Oskaloosa City Hall

OSKALOOSA — According to city officials, the Rental Housing Inspection Program is on track.

Oskaloosa Development Services Director Shawn Christ and Jason VanAusdall of Iowa Inspections presented an update to the Oskaloosa City Council at their recent meeting.

The program, which took effect in 2017, was established to provide safe and sanitary housing for the residents of Oskaloosa by establishing minimum standards and regular inspections for all rental housing units in Oskaloosa.

VanAusdall said he believes the program has been very successful.

“Councilman Walling pulled me aside after the vote a couple years ago and he said ‘Jason, the success or failure of this program rides on your shoulders.’ Thanks for that,” he said, prompting chuckles from the council. “I would go on to say the success of this program has not gone unnoticed by other communities and it is being emulated by others and that’s a great form of flattery for the council.”

VanAusdall visits properties and does inspections and talks to the tenants and landlords.

“And just so you know, when we see that out there, the good, bad and the ugly,” he said, “we’re talking to them, we’re communicating with them on what we expect to see, thanking them for what they do before we get there, their efforts.”

There are lots and lots of improvements, VanAusdall said.

Before inspections, VanAusdall said, packets of information are given, including the policy, the city ordinance, the checklist and the inspectors’ contact information.

“We definitely want [the property owners] to reach out to talk about their properties with us,” he said. “If they have a question in the field, we want them to be able to email, text, call and i get them all and that’s exactly what I want. I want them to take a picture of it. I even get a FaceTime sometimes.”

On the flip side, VanAusdall said, if there is a minor infraction in the field, the inspectors aren’t going to fail the property.

“We want to put that small-town feel into that and say ‘John Doe, get that taken care of — I had it happen today, actually — ‘get that taken care of, take a picture, send it to me and I can through my Ipad, approve that and get it taken care of right then and right there.’ And that works out very well.”

City Manager Michael Schrock said as per direction by the city council, the program tackled the worst of the properties first.

Currently, according to information from the city council, there are a total of 711 properties registered with the Rental Housing Inspection Program, with a total of 1,667 dwelling units. Since the inception of the program in 2017, 611 properties (1,205 dwelling units) have been inspected. One property with seven dwelling units has been condemned by the city.

According to staff reports the program has a very high success rate, with 66 percent of properties passing on the first inspection and 94 percent have passed after re-inspection. There are 100 properties (462 dwelling units) left to be inspected.

The most common violations noted have been:

• Inadequate or missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

• Blocked exits

• Lack of GFCI protected outlets near water sources

• Lack of pressure relief valve on water heater

• Extension cords as permanent power supply

• Inadequate or missing clothes dryer vents

• Inadequate or missing handrails on decks

• Inadequate or missing fire extinguishers

• Excessively peeling paint

• Junk/debris on the property

According to reports from city staff, the initial heavy workload has diminished and the program is now functioning as intended. No changes were recommended for 2019-2020.

Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at aholland@oskyherald.com and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.