Kent Health Department plans to update 34-year-old housing code

Kelli Fitzpatrick

Kent City Council will vote on a major revision of the city housing maintenance code during its Wednesday meeting. The City Environmental Health and Housing Maintenance Code has been largely unchanged since 1979, and had “glaring needed changes,” said Health Commissioner Jeff Neistadt.

The Kent Health Department, along with local property managers and landlords, collaborated on revising the code, not creating an entirely new one.

“We are simply updating the current maintenance code to improve environmental health and safety standards within our multiple-use structures in Kent,” Neistadt said. A multiple-use structure is any building containing three or more rooms.

The department has revised more than 20 points of the code, which is available to view on Revisions include:

– Requiring additional smoke alarms in the immediate vicinity outside of bedrooms, in each bedroom and in a common area of each story in a unit, including basements. (Original code did not state how many or where alarms were required.)

– Requiring at least one carbon monoxide alarm in all units that contain fuel-burning equipment or enclosed parking, to be placed near bedrooms. (Original code had no carbon monoxide alarm requirement.)

– Implementing a fee of up to $3,000 to those who operate a multiple-use structure without a valid housing license, applicable each month the owner is found in violation. (Original code did not include a fine for this violation.)

Neistadt and public health sanitarian Kyle Kelly have worked with multiple landlords since May on the update. Neistadt sent a letter to each of the 185 licensed properties in the Kent area, inviting them to submit their revision opinions and attend Health Board meetings.

TransOhio owner William Arthur assisted with reviewing the proposed changes.

“(Requiring) carbon monoxide alarms is one of the good ones they added this time,” Arthur said. “Hopefully, it’s something everyone will have in their house.”

Arthur, who manages five houses and a small number of apartment buildings in Kent, said he is confident his properties will meet the new standards.

“It’s not real complicated,” Arthur said. “They’re not necessarily big, expensive changes.”

If approved, the Health Department will enforce revisions through annual inspections beginning Jan. 1. Kent City Council’s regular meeting is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 325 S. Depeyster St.

Contact Kelli Fitzpatrick at [email protected]

Top 5 most important code revisions

1. Requiring additional smoke alarms.

2. Requiring carbon monoxide alarms.

3. Implementing late fees for owners/operators that do not pay on-time or do not re-new their license on-time.

4. Implementing a penalty to those that operate a multiple-use structure without a valid license.

5. Requiring additional standards for properties that receive 3 or more solid waste violations in any 12 month period.