The Syracuse Common Council voted against requiring interior inspections of rental properties, either by consent or warrant, every two years. The measure failed by a 5-4 vote.
The legislation was intended to offer protections for renters too afraid to make complaints about their landlords out of fear of retribution. But Councilor Jean Kessner, who voted against the measure, said the city does not have enough housing inspectors to do the jobs required of them now.
“Big back log, so we’re going to make an even bigger ask of them,” Kessner said.
Councilor Nader Maroun also voted against the legislation saying it never addressed increasing the number of inspectors.
“I’m not sure how we were going to be able to do these other inspections, 9,000 code inspections, without these other inspectors,” Maroun said.
Maroun said several factors will need to be met to get him to change his vote.
"I want to see the number of people who would be added to code enforcement," Maroun said. "I'd want to see where the budget is going to come to pay for that. I want to see what the accountability would be for those inspectors to do. I'd want to see that we're in compliance with New York State law."
Councilor Khalid Bey sponsored the proposal.
“What is the logic of the cry for more inspectors except to create more of a smokescreen?” Bey asked.
He said landlords would still have the right to refuse inspections and only a judge issuing a court order could override that refusal.
“You’re going to need a stack of proof to get a judge to give you a warrant,” Bey said. "How many inspectors would you need for something that would probably, barely happen? If the judge was issuing warrants everyday I could see that argument. But knowing that judges won't issue warrants that fast and that readily for inspections, you're talking about things that will be far and in-between."
Bey said he was not surprised the measure failed after some landlords complained. He said he was driven by the community to push for the vote and they will have to rephrase the proposal again as they attempt to solve the issue.