Challenging Absentee Landlords

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Vacant property

Challenging Absentee Landlords

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When I speak with code enforcement professionals I often ask, “What is your single greatest challenge?”. One of the most common answers is Absentee Landlords.

These passive property owners can wreak havoc in a number of ways. From repeat violations on the poorly maintained property, security of vacant property, to simply tracking these owners down.  Moreover, the answer to the “absentee landlord” is not a simple one. Cities across the country are passing ordinances designed to reign in these landlords. But new rules and regulations have to be enforced.  

Many code enforcement professionals agree on good documentation. When code enforcement efforts are effectively tracked the repeat complaints and violations can read like a rap sheet. With budgets shrinking many cities are turning to technology to empower the code official.

Facts about Absentee Landlords.

Here at Codepal, we’ve been helping code officials resolve the “Absentee Landlord” dilemma and other issues like it for over 14 years. 
Particularly through documentation and aiding code officials in enforcing city ordinances. We can help combat the situation. See more here.

There are many great resources available online, for example the center for community progress.

Center for Community Progress is a website to assist with strategic code enforcement planning. The site gives great insight and resources to assist you. 
Dealing with Problem Property Owners.

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City of New London

Successfully streamlining business practices – One city’s story.

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New London Connecticut is a city, set in a beautiful coastal backdrop. They are steeped in history, dating back to 1646. And they are making big strides in their business practices.

Felix Reyes

Felix has been the Director or Economic Development and Planning since March of 2018.

Felix Reyes, Director of Economic Development and Planning, was looking to streamline the citywide office business processes. He wanted to eliminate the archaic paper-based business practices. As well as improve communication between departments. Furthermore, improving the service they were providing the public. And he was looking for the right technology to help him do that.

Vernon Skau, Fire Marshal for the City of New London, had been using Codepal since 2006. “We purchased Codepal to efficiently complete inspections. Over the years this has transformed into a data collection system. Tracking all activities taking place at a property.”

Vernon Skau
Vernon Skau

Vernon has been with the Fire Marshal’s office almost 17 years, he has been Fire Marshal for 4 of those years.

Vernon works closely with New London Building Official, Kirk Kripas. They have mutual respect and good communication between their departments. Kirk and Vernon were talking about improvements to their process and how to remove any bottleneck procedures. Notably, an excel spreadsheet that was emailed back and forth with permit approvals. The process was inefficient and created a bottleneck.

Codepal was discussed and soon placed in the building department budget. Fast forward three years and the purchase was still waiting on budget approval.

Purchasing a solution

When Felix was hired in March 2018, he began formulating a plan to tackle issues they were facing. “Our Fire Marshal uses Codepal and loves it. Vernon highly recommended it” says, Felix. The budget was passed and Codepal was purchased in 2018. “I was most interested in improving the interface between our building department and zoning.” As a result, the purchase was for the two additional departments.

Changes are not always bad

“The biggest change I’ve seen is the communication lines have been opened between the departments. Good and bad, but there is no more silence. They are communicating and I hope this continues to get easier and smoother over time.” says Felix.

Vernon noted “Since Kirk came on board, I can now see all building related permits and inspections. In the middle of the night, when I receive an emergency call, I can learn about the property instantly- permits and inspections all available for me to see. This is a time saver. Now we share a unified database.”

Kirk agreed with “the efficiency of how tasks are handled and researching permits is speedy and clear.”

Whale Tail Fountain
New London’s Whale Tail Fountain on the Parade Plaza.

This isn’t to say there were no speed bumps. “The staff wasn’t sure of themselves after training. But over time, knowledge has improved and has aided in the unsteady feeling from staff” notes Felix. “Codepal was always accessible and that was important to us. They were always available for a phone call anytime.”

Kirk agreed, “They have been very responsive. Issues are resolved quickly. It is nice to pick up the phone and talk to someone instantly. The customer service has been incredible.” This is a key component to their success. Uncomfortable staff had the support needed to embrace the change and gain comfort in their knowledge.

On the positive side, Vernon says the service has never changed, “It has been impeccable from day one, all the way back to 2006. Sometimes I feel like their only customer with how responsive they’ve been.”

Advice for other cities looking to make this type of change.

Streamlining business practices from paper records to electronic processing can boost your city’s performance and profitability. It is a turning point for many cities.

Felix’s has some advice for those looking to make the change. “Be prepared to help your staff push through any growing pains. Put your house in order first, your processes must be in place before expecting software to fix it. You have to be in it to win it and have the mentality to commit and stick with it.”

Click here for more information about our City Wide Solutions.

City of New London, Connecticut website

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Old Binder with printed preplans

Delivering Preplans Quickly and Efficiently

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How are you delivering your preplans? Many fire departments are moving from those cumbersome binders to digital preplans and the advantages are huge.

Access: Time is crucial in an emergency and every second matters.

Binder preplans can leave responders a step behind in emergency situations and many times there’s only one set of plans. In a live emergency, MULTIPLE responders dispatch from MULTIPLE locations and even from MULTIPLE departments and/or jurisdictions. EVERY responder needs to access the preplan. However, this is difficult with an outdated paper binder.

In contrast, prevention software that incorporates preplans solves this problem. Responders can easily search an address or link directly from their CAD systems. Easily pull up emergency contacts, hydrant information, shutoffs, building photos, roof structure, exits, and hazardous materials that may be inside the building. With this in mind, leaders can confidently plan the right strategy with all the information they need to save lives and keep the responders safe. 

Preplan Viewer on a tablet

Updates: Is your information up to date? Good question.

Occupancy data is always in flux and bad information puts responders in a dangerous situation. Is the hazmat accurate? What about the occupant? Emergency contacts, changes in occupancy, and renovations? With electronically stored preplans updates are simple and fast. For instance, property details can be updated while any user is on site for any variety of reason. Data is dynamic and available to everyone. No need to print and store in the binders.

Keeping preplans up to date is a daunting task. Who’s responsible? The companies, the prevention department, both? However, giving access to more staff in a web environment makes this task becomes much less daunting by allowing companies and prevention to work together easily. 

ISO: Storing and delivering preplans electronically may increase your ISO rating! 

With our new preplan viewer and updater our customers are able to access preplan data in seconds.

  • Sync to CAD– Encrypted auto login directly from most CAD software
  • Device independence (phone, tablet, pc)
  • Secure login to edit occupancy data easily
  • Unlimited Users

Let us help you get your preplans into the hands of your responders.

For more information about Codepal – click here.

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