Front Royal considers rental inspection program

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — To ensure rentals are properly maintained, the Front Royal Town Council is exploring the possibility of hiring a property inspector.

The building inspector, if implemented, would be responsible for overseeing rental inspection and property management programs, Warren County Building Manager David Beahm said.

To centralize the community's building management programs, the town inspector would ideally have an office in the Warren County Government Center alongside Beahm, Mayor Hollis Tharpe said.

The Town Planning Commission has approved a maintenance code, but the council would like a final estimate on costs before implementing it. The potential position would be fully funded by the town,

Tharpe said last week in a liaison committee meeting between town county officials.

The townís finance department has estimated that the inspection program would require a 1-cent tax increase, Beahm said.

The rental inspection program would involve an annual review of properties within a certain district, most likely near downtown, Beahm said.

The program would be applicable to all properties within the Town of Front Royal, Beahm said. Properties under review of the program would be those which have been subject of complaints. It would not entail an annual inspection.

About 72 percent of town homes are rentals, and Tharpe has heard a lot of complaints about them not being well maintained.

The need to enforce a property maintenance code was one topic discussed in a town council candidateís forum before the November election.

Vice Mayor Gene Tewalt said in the forum he would favor a townwide program because rentals are in substandard condition because of absentee owners. Town Councilman Jacob Meza agreed that a rental property maintenance code should be enforced because dilapidated properties can decrease the value of neighboring properties.

The town building inspector being located in the county building managerís office would make sense, as long as the town would incur all costs, Supervisor Tony Carter said.

"Because right now, you're only talking about in town limits, we're not talking about expanding outside to the county," Carter said.

Carter added that even though the program would cost money, properties would be improved, which could increase the townís tax base.

How to fund the position and rent a space in the county building is the biggest issue surrounding implementation of the program, Tharpe said.

"It seems like we're picking up steam, and when the time comes, weíll approach you guys. I just want to make it clear that it will be 100 percent funded by the town," Tharpe said.

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