By Paul Hackbarth
Missourian Staff Writer
Washington’s city administrator has recommended several changes to the city’s procedures for performing occupancy inspections in properties around town.
At Wednesday night’s city council administration/operations committee meeting, Jim Briggs said the city currently is not following its codes regarding payment for occupancy inspections.
Section 500.050 of the city’s building code states that fees should be paid at the time of the application for an occupancy permit, but some applicants are not paying the fee until after an inspection.
“We just need to follow the code,” Briggs said. “We are treating them kinder (than the code allows).
“We shouldn’t have to chase them around Washington. We shouldn’t have the building department be the collection agency,” Briggs said.
After talking with building department officials, Briggs said he learned there are currently about 90 outstanding occupancy permits in which the inspection fees have not been paid.
Of those 90, Briggs estimated that about 75 percent are residential properties. It was estimated that the city processes about 1,500 occupancy permits each year.
The 90 outstanding cases are in different phases, Briggs explained, noting that the building owner may not have found a new tenant to move in yet or repairs are still being made to the property.
Occupancy inspections are required by city code after each change of tenant.
The city has no application form and staff usually only receive a phone call from the applicant requesting a permit and inspection.
The city allows the building owner, tenant or manager to apply for the certificate of occupancy.
Briggs said under current procedures, the building department requires payment of the fees at the time of occupancy and that the owner or manager of the property must provide the city with the tenant’s name before the certificate of occupancy is issued.
Briggs recommended having the building department require payment at the time of the application, as the code states.
He also suggested putting an application online that people can download from the city’s website.
After the inspection is completed and approved, then the certificate of occupancy would be issued.
The certificate could be mailed to the applicant or the applicant could be responsible for picking it up at city hall, Briggs said.
Briggs also said the city should send bills to applicants who have outstanding fees. If they fail to pay, the applicants will be cited for a municipal code violation.
Briggs also noted that unless the city has an application on file for water and sewer service, the charges will remain in the building owner’s name and that it’s the responsibility of the owner to make sure the utility services are switched over to the tenant’s name, unless the building owner does not want that.