Denison is still preparing to launch its new rental inspection program following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The new start date for the program is set for Jan. 1. The program was initially planned to start on May 1, but was delayed in mid-April.


City Manager Jud Rex said the city allowed property owners to opt-in for voluntary retail inspections.


"Most likely, that is going to start Jan. 1, 2021," Rex said. "In the budget for next year we put in a position for a code compliance officer. "


In late 2019, the city adopted a new rental inspection program that would allow rental property owners the ability to have their properties voluntarily inspected by city inspectors between tenants.The idea of a rental inspection program was initially proposed in mid-2015 but only gained traction last year.


The purpose of the program is to ensure the quality of Denison’s housing stock on all levels.


In exchange for the inspections, the city is offering incentives to property owners including waived permit fees. The city also created a VIP tier that would allow property owners to use this title in marketing along with inclusion of the property in a city-managed list of properties.


"Our biggest complaint so far is that we need to get it started so we can get the incentives going," Rex said.


Early drafts of the program would have required mandatory inspections of all the city’s rental units, but this received significant push back when it was presented before the city council in 2019.


One of the factors delaying the launch of the program has been hiring a new code compliance officer for the position. With the economic uncertainty following the pandemic, the city put a freeze on many of the city positions that remained open.


However, this freeze will be lifted in the upcoming fiscal year.


"Starting on October 1, we would be able to hire that person and start the program on January 1," Rex said.


With the launch of the program in January, Rex said the city will follow many of the precautions that were put in place during the pandemic for the other inspection programs the city maintains.


"When the pandemic started, we didn’t do any inspections where we were going into an occupied residence," Rex said. "That’s what we will try to maintain with rental inspections."


For more information on the inspection program, visit http://www.HeraldDemocrat.com.