Lorain City Council could edge closer to abandoning the point of sale inspection process for single-family homes and duplexes.
On Sept. 28, Council’s Building & Lands Committee discussed waiving an inspection fee for a county-owned house that was restored, something the full Council will consider.
The deliberations expanded to include the possibility of abandoning the point of sale process altogether.
The city began using home inspections in 2014 in hopes of improving the physical conditions and boosting the values of Lorain’s housing stock.
But after seven years’ worth of inspections, it does not appear to be working, said Ward 4 Councilman Greg Argenti.
“Despite it being enforced for several years now, the city of Lorain still has the lowest home resale value and home values in the county, by quite an amount,” Argenti said.
Council took no formal action on the point of sale inspections generally.
Argenti said he hopes to follow up with more committee discussion as early as this month.
What to inspect
Lorain’s point of sale inspection is external, not inside the structure, so it accounts for fewer items, and the cost has increased over time to $200, Argenti said.
“The program is not working,” he said.
Argenti said he has heard of examples of some homes passing the city’s point of sale, but failing subsequent private home inspections.
“It is another useless inspection, and that’s what Lorain’s point of sale is,” Argenti said in a dialogue with Mayor Jack Bradley.
In discussion, Council members and Bradley agreed on the importance of a potential buyer hiring an inspector to review a home before the purchase.
For the city inspections, Council members Beth Henley, Mary Springowski, Tony Dimacchia and Rey Carrion voiced support for eliminating the reviews.
With 40 years’ experience in home construction and sales, Henley said she at first supported the point of sale inspections.
But homes that should never be occupied by people, sell in Lorain, Henley said.
“The point of sale, the intent was good, but we don’t have effective code enforcement, we just don’t,” Springowski said.
People find ways to subvert the point of sale inspection process, she said.
Springowski also offered anecdotes of property owners cited for code violations when the house next door is in far worse shape.
The city has two code enforcement officers who do point of sale inspections, and their work is driven by complaints, said Max Upton, city director of Building, Housing and Planning.
Upton did not opine on the benefits or drawbacks of point of sale inspections, but noted if there were no point of sale inspections, the inspectors would have more time for code enforcement.
As of Sept. 24, the Lorain inspectors logged 934 point of sale inspections for 2020.
It appeared the number of exams was on track with prior years.
Since 2014, city records show the staff logged at least 800 to more than 1,100 inspections a year.
“It’s not a question of the volume being done,” Argenti said. “It’s just a question of it achieving the intention that we started it for.”
Council President Joel Arredondo said the administration of former Mayor Chase Ritenauer wanted to implement the point of sale inspections.
Arredondo said he agreed on revisiting the issue.
“Hey, it could be finetuned,” he said. “Just because it worked or didn’t work, doesn’t mean that we didn’t try.
“Maybe, we’re just looking for a better option.”
Argenti said he was surprised at the support from fellow Council members.
He floated the idea in the past, including in his 2019 campaign for Ward 4, but other candidates did not comment on the inspections.