Housing advocates in Bryan push for proactive rental inspections

KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 9:32 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -A group of Brazos County residents is advocating for better living conditions for renters.

They say issues like broken appliances, running sinks and toilets, mold, non-working AC units, malfunctioning doors and locks, and other conditions are endangering the health, safety, and overall well-being of residents.

Advocates are in the early stages of requesting that the city of Bryan consider implementing mandatory proactive rental inspections.

They argue that a proactive rental housing inspection program is needed to address the problem of substandard rental properties in the city.

They also feel that rental inspections will encourage greater compliance with health and safety standards and preserve the quality of life for tenants.

A similar initiative was started in the city of College Station, where there are more than 35,000 rental units and counting. Last year, advocates voiced their frustrations to members of the city council.

After receiving complaints from numerous residents regarding substandard rental properties, the College Station City Council conducted several meetings and deliberated on establishing a voluntary proactive rental inspection program.

At that time, city officials believed that implementing a mandatory program would not be feasible due to the large number of rental units in the city, requiring a significant amount of staff to carry out the inspections. The voluntary proactive rental inspection program in College Station is expected to begin sometime this summer.

To address these concerns, city staff proposed a Voluntary Rental Inspection Program that would monitor residents’ complaints using SeeClickFix, an online and smartphone application enabling citizens to report code enforcement violations and other nonemergency issues.

Advocates for the National Center of Health Housing say proactive rental inspections are just one of the tools that can help identify poor and substandard housing conditions that would in many cases go unaddressed.

“They allow us to identify and fix hazardous housing conditions before people are exposed and harmed,” said National Center for Healthy Housing Executive Director Amanda Reddy.

Reedy says, unlike code enforcement systems that rely on complaints proactive rental inspections require routine inspections to identify health and safety issues before they spiral into larger problems.

“In a traditional complaint-based inspection system which is what most of our communities have some renters are legitimately fearful of repercussions from their landlord or concerned about unintended consequences of interacting with a local governmental agency.”

Tre Watson, who helped push for changes in College Station is one of several Bryan-College Station advocates calling on the city of Bryan to now come to the table and consider developing a proactive rental inspection program to safeguard renters, especially students, and seniors.

“There are some people who don’t know their rights as far as it comes to renting things,” said Watson. " And it’s also something that the city can also help with more as well. If you actually do care about your residents you would want to make sure that you look out for them.”

Reedy says while programs like these may seem to target landlords they also have is benefits if done correctly.

“Tax incentives to lower no interest loans or grants or programs that are able to come in and actually do the repairs. Usually having a mix of those financing strategies in place to help those low and moderate-income property owners can really calm a lot of the fears that landlords have,” said Reedy.

The group of advocates is set to meet next month to gather information to take to the Bryan City Council. For more information on their efforts and to view the housing survey click here.