"Amnesty" Period Turns Up 52 Unregistered Apartments in Burlington | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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"Amnesty" Period Turns Up 52 Unregistered Apartments in Burlington


Published March 28, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.

In the course of their travels, Burlington code-enforcement inspectors see a lot of apartments like this one (at right), with broken fixtures, missing smoke detectors and dangerously exposed electrical wires.

But it's the problem apartments the city doesn't know about that worries Code Enforcement director Bill Ward.

That's why, in February, Ward's office launched a two-month "amnesty period" to let landlords declare unregistered rental properties without incurring the normal penalties — up to $500 in fines and up to 30 days in jail. With three days to go before the amnesty window slams shut, Ward reports that the experiment turned up 52 previously unregistered apartments, which the city will inspect over the next 30 to 60 days.

"I'm somewhat pleased," Ward says. "I do think there's more out there."

Though he can't know for sure, Ward (pictured at right) estimates there might be 100 unregistered rental properties in Burlington and that the amnesty program turned up about half of them. At $75 a pop, the newly registered units will bring in a total of $3900 a year to city coffers. The amnesty period ends this Friday, April 1, and Ward is optimistic a dozen or more landlords might still come forward.

Burlington's 18-year-old rental-inspection program requires all landlords to declare rental properties annually and pay the associated fees, and to submit to inspections once every two or three years to ensure the units meet the city's minimum standards of habitability. Before the amnesty period, there were 9238 rental units in the city registry.

Ward guesses about half of the 52 newly registered apartments were condos that were owner occupied before being converted into rental units.

"Most of these, I think, are people who were not aware [of the registration requirement] and said, 'Thanks for letting us know,'" Ward says.

He reported the preliminary results to the city council on Monday and will issue a full report on the program in the coming weeks.