The Lewisville City Council unanimously approved an evolution to the city’s multifamily inspection program on Monday.
Beginning in August, the city's code enforcement department will administer multifamily unit inspections. Inspection fees will fall around $12 per dwelling unit. Instead of inspecting only one unit per building, city staff will inspect 5% of the apartment’s dwelling units.
An initial $29,000 will be used to add an additional multifamily inspector position in July so more multifamily complexes can be serviced in a timely manner. The changes will be effective 60 days after the publication of the City Council meeting – June 20, according to the Lewisville city secretary – allowing time to educate multifamily complexes about the program and fee.
Chris McGinn, Neighborhood Services director, said the fee burden was not legally required to fall on residents. However, if it did, apartment tenants would likely see a 30-cent increase on average each month.
Council members Brandon Jones and Ronni Cade said some apartment complexes had spread misinformation regarding the program. According to Jones, property managers said the new ordinance would lead to 400% fee increases and that increase in operation fees from the city will be a significant driver in rent increases.
“We want to create a level playing field for all of our apartment complexes, so they are safe for everyone. Period,” Jones said.
Cade said the program is not new, like some property managers and residents had said. It began in 2004 and has not seen a fee increase in the 18 years that it has been in place. She said if tenants see a significant rent increase after the program is implemented, it is not because of the city.
“This is a layer of protection between you and your landlord who may not care,” Cade said.
The only public speaker on the item was John Gillespie, a property manager and owner of multiple apartment complexes throughout North Texas and Tennessee. He said while he agreed that tenant safety is important, he proposed that Lewisville look at other municipalities and mirror their inspection ordinances with breaks for property managers who are in frequent compliance, hiring third party inspectors instead of city staff to ensure higher quality of inspection and other changes.
Mayor TJ Gilmore said the changed ordinance would have room for adjustments as needed.
Because of the information given by some of Lewisville’s apartment complexes, the city was implicitly accused by multi-family residents and property managers of sanctioning apartment tenants as "second-class citizens," the council members said.
At the end of the discussion, Gilmore said this was not the case.
“Our number one concern is health and safety – period,” he said. “If I had to cut this city to the bone, that’s all that would remain – health and safety. To imply that we are doing anything other than that and that we’re creating a group of second-class citizens is unacceptable.”
Gilmore said as the ordinance goes into effect, the city will adjust as needed to continue lowering the burden on residents.