Backlog of Apartment Inspections Inspires Tech Modernization

As Brockton, Mass., comes under scrutiny for failure to inspect thousands of apartments that have fallen out of compliance, officials have promised to implement tech changes to modernize code enforcement efforts.

by Ben Berke, The Enterprise / December 3, 2019
(Shutterstock)

(TNS) — As the Brockton, Mass., Health Department comes under scrutiny for its failure to inspect thousands of apartments that have fallen out of compliance with city ordinances, Mayor Moises Rodrigues and his successor Robert Sullivan have promised to implement technological changes that will bring the city's code enforcement efforts "up to the 21st century," they said in a joint statement.

The Enterprise reported last week that Brockton's Health Department has left more than half the occupied apartments in the city uninspected, allowing many landlords to ignore the sanitary code with virtually no fear of punishment. In 2018, records show the department fined only one landlord for renting an apartment without a certificate of fitness — the document proving their unit passed inspection — despite a law on the books enabling the department to charge landlords $50 for each day a tenant occupies an apartment without one.

The mayor's chief of staff, Nick Giaquinto, responded to The Enterprise's coverage with a list of technological changes intended to overhaul what the Health Department's own officials have described as an antiquated system of paper records.

"The City has been aware of the code enforcement challenges facing our Health Department and we have been working diligently on a multi-pronged approach to modernize and increase the efficiency of the department's operations," Giaquinto said.

One critical reform would replace the department's paper records with a digital system that notifies inspectors when an apartment's certificate of fitness expires. Under the current protocols, health department officials say that date typically passes without anyone noticing.

The Massachusetts Attorney General's office has already provided Brockton with a $25,000 grant to pay for the new software, and an ordinance under consideration by the City Council would bolster those efforts by requiring that landlords register their rental units with the city or face significant fines.

The technological changes dovetail with a reorganization of Health Department personnel approved this month by the City Council, which consolidates multiple departments under a larger Public Health Commission that will consult with the mayor's office on a variety of health issues.

"This action by the City Council will bring the Health Department into the 21st century," Mayor Rodrigues said. "We will bring efficiency, technology, and accountability to this most critical of departments."

©2019 The Enterprise, Brockton, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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