A key element of Riverside’s new rental registry program, which will kick into gear in 2022, is now on the books after village trustees voted unanimously to approve an ordinance providing for annual inspections of multifamily mechanical and common areas.

Trustees established the rental registry in August, and the owners of every multifamily rental building of three or more units will have to register those properties annually and provide tenant contact information.

Village officials moved to create the registry program – and the key inspection requirement – after residents of a large apartment complex in downtown Riverside were left without reliable heat for more than a week in February, during the coldest days of winter.

While the August action by the village board created the program, the inspection ordinance approved by trustees at their meeting Nov. 18 lays out how the annual inspections will be handled along with the responsibilities of building owners.

Riverside has long done annual fire inspections for multifamily buildings, but fire inspectors do not flag general building code violations. Beginning in 2022, a village building inspector will accompany fire inspectors.

Ashley Monroe, Riverside assistant village manager who oversees the community development department, said letters to multifamily building owners will be going out in the mail later this week. Additional information will also be posted on a dedicated page on the village’s website at riverside.il.us.

“We’re hoping initial registration will take place in January with inspections beginning in February,” Monroe said.

The inspections of buildings and individual units will be spread out throughout the year, Monroe said, in order to provide owners and tenants with sufficient notice.

Multifamily building owners must pay a $100 annual fee for the code inspections. Code inspectors will look for safety violations in common areas and rooms where mechanical systems are located. In addition to inspecting elements such as heating plants, inspectors would also be able to flag any code violations such as deteriorating rear porches, crumbling masonry and other potential structural issues.

Just who will be conducting the inspections is an open question at the moment. The village has been unsuccessful in recruiting inspectors who would be hired on staff. Recently the village issued a request for proposals from firms that do such work on a contract basis.

According to Monroe, the village hopes to conduct interviews with companies and settle on a finalist that can be hired on a contract basis at the village board’s meeting on Jan. 6, 2022.

The inspection ordinance also mandates that building owners allow inspectors entry into common and mechanical areas and states the village may seek an administrative search warrant if a landlord fails to comply.

Inspection of common and mechanical areas is in addition to the inspection requirement written into the rental registry ordinance passed by the village board in August.

The rental registry law includes a rolling inspection cycle whereby all rental units in the village’s multifamily buildings must be inspected every three years, with no less than 20 percent of a building’s units inspected annually.

Those unit inspections may be done by a village inspector or by an inspector hired by the building owner using a village-supplied checklist. Self-inspection during the first three years of the rental registry is allowed only if a building has had no code violations or other issues in the prior 12 months.

As long as buildings continue to be violation-free, landlords will be allowed to self-certify inspection of individual dwelling units and qualify for a discounted unit inspection fee.

The annual inspections of common and mechanical areas by village code inspectors does not come with a self-certification option.