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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — City leaders in South Bend are considering a proposal that would require landlords to have their rental properties inspected by the city before they are allowed to rent them out to tenants. 

“We’re working with the common council to set up the ability to do rental inspections,” said South Bend Mayor Buttigieg. “This is not about creating new rules but more about allowing the city to better enforce rules that are already on the books.”

Those rules are laid out in Indiana state law. Landlords have to meet certain obligations in up-keeping their rental properties such as keeping smoke detectors in working order, installing and maintaining proper plumbing for water and sewage, and having working air conditioning and heat.

Buttigieg said there are over 16,000 rental properties in South Bend alone and the city knows some are not safe places to live, and they want that to change.

“Most landlords and property owners are responsible,” Buttigieg explained. “But the one who are not, renters really suffer and we need to make sure that there are safe, healthy living conditions. Especially for our some of our most vulnerable residents.”

The inspection process would include landlords having to request an inspection by the city before they can legally rent it out to a new tenant within South Bend city limits. Once city inspectors sign off the landlord is free to allow a new tenant to sign a lease.

Buttigieg said the proposal is still being fine tuned in regards to the types of penalties landlords could face should they come up short of the standards laid out in state law, but he added that it needs to be enough to “get the attention of landlords and make sure they do the right thing.”

A lack of following state standards was put on display late last year when three children were killed in a house fire in Tell City. The house they were living in was a rental property that the state fire marshal’s office said did not have working smoke detectors.

The landlord told WFIE that he always makes sure the smoke detectors are working when he first rents out all his properties, but afterwards he “does not know what happens to them.”

(PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images)