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New Database Will Make Burlington Rental Inspection Records More Accessible

Image of downtown Burlington, Vermont from above.
A forthcoming database of Burlington rental properties will act like a report card, letting prospective tenants see which properties have had more issues with code inspections.

In about a year, if you’re looking for an apartment in Burlington, you’ll be able to look up its “rating” in a public database. 

The database will be like a report card, letting prospective tenants see which properties have had more deficiencies in code inspections.

Housing inspection results are already available through open records request, but the new database would make it easier to find that data.

The database is possible because two years ago, Burlington changed how it issues certificates of compliance for rental properties.

Instead of all properties getting certificates for three years, properties will get rated on scale of "one" to "five" — and that number will correspond to how long the certificate of compliance lasts.

For example, a property with no violations would get a "five," and a five-year certificate, whereas a place with 10 or more problems that are found and corrected would get a "one" and a one-year certificate.

William Ward, director of code enforcement in Burlington, said the new system means they can check up on properties that tend to have more code violations more frequently.

He said while housing quality was already pretty good in Burlington, the new system seems to be helping raise that quality.

“That could be that landlords are just paying more attention, or that now that there's some sort of incentive to have it ready before we get there, landlords, they're getting it ready before we walk in the door," Ward said. "Which ... makes it easier for us to do more inspections on a faster timeframe."

Ward says quite a few landlords like the new system. One of them is Bill Bissonette, of Bissonette Properties. His company owns 300 rental units in Burlington.

“It holds everyone to [a] standard, and I'm not neighbor to somebody that's ramshackle and not safe, and my investment stays stable,” Bissonette said.

Ward says between 40 and 50 percent of the properties inspected so far under the new system have scored a four or five.

Ward says by next year, all rentals in Burlington should have been inspected under the new system and then, the full database will be released.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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