NORWAY – Selectmen said at their meeting Thursday night that they are open to suggestions on how to improve the Norway Rental Ordinance, but the proponent for change did not attend the meeting.
Jon Belanger, who owns apartment units at 247 and 485 Main St., told the Planning Board late last month that he intended to address his concerns about multiple inspections by both local and state agencies with selectmen.
Under the revised Norway Rental Ordinance voters approved in June, units must be inspected annually, and a $25 fee paid for the code enforcement officer to issue an occupancy permit. The previous process allowed landlords to essentially check off a list of items and turn it in to the town, instead of having the building inspector look over the building.
Belanger had told the Planning Board he believed the ordinance was a “knee-jerk reaction” to problems in local Section 8 rental units that were exposed in 2011. He also said there should be revisions in the ordinance, in part, to reduce redundancy in inspections.
Belanger said the new process at $25 per inspection can add up to a lot of money for multiple units. Additionally, he said the state also requires at least two annual inspections for Section 8 units, which he does have. His insurance agency also inspects his properties, he said. In one case he had a unit inspected 10 times in a year.
“I understand it must be tiresome to have more than one (inspection) a year,” Town Manager David Holt told selectmen.
The changes in the 1993 rental occupancy ordinance were made after a 2011 Maine State Housing Authority internal investigation found its agent for Section 8 housing, Avesta Housing of Portland, failed to recognize numerous safety issues that were uncovered in many local low-income housing units in Norway.
Selectman Russ Newcomb, chairman of the board, and other board members said they welcome comment about any part of the revised ordinance, but the new inspections were put in place because of problems with some state inspections.
“It was quite apparent we couldn't always depend on the state assessment,” Newcomb said.
Belanger could not be reached for comment Thursday night.