Proactive Rental Inspections

Traditionally, code enforcement programs have operated primarily on a complaint basis—a resident complains about a potential code violation, a city code inspector or enforcement officer investigates the complaint, and if a violation is verified, enforcement actions are initiated.
However, under a proactive rental inspection (PRI) program, also known as a systematic or periodic code enforcement program, covered rental housing is inspected mandatorily and routinely to identify issues and protect the health and safety of tenants more effectively. PRI programs shift the burden of code enforcement from reliance solely on tenant complaint to a more prevention-based, equitable approach to improve housing quality.

The tools and resources identified below are a sampling of the available resources and real-world examples of how this work is being performed in communities around the country that can support localities at various stages of exploring, implementing, and/or strengthening a proactive rental inspection approach.

As you delve into these resources, feel free to contact us and suggest additional resources to highlight and/or inquire about potentially available technical assistance to support your work.

General Resources

Healthy Housing Through Proactive Rental Inspection (PRI)
ChangeLab Solutions developed this summary of proactive rental inspection (PRI) programs, Healthy Housing Through Proactive Rental Inspection, and the more comprehensive resource, A Guide to Proactive Rental Inspection Programs (below), to explain how these programs can help protect vulnerable tenants, preserve safe and healthy rental housing, and work to increase neighborhood property values. [pdf; ChangeLab Solutions, 2014]

A Guide to the Proactive Rental Inspection Programs
This guide outlines the benefits to both tenants and property owners of proactive rental inspections, challenges and opportunities in program design, and strategies for successful adoption. [pdf; ChangeLab Solutions, 2014]

Model Proactive Rental Inspection Ordinance
ChangeLab Solutions developed this Model Proactive Rental Inspection Ordinance to assist cities and counties that are interested in establishing a local proactive rental inspection (PRI) program. By quickly identifying and targeting exterior and interior code violations, proactive rental inspection programs benefit tenants, property owners, and the entire community. The model ordinance provides the key components of PRI programs and offers options for tailoring the ordinance to meet the needs of your particular locality. [pdf; ChangeLab Solutions, 2014]

How to Make Proactive Rental Inspections Effective
NCHH developed this informal tool to help stakeholders think about the eight components beyond PRI and enforcement that go into creating an effective proactive rental inspection program. [pdf; NCHH, 2020]

Better Lead Policy
This tool shares lead poisoning primary prevention policy recommendations from experts and the lived experience of four dozen communities across the county in a way that is accessible to all community advocates. The tool includes an easy-to-follow guide to help users assess and improve current lead poisoning prevention policies in their communities or create draft policies to bring to their local governments. [url; Earthjustice, 2020]

Webinar Recordings

Proactive Rental Inspections: A Tool for Healthy Homes and Families
ChangeLab Solutions developed this webinar to explain what PRI programs are, how they work, and why they are beneficial. Presenters include representatives from Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, the City of Tukwila in Washington, and ChangeLab Solutions. [url; ChangeLab Solutions, 2014]

Proactive Rental Inspections
The Lead Legal Strategies Partnership (LLSP) hosted this webinar to dive deeper into the specific legal strategy of proactive rental inspections. The LLSP presented information on the key benefits PRI programs can offer to cities, tenants, and the public as a whole; the key components of PRI programs; some different considerations to keep in mind while developing a program; and how to create an effective implementation system. [url; LLSP/NCHH, 2020]

Building Better Health Through Improved Housing Codes
NCHH developed this webinar to make strong codes, enforce them, and use them for better health. [url; NCHH]

Case Studies and Examples

Learning Communities Case Studies
NCHH and the American Public Health Association (APHA) published a pair of case studies tied to local efforts to improve housing codes in Tukwila, Washington, and Dallas, Texas. [url; NCHH]

Lead Poisoning Prevention Stories Case Studies
Trust for America’s Health and NCHH worked with the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and local advocates and officials to publish this suite of case studies describing lead poisoning and prevention initiatives around the country. Best-practice PRI examples featured include the states of Maryland and Rhode Island; the cities of Rochester and New York, New York; and the District of Columbia. [url; NCHH]

Better Lead Policy Case Studies
In additional to a range of useful policy resources, Earthjustice’s new tool contains three PRI Roadmap Case Studies featuring Cleveland, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Rochester, New York. [url; Earthjustice]

State and Local Lead Laws
This NCHH webpage collects summaries of multiple exemplary prevention-oriented lead laws enacted at either the state or local level. [url, NCHH]

Example: Boston, Massachusetts

  • Rental Inspection Ordinance
    The Boston ordinance covers about 140,000 rental units and requires landlords to register their rental properties annual and inspections every five years. Chronic offenders (i.e., landlords with noncompliant properties) can be fined and are subject to more frequent inspections. [url; City of Boston]
  • Breathe Easy at Home
    This is a collaboration of several city agencies, including the Housing Inspection Division, Public Health Commission, and Urban Asthma Coalition, to ensure inspections and related follow-ups are performed promptly to resolve substandard housing conditions. Health professionals refer patients with asthma for housing inspections if they suspect housing conditions are triggering symptoms. [url; City of Boston]

Example: Boulder Colorado

Example: Burien, Washington

Example: New York, New York

Example: Rochester, New York

Example: Tukwila, Washington