Introduced by Representatives Kiss of Burlington, Masland of Thetford, Cross of Winooski, Dowland of Holland, Fisher of Lincoln, Head of S. Burlington, Howard of Rutland City, Kitzmiller of Montpelier, Marek of Newfane, McLaughlin of Royalton and Pillsbury of Brattleboro
Subject: Housing; residential rental property; residential housing code compliance; time of sale; public safety
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require that residential rental property be in compliance with the Vermont life safety code and the rental health housing code at the time ownership is transferred or within a compliance time set by inspection and assumed by the buyer upon sale.
AN ACT RELATING TO IMPROVING THE SAFETY AND HEALTH OF RENTAL HOUSING
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 20 V.S.A. Part 11, chapter 205 is added to read:
PART 11. HOUSING
Chapter 205. Residential Rental Property
§ 4641. DEFINITIONS
For the purposes of this chapter:
(1) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of public safety, or the commissioner’s designee.
(2) “Department” means the department of public safety.
(3) “Housing code” means the Vermont life safety code or the Vermont rental housing health code, whichever is less restrictive.
(4) “Housing inspector” means an inspector who is employed by the department or by a department‑certified municipal housing inspection program or who is registered with and certified by the department in accordance with certification standards as established by rule by the department.
(5) “Residential rental property” means any residence that is rented by an individual who is not the owner or a member of the immediate family of the owner. “Residential rental property” does not include any of the following:
(A) Commercial components of mixed commercial and residential rental property except to the extent that the condition of the commercial component poses health and safety threats to the residential living spaces.
(B) Owner-occupied portions of multi-unit residential buildings.
(C) New construction that is in compliance with housing and safety codes.
(D) Temporary residential housing, including hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, tourist rooming houses, dormitories, residential housing that is rented seasonally and for not more than four months, and housing used for medical purposes, including hospitals, hospices, and nursing homes.
§ 4642. RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTY; HOUSING CODE
COMPLIANCE; TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP
(a) This chapter shall apply to all residential rental properties subject to a housing code. Upon the transfer of any residential rental property for which a deed is recorded, one of the following shall be provided to the residential tenant of the property and filed with the clerk of the municipality or municipalities in which the property is located:
(1) An inspection report signed by a housing inspector, the seller, and the purchaser of the property. The report shall include a certification that the property is in compliance with the housing code or, if the inspector finds that the residential rental property is not in compliance, a detailed list of the violations, including time frames within which the violation shall be remedied, as determined by the inspector. The housing inspector may charge a fee for the inspection and report in an amount that reflects the time and effort involved in the inspection. The purchaser of the property may petition the commissioner to extend the time frames for compliance for good cause shown, and the commissioner may issue new time frames.
(2) Written verification signed by the seller and the purchaser that the residential rental property to be transferred is in compliance with the housing code or that the purchaser is assuming all terms and responsibility for assuring compliance with the housing code in the inspection report.
(b) Compliance with subsection (a) of this section shall not be required for property that is to be demolished or converted to nonresidential use.
§ 4643. ENFORCEMENT; PENALTIES
(a) The owner of residential rental property for which an inspection report was filed with a list of housing code violations which were not corrected within the time frames set out in the report may be subject to a civil fine of no more than $5,000.00 per violation and reasonable court costs and attorney fees in an action brought by the department or the housing inspector in the municipality in which the property is located. Under this section, the tenants may also bring a civil action for compliance with the requirements in the inspection report, any damages suffered by the tenants as the result of the violations or during the period of noncompliance, and reasonable court costs and attorney fees.
(b) If, subsequent to the transfer, the property for which verification of compliance was filed is found to be in violation of the housing code, the tenants shall have a cause of action against the owner of the property for the cost of correcting the violations, the cost of any disruption of the tenants’ quiet enjoyment of the rental property, loss of rents, and reasonable court costs and attorney fees.
(c) The owner of any residential rental property that is transferred in violation of this subchapter may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $500.00, and the property may be inspected by a housing inspector, with the cost of inspection assessed against the property owner.
Sec. 2. TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS; RULEMAKING; EFFECTIVE
(a) The commissioner of public safety shall by rule establish a program that provides:
(1) Training and certification for private housing inspectors, including an administrative fee for the training and certification.
(2) A fee schedule that may be charged by a private housing inspector for performing time-of-sale inspections and follow-up inspections and issuing reports. The commissioner may also determine, by rule, an amount to be charged for certification and training of private housing inspectors. This program shall be implemented no later than January 1, 2006.
(3) Certification of municipal housing inspection programs that comply with the department’s program.
(b) This act shall take effect upon passage, except that Sec. 1 shall take effect on January 1, 2006.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street