Mayor Purzycki Vetoes Pre-Rental Inspection Ordinance

In a message to Council, the Mayor says the ordinance would misdirect the City’s attention and limited resources away from the housing stock that most needs improvement and inspection.
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki today vetoed an ordinance that would have required the City to conduct pre-rental inspections on an estimated 18,000 rental units in the City. In a veto message to members of Wilmington City Council, Mayor Purzycki outlines his reasons for blocking this legislation from becoming law. The text of the Mayor’s message delivered today to Council President Hanifa Shabazz and Members of Council is as follows:

“On December 10, 2020, Council narrowly passed Substitute No. 1 to Ordinance 20-007, ‘An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 34 of the City Code Regarding the Inspection of Rented or Leased Dwellings or Building for Residential Occupancy’ (the ‘Ordinance’). Before an ordinance may take effect, it must be presented to the Mayor for approval pursuant to Charter Section 2-202. On this occasion, I am unwilling to provide that approval. As a result, I respectfully return this disapproved ordinance back to Council with my reasons for this veto.

Four years ago, when I came into office, the Department of License and Inspection performed only a few hundred rental inspections per year. But through a deliberate and coordinated effort, including adding inspection staff, we increased those annual numbers, including re-inspections, to 1900 in 2019.

Currently, the City has a stock of over 18,000 rental units, most of them no doubt being rented on a yearly basis. This Ordinance orders the City to inspect every one of those rented units for each year in which a lease is entered. As indicated by L&I Director Starkey, his department does not have the personnel to perform what amounts to almost ten times the number of rental inspections it currently performs, as well as execute all the other essential responsibilities given to the Department under City Code.

I remind Council that pre-rental inspections were formerly required under the Code. This mandate was removed because that inspection system did not work as intended, causing long and erratic wait times for scheduling an inspection. These delays harmed both landlords and tenants alike. While the landlords could not rent their properties for weeks, and even months as they waited for an inspection to be scheduled, the tenants looking for a place to live were left out in the cold without a predictable date to move into their rental unit. These predictable inefficiencies do not, in the long run, benefit anyone.

Everyone knows how important this Administration views eliminating blight, stabilizing neighborhoods, and improving the housing stock of City residents. And I recognize Council’s commitment to improve City rental housing. To this end, the City should surely use all the tools at its disposal. But this Ordinance, by requiring a huge and impractical number of annual pre-rental inspections, will regrettably misdirect the City’s attention and limited resources away from the housing stock that most needs improvement and inspection.

The hope of this Administration is that with the upcoming session, through a renewed collaborative approach with City Council, we can work together to draft and pass other legislation that will accomplish these important shared goals. However, this Ordinance, if allowed to become part of the Code, while well-intentioned, will fail to improve Wilmington’s rental housing problem. For these reasons, I must veto the Ordinance. Respectfully, I hereby do so.”
Source: Mayor’s Office