New program inspects Independence rental homes to hold landlords accountable

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A new program in Independence is helping crack down on problems in rental houses. Properties now have to undergo basic health and safety inspections.

Rental Ready inspectors come to properties and walk through them, thoroughly looking at all kinds of everyday items to make sure they’re safe. The goal overall is to improve living conditions for people across the community.

“We’re looking for nine basic things,” an inspector said.

Steve LeVota is one of six approved contractors performing home inspections for the Rental Ready program in Independence.

Since June, more than 2,200 inspections have been done on rental homes across the city. They check everything from electrical systems to toilets, furnaces and water heaters. The most common violation has been issues with smoke alarms.

“Eight out of 10 times, they don’t have one or the battery is dead,” LeVota said.

Independence started this inspection program based on concerns from recent citizen surveys.

“This program is designed to provide the basic health and safety to ensure neighborhoods are kept up to the standard the city would like to see. It also ensures the inside of the properties are kept up to that basic health and safety the residents and tenants need to have,” said Tom Scannell, Independence community development director.

Rentals are inspected once a landlord’s business license is set to expire or if a new landlord is entering the local market. The check-ups are done at the landlord’s expense, and units must pass for their license to be issued or renewed for two more years.

If any violations are found, they get notice to fix it. If they don’t after two warnings, the city can take them to court.

“What we’ve found is over 95 percent of the landlords have brought their properties up to the standards we’ve outlined within the program,” Scannell said.

The city hopes these routine inspections prevent residents from being trapped by bad landlords who won’t fix safety issues. Keeping rentals up to par also helps improves the image of neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

“The city has a lot to offer, and this is just one more thing that brings the livability and attract-ability back to Independence,” Scannell said.

If you live in a rental unit in Independence and have an issue, you can contact the city’s community development department at 816-325-7405 to initiate a complaint. They can then work with you to coordinate an inspection if it’s found to be warranted.

You can learn more about the rental inspection program here.