Norway code officer wants inspection authority

NORWAY – Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman presented selectmen and the public Thursday night with proposed changes to the Norway Rental Occupancy Ordinance. In part, it will prohibit landlords from inspecting their own apartment buildings.

The current alternative inspection lets a landlord essentially check off a list of items and turn it in to the town instead of having the building inspector inspect the building.

"No one went and looked. I didn't like that, she said. "I feel strongly I should be the one inspecting."

The proposal is one of several changes to the Rental Occupancy Ordinance and the building code that were heard at a public hearing before the Board of Selectmen.

Only one resident appeared at the public hearing.

The proposed updates will be sent to voters at annual town meeting in June.

Norway voters passed a building code in 1993, weakening the proposed version because they saw their property rights as superseding other requirements such as safety and health issues.

“I think that the public mood is different about this than it was then,” Town Manager David Holt said.

The other proposed changes include a moderate fee increase for building code inspections because more of them will be required by the new code, Corey-Whitman said. It also makes the fees comparable with other towns.

The fee for currant usable residential living space will go from 10 cents per square foot for new construction and additions, to $30 plus 15 cents per square foot.

Commercial fees will go from 15 cents per square foot to $50, plus 25 cents per square foot.

Fire Chief Dennis Yates has proposed that all wiring installation in any structure regulated by the ordinance conform to the latest edition of the National Electrical Code published by the National Fire Association and the adopted State of Maine Standard.

Yates, who is also a licensed master electrician, has also proposed that all newly constructed dwellings have a visible exterior main electrical shutoff disconnect on the outside to ensure all electricity is shut down before firefighters enter a building during a fire.

The chief has also asked that any dwelling that has an alternative power source, such as an automatic-start generator that activates power once it is interrupted or cut off, have a warning sticker on the meter socket disconnect on the exterior of the building. Yates said this is a safety issue for firefighters.

Corey-Whitman has also suggested that a demolition permit be required, with a $5 fee if no inspection is required and a $15 fee if an inspection is required, say, for lead paint or asbestos.

Selectman Russ Newcomb said that although he generally dislikes fees, these are insignificant and the town needs to have them.

Corey-Whitman said it is important that building owners who wish to take down a structure notify the town, because in some cases this is the only way the town assessor knows a building is gone.

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Robert McQueeney's picture

These are all solid recommendations

Allowing the landlord to inspect and tell the town it's okay is so much like the fox guarding the chicken house. Should one not properly repair deficient items, a simple check mark can eliminate scrutiny, all the while saying all town requirements are met.

The proposals for firemen safety should be a no brainer. Too many feel and act like nothing will ever happen and when it happens to a fireman, all they'll have is a sad face for the injured fireman.

The only thing I would is to reword the part of not allowing landlords to inspect their apartments, to say that they can inspect for their own purposes (such as for tenant caused damage, or regular maintenance). I work in many apartments where tenants do not want to allow us into their apartments and they have over a dozen cats and no litter boxes and the neighbors are complaining (true story, and I have many more). You need to make sure the landlord still retains to inspect and protect his property. It's hard enough now to properly take care of an apartment if there is an adversarial tenant.


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