Inspecting off-campus housing is important step

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — About 2,200 Marshall University students live in dorms on campus.

Some students live at home with their families and commute to school.

But thousands of others rent apartments in the neighborhoods surrounding the Marshall campus and around Huntington. Some of those apartments are pretty posh, others probably need a little work and some probably have some serious safety concerns.

So, setting up a regular program of inspections has made a lot of sense for a long time, and it was good to hear that Huntington officials plan to get started this summer while most students are away.

Mayor Steve Williams announced this month that the Fire Marshal’s office, the code enforcement unit of the Huntington Police Department and the city’s public works department will work together on the inspections and prioritize the areas between 14th and 20th streets and 3rd and 7th avenues. They will be checking to make sure electrical and sewage systems are safe, that the structures are stable and that properties are well maintained.

While we think most landlords are responsible, concerns have been raised by students and university staff over the past year. Sure enough, the first 204 units inspected turned up 32 violations ranging from improper wiring to leaking faucets to high grass. Also, 18 properties were put on notice to update fire protection systems.

City Council briefly considered a rental inspection ordinance in 2003, after an accident at an apartment on 4th Avenue. A 10-by-15-foot deck collapsed at an end-of-the-semester party, hurtling about 20 people to the ground, with nine injured and taken to the hospitals. The deck had been added to the building several years before the collapse, but city officials at the time found no records that it had ever been permitted or inspected.

The ordinance stalled…

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