This unit, with the toilet in the kitchen, would violate the proposed city law.

The city council's land-use committee will consider an amended version of the proposed rental-housing inspection law tomorrow morning.

The initial proposal, sponsored by City Council member Sally Clark, came in response to a state law that creates a statewide standard for rental-housing inspection programs and gives cities warrant authority to enter rental units if a judge agrees there is probable cause to believe a tenant’s health or safety is in danger. It would have required landlords to adhere to every aspect of the city's housing code to get a rental license—a much more stringent standard than the state law, which only yanks a landlord's rental license if a tenant's health or safety is in immediate danger.

Some council members worried that the standards in the initial city proposal were too burdensome to landlords compared to the state law. Others noted that the state law was negotiated between landlords and tenant advocates, and that adopting a stricter law would violate the spirit of that agreement.

Partly in response to those concerns, the amended version, unlike the original, would not require landlords to adhere to every aspect of the housing code to get a rental-housing license. Instead, it would require all rental units inspected under the program to meet 14 minimum standards, including standards for minimum floor area, sanitation, maintenance, heating electrical, emergency-escape, and ventilation.

The legislation wouldn't take effect until July 2011 at the earliest. In the meantime, a separate city resolution directs the city's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to "utilize ... whenever possible" new civil-warrant authority granted by the state last year; that authority allows DPD inspectors to inspect rental units with or without a complaint from a tenant when they feel it's warranted.

The latest version of the inspection proposal would also scale back the number of units that have to be inspected. Whereas the old version would have required the city to inspect every unit in a building, the new version requires only random inspections of a maximum of 20 percent of the units in a building.

The council will take up, and possibly vote on, the rental-housing inspection rules tomorrow morning at 9:30 in council chambers.
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