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Navigating Logan's housing laws

By Danielle Manley
On January 14, 2014

Coming to Logan to attend USU, Jake Robinson expected a steal of a deal with his housing choice — a room in a large six-bedroom house with a prime location for approximately $200 a month.

Robinson didn’t know he would endure four years of city code violations and less-than-preferable treatment from his landlord.

“That first winter, the heater didn’t even work,” he said. “There were two heaters and the main one was broken, so the other one was doing all the work. It kept it a nice 58 degrees. We were still paying a ton of money for gas, so my roommate at the time called our landlord and she said — she pretty much called him a liar and said it was working without coming to look at it.”

It took multiple attempts for the tenants to have their house efficiently heated. Robinson said they saw results when they threatened to move elsewhere.

In addition to heat problems, he said they often experienced electrical problems.

“The whole half of the house is wired on one circuit,” Robinson said. “If someone ran the microwave and toaster at the same time, it would blow the circuit. Luckily it was a guy’s house, so there were no hair dyers going.”

While he was worried his house had code violations, Robinson never reported those problems to the city. He was more concerned the problem would come back to him instead of the landlord.

“There’s horror stories about getting audited because of zoning violations,” he said. “The majority of the people avoid those because it does come back to the landlord, but I think the mentality is it affects the tenants more than the landlord.”

Logan Neighborhood Improvement manager James Geier said there’s a process the city follows when a complaint is made concerning code violations, though it can become messy.

“It’s muddy because you are inserting yourself into a civil situation from the landlord and tenant,” Geier said. “We do our best to kind of work through it.”

According to Geier, when a livability complaint comes through the city office, the initial reaction is to do an inquiry. He said it’s important to determine the tenant’s standing with the unit and the landlord. For example, there may be tension in a landlord/tenant relationship because rent hasn’t been paid. Geier said those issues need to be worked out before the city gets involved.

After the inquiry, Geier makes contact with either the landlord, rental company or property owner to see how the issue can get resolved. The chief building official, Paul Taylor, will request an inspection with the party responsible for the property. As an inspector, Taylor has the authority to enforce the city building code.

“Municipality is not entitled to inspect without cause,” Geier said. “And then we have to provide notice to the property owner that we have cause to inspect. There’s a level on our part to inspect.”

It’s up to the inspector to relay the information to the property owner in order to fix the problem. Geier said they hear about leaky pipes, mold, pest control, electrical issues and most often, heating problems.123

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