Across the nation, regulatory enforcement officers and inspectors are tasked with protecting the health, welfare, and safety of its residents (and visitors) by ensuring that codes and standards are properly enforced. In addition to property maintenance and zoning, in many communities’ officers have the responsibility of regulating the maintenance of the living conditions inside transient lodging.
While “quality of life” is hard to define because it means different things to different people, as properly trained regulators, we know what minimum standards are; as such, regardless of whether someone lives in a 8000 square foot home or in an extended stay hotel, they have a right to a safe, sanitary living space.
It is of utmost importance however that legislators and regulators understand the actual value of these establishments in a community and accurately develop a thoughtful process to deal with potential violations. Let me be very clear, any establishment that blatantly interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of the community or maintains their property contrary to acceptable standards, should be dealt with in a manner provided by state law. Period.
So how do regulators ensure that these properties are maintaining minimum standards, and how do they ensure the protection of the inhabitants?
- Understand the needs of your community:
For communities struggling with homelessness, the McKinney-Vento Act ensures that each child of a homeless individual has equal access to appropriate public education. For the purposes of this act, the definition of homelessness includes children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition specifically includes children and youth who are, in addition to other scenarios “staying in motels”. For others, the use of hotels for long-term housing is relatively inexpensive and often convenient for low-income families and older adults on fixed incomes.
- Use progressive public/private regulatory tools:
Establish communication with the hotel/motel community in your jurisdiction and create policies that are complementary to the common goals of the legislative body and the private hospitality sector. Regulators should operate with the goal of compliance and only use enforcement as a tool to effectuate compliance. Having a professional relationship with the owners and managers of these properties results in an easier enforcement process.
- Have well written codes enforced by properly trained staff
Many communities understand that having a properly written ordinance is essential to the public’s interest and safety; but some miss the mark when they adopt far reaching ordinances that violate civil and constitutional rights. When enforcement officials are asked to effectuate the purposes of these ordinances, they are no longer adhering to their sworn duties. As regulators, we have a responsibility to be capable of ensuring that buildings and structures are permitted, maintained and zoned in a manner that reduces the risk to human life by fair and competent regulation.
About the author: Marcus Kellum, MMPA CCEA
Marcus Kellum has worked with local governments, private businesses and professional organizations across the country to train their regulatory, compliance and enforcement officers and inspectors. He spent nearly three decades in public service working with various cities and counties in Georgia, Colorado and the City of New York. He has held positions as code division manager, chief of enforcement, and department director. Marcus is a Certified Code Enforcement Administrator and holds a BS in criminal justice administration, and a master’s degree in management and public administration.