively few complaints on owner-occupied, single family residences. He said absentee landlords are then ones who most often "kick and scream" when it comes to putting money into property.

Unincorporated County

The unincorporated area of the county "desperately needs a full-housing code," said Dave Hammond, director of St. …

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