Community Development Director Ginger Sottile presented the ordinance amendment to require the annual inspections to City Council.

Sandy Springs City Council unanimously approved development code amendments to require annual inspections of all multi-family rental housing units in the city.

“Currently, the code and third-party inspections are spread out over five years, making it difficult for all parties to keep track of which buildings have already been inspected,” Community Development Director Ginger Sottile told the City Council at its Sept. 6 meeting. “Furthermore, due to due to the large number of aging apartments without sprinklers there is a heightened risk of fire and potential loss of life,” Community Development Director Ginger Sottile told the City Council at its Sept. 6 meeting.”

The fire department, code enforcement, and the building division will jointly administer the program. Apartment complex owners or property management companies must schedule and pay for the annual third-party inspections.

In addition to the annual inspections, a separate inspection of the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be required every five years to make sure that the equipment is properly maintained and operating within the manufacturer’s specifications, she said.

All owners and property managers must undergo training on the new ordinance. A code compliance certificate, Property Manager Certification and certificate of insurance must be submitted with the application for a new or renewal of an occupation occupational tax certificate.

Councilmember Melody Kelley asked why the apartment complexes must show their insurance coverage to the city.

“We believe it’s for the protection of the occupants of the apartments themselves. If, God forbid there was some kind of a catastrophic event and there was a loss of life and the families of those lost, would be compensated. Also that in the event of loss of housing that the housing could be built back so that the occupants could at some point move back into the apartments that they once occupied,” Sottile said.

City Attorney Dan Lee said staff feels that the requirement is another level of inspection because the property couldn’t get insurance if it didn’t meet the code.

During public comment before the ordinance amendments were presented to the city council, Stephen Davis of the Atlanta Apartment Association asked for time to take the proposals back to members for review.

He said the insurance requirement wasn’t something that other cities asked to see. The requirement to take a class for third-party inspectors, owners or property managers was also unique and the association wanted to learn more about the classes.

The city has 98 apartment complexes with two more under construction, according to Sottile’s report to the city council. More than 25,000 rental units are in approximately 1,300 buildings. Of these structures, her report said 47 percent lack an automatic sprinkler system, 25 percent are partially covered by sprinklers, and 28 percent are fully covered.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.