Huntington cracks down on housing violations near MU - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Huntington cracks down on housing violations near MU

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JAMES E. CASTO/ For The State Journal. The former KA fraternity house at 1417 5th Ave. has been issued a “Do Not Occupy” order. JAMES E. CASTO/ For The State Journal. The former KA fraternity house at 1417 5th Ave. has been issued a “Do Not Occupy” order.

For The State Journal

The City of Huntington has launched a new program of safety inspections for housing in the Marshall University area, and the results of the first round of inspections are in.

The city inspected 61 structures consisting of 204 units, covering fire protection systems, building, plumbing, electrical and exterior upkeep.

The inspectors found 32 violations ranging from improper wiring to leaking faucets to high grass. In addition, the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office put 18 properties on notice to update their fire protection systems. And one “Do Not Occupy” order was issued.

In a news release, Bryan Chambers, the city’s communications director, said the inspections are being undertaken at housing near the Marshall campus “in an effort to assure students that they will have safe, quality places to live when they return for classes in the fall.”

Chambers said the city waited until the end of MU’s spring semester to begin the inspections so landlords would have ample time to correct violations before fall classes resume in August.

The initiative involves the city Fire Marshal’s Office, the Huntington Police Department’s Code Enforcement Unit and building inspectors in the Department of Public Works. The inspection area covers 12th to 22nd streets between 3rd and 7th avenues.

All of the violations cited have a time limit for corrective action. If the violations are not corrected in the time allowed, “Do Not Occupy” orders and citations will be issued.

One “Do Not Occupy” order already has been issued for a house located at 1417 5th Ave. Currently unoccupied, the structure previously was the fraternity house for Kappa Alpha Order.

Chambers said the new inspections are the result of monthly meetings Mayor Steve Williams has had with students on Marshall’s campus. During those meetings, many students pointed to the safety of student housing as a recurring issue.

“Most landlords in Huntington take care of their properties, but we also know that some neglect their responsibilities as property owners,” Williams said in the release. “This effort puts those landlords on notice that they must bring their rental properties up to the standards that the city and Marshall University expect.

“Students and their parents can take comfort in knowing that safety is our highest priority.”

Shortly after taking office as mayor last year, Williams proposed a $50 fee to be imposed on each rental unit in the city, with the revenue to cover the cost of hiring an additional housing inspector.

When a number of landlords protested to Huntington City Council, the fee idea was still shelved, although landlords were required to register with the city.

Williams says he still would like to see every rental unit in Huntington inspected by the city at least once every three years. He sees the current inspections in the Marshall neighborhood as a first step in that direction.