Rental Housing Safety

    The Honorable Phil Scott
    Governor, State of Vermont
    109 State Street, Pavilion
    Montpelier, VT 05609

    The Honorable Becca Balint
    Senate President Pro Tempore
    115 State Street
    Montpelier, VT 05633

    The Honorable Jill Krowinski
    House Majority Leader
    115 State Street
    Montpelier, VT 05633

    Dear Governor Scott, Senator Balint, and Representative Krowinski,

    We, the undersigned Town Health Officers and Town Planners, are writing to express our concerns about the challenges we face in the enforcement and appropriate completion of housing inspections that ensure the health and safety of Vermont renters in our communities.

    A Rental Housing Safety Bill is needed that takes important steps to ensure professional, uniform, and statewide enforcement of Vermont’s existing Rental Housing Health Code. As you know, Vermont has some of the oldest housing stock in the nation. Town Health Officers, especially in small rural communities, are often volunteers. We have a wide breadth of responsibilities and often lack sufficient resources and training to respond to complaints from renters. If violations are found, we often do not have the resources to enforce the law. Code enforcement can be especially challenging with absentee landlords who live outside of Vermont. By creating a professional level of inspection and enforcement at the state level, Vermont can ensure that all renters have access to fair and timely response to housing safety concerns.

    The Rental Housing Safety Bill also will provide an essential resource for town planning. Currently, there is no system to accurately evaluate the distribution of owned residences, long-term rentals, and short-term rental properties that exist in our communities. Understanding the composition of housing options that exist provides an essential tool for planning future development. Creating a registry would meet this need, while also providing a means for more targeted communications with property owners.

    Several cities in Vermont, including Burlington, Barre, and Winooski, have both rental registries and paid staff to respond to renter complaints. Expanding these tools to smaller, more rural communities will remove burden from under-resourced towns while ensuring safe living conditions for renters.

    VT League of Cities and Towns
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