Sandy Springs is changing the inspection process for apartment communities.
A new code of ordinances is requiring apartment complexes to hire a third part to inspect units annually. Before updating regulations, only 20% of apartment units were required to be inspected each year.
The new policy will help the city better address water and structural damage, mold, fire hazards and other issues — particularly in older complexes that don’t have sprinkler systems for apartment fires, a statement said.
There are 98 apartment complexes in Sandy Springs and two more are under construction. The existing properties collectively have 25,000 units. Only 28% of the apartment building structures have sprinkler systems, according to Sandy Springs officials.
Sandy Springs City Council approved a new code of ordinances for multifamily housing during a Sept. 5 meeting. Apartment complexes will be required to have units inspected annually by a certified building inspector, and every five years by an expert in HVAC, electrical and plumbing equipment who will conducting more in-depth inspections.
Apartment property owners and managers are required to receive training in the city new policy and a certificate showing compliance with the ordinances. The certificate and proof of insurance will be required for the properties to receive a new or renewed business license.
Sandy Springs building official Jonathan Livingston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the new regulations will allow the city to upgrade and align safety conditions in the rental communities.
“It was challenging to keep up with what was done,” Livingston said of the former policy, requiring inspection for 20% of apartments annually.
At any time, apartment residents can contact the Sandy Springs Code Enforcement department to report problems that have not been addressed by property management such as sparks in an electrical outlet. Sandy Springs is conducting community outreach to inform tenants of the update to the city code, Yvonne Shaw, the manager of code enforcement said.
Officials say it will take time to measure the success of the code changes. In the case of fires in apartments.
In June, a massive apartment fire destroyed 24 units. The cause is still being investigated. Fire Marshal Jesse Bernard said the change will hopefully mean fewer and less serious calls.
“A lot of this is aimed at keeping the fires small to give our guys time to get there and get the people out,” Bernard said.
The fire marshal said there’s been a major drop in apartment fires since 2016 when there were 75 incidents — more than half of which occurred in multifamily housing. After implementing new measures the number of fires have decreased to 7 to 10 per year, Bernard said.
Much of the change is due to community outreach to bring awareness to residents, he said.
Cooking incidents, such as leaving something unattended on the stove, are the number one cause of fires in Sandy Springs. Fire suppressors are now under hood vents on stoves in apartments to extinguish a fire if flames erupt, Bernard said. The suppressors contain the same chemical found in fire extinguishers and release when a flame touches their wick.