San Rafael council to consider eliminating home inspection program

San Rafael council to consider eliminating home inspection program By Stephanie Weldy, Marin Independent Journal POSTED: 04/05/16, 7:24 PM PDT | UPDATED: 3 SECS AGO0 COMMENTS San Rafael will consider modifying or even abandoning the city’s residential inspection program after a statewide audit faulted several aspects of the program. “If we do exactly what the auditor says, we’re adding more bureaucracy, more of a process and more money,” said Councilwoman Kate Colin. “I like the value of what the process brings but … more might not necessarily be better. I’d also be inclined to see if there’s another way to look at this.” The council on Tuesday reviewed findings of the California State Auditor’s Office, which examined the city inspection program at the request of Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. The program, created in 1973, involves city code inspection of properties upon resale. The audit, released March 26, targeted the qualification of city inspectors, the fees charged for resale reports and other procedural operations. The audit also found flaws in similar programs in Novato and Pasadena. San Rafael officials said many of the recommendations for improvements are reasonable and some have already been implemented, including requiring inspectors to review resale reports before conducting an inspection on a property. “We have already instituted that practice,” said Thomas Ahrens, the city’s chief building official. Officials said the suggestion they develop a formal process for tracking complaints makes sense. The city is already creating formal procedures for following up on correcting violations, Ahrens said. The audit also encouraged the city to conduct a fee study and occasionally update the rates for resale reports, and to provide continuous education for inspectors and ensure certification is up to date. Officials said some of the recommendations are not easy to put in place with limited resources, including creating a plan by spring 2017 to follow up on a backlog of violations. “We have an extensive backlog from 2015 because we lost three staff members in 2015, so there was no one to follow up,” Ahrens said. Levine’s audit request came after inspectors last year found code violations in his home that were not noticed when he bought the property in 2004. He has said the request for an audit was not a direct result of his own home inspection experience, but rather his concern about the integrity of the program. Mayor Gary Phillips questioned the inclusion of Novato and Pasadena in the audit seemingly at random, he said, and without a strategic way to measure the programs’ benefits. Advertisement “What does that indicator prove?” Phillips asked. “I don’t know if much.” If the program were eliminated, the city could relieve itself of the responsibility and liability of home inspections, Phillips said. Councilman John Gamblin said because other Marin cities require buyers to obtain their own home inspectors, perhaps San Rafael officials should follow suit. “People are suggested by agents to obtain a home inspector,” Gamblin said. “Could it be something along the lines, since that is the norm, that we do something like Sausalito, where people do their own home inspections?” Councilwoman Maribeth Bushey said the city staff should consider a variety of options that might meet the city’s goals. “I think it’s important to look at this through the lens of San Rafael to look at important regulatory objectives we want to meet to make sure all of our structures are up to code, meeting standards, but at the same time, not wasting everyone’s time,” she said. Paul Jensen, community development director, said Wednesday that the staff would return to the council within two months with options for managing the program. David N. Swaim Tam Realty Inc Owner DRE#1070789 415-710-5504 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 Serving all of Marin County

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