FRCOG workshop to address pre-rental inspection regs

  • WALKER

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2022 5:28:36 PM
Modified: 6/24/2022 5:28:18 PM

GREENFIELD — As part of a community-wide effort to increase access to safe and affordable housing in Franklin County, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) is co-sponsoring a workshop on how individual boards of health can pass pre-rental inspection regulations.

“The idea to hold (the workshop) came out of a lot of different work that’s happening in Franklin County to look at how to increase access to safe, affordable housing, because during the pandemic it became clear just how much of an impact housing has on people’s health,” said Phoebe Walker, director of community services with FRCOG.

Municipal health agents, board of health members and others are invited to the free virtual workshop on promoting the safety of rental housing on Wednesday, June 29, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The event, co-sponsored with the Western Mass Public Health Association, is supported by the Massachusetts Community Health and Healthy Aging Funds.

Walker explained that pre-rental housing inspection regulations are offered as an option to landlords in communities like Greenfield, but are otherwise not mandatory anywhere in the county.

“We think it’s an important tool to have in your toolbox and for towns to consider … when looking at what they can do to improve health,” she said.

Walker added that with pre-rental inspection regulations in place, housing conflicts can be “significantly reduced … by having clear proof the house was habitable and safe at a certain point.”

“The end result is you prevent a lot of downstream, lengthy housing issues,” she said.

At a Greenfield Board of Health meeting in March, Health Director Jennifer Hoffman shared with members that the Health Department had been speaking with FRCOG about what it might look like for Greenfield to pass a local pre-rental inspection regulation.

Hoffman said her department does as many as 10 inspections a week. In her conversations with landlords, she reported that while they’re at first taken aback by the idea of such a regulation, of the 20 or so landlords that had been spoken to, all were ultimately in support.

“What it does is it gives you security that we know what the property looks like … before you rent it, because when we walk into a situation, we don’t always know who is responsible for what,” Hoffman said. “If you have it inspected before you rent it out, there’s already a baseline for moving forward.”

Walker said that when she first looked at pre-rental inspection regulations 15 or 16 years ago, most communities were not on board.

“It’s a very different world now,” she said.

During the workshop, Walker said Williamstown Health Inspector Jeff Kennedy will likely speak to how the attitude toward pre-rental inspections has changed over the years.

Additionally, attendees will learn how to pass a municipal pre-rental inspection regulation, and how to start a program to inspect and certify residential units, according to organizers. Working with local landlords to avoid problematic and unsafe situations will also be covered, and examples of regulations, documents and tools from Massachusetts communities will be shared.

So far, “there has been a great response” from the community, Walker said, with more than 100 people across the state registered.

For more information and to register by June 28, go to the meetings and events calendar at frcog.org. Links to the webinar will be sent to registrants by email the day of the event.


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