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Housing inspections in Marion County remain limited by COVID-19 safety concerns

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INDIANAPOLIS — After months of major restrictions due to COVID-19, Marion County Health Department housing inspectors have begun to expand their efforts to help renters.

The department halted nearly all in-person inspections during the state’s stay at home order. Inspectors continued to go out to homes for emergency issues and outdoor violations like trash. They recently expanded inspections to include issues deemed critical to health and safety.

For other cases, MCHD officials told the CBS4 Problem Solvers that they have relied on telephone calls to try to get property managers and owners to fix health code violations.

“It was hard on the inspectors, because they’re used to being able to go in and address the situations,” manager Lynne Walker said.

The CBS4 Problem Solvers team looked into one case where inspectors were able to issue an emergency order, despite being limited by the inability to inspect all areas. Nada Scott and her neighbors contacted the health department after the gas company shut off service in their apartments due to a leak.

“48 hours turned into a week, a week turned into two weeks, and I’m steady calling (property managers), saying, ‘Hey, I need an update, what’s going on?'” Scott said. “We all communicated by phone, (the inspector) said because of the coronavirus it was going to be difficult to come out.”

The inspector was able to issue an emergency order in late April, giving managers 24 hours to fix issues with the gas, hot water heater and pipes, as well as sewage.

Earlier this month, Scott said that inspector visited her unit to inspect other issues, including her stove, which was still red tagged by the gas company. Property managers told CBS4 that they were working to fix the rest of the violations.

“I want to make sure I have a safe environment for me and my kids to live in, I don’t want to be in a situation like this again,” Scott said.

Housing inspectors typically issue orders and schedule re-inspections when violations are found. If owners do not comply, the case can be cited into court, but the pandemic also shut down Marion County’s environmental court for months.

Walker said the department continued to file cases and the court will begin hearing those cases next week via video conference.

“We’re learning something new every day, we’re flexible. We’re trying to do the best job we can to keep everybody safe and still try to address the things that we can,” Walker said.

If you have an issue that you cannot work out with your landlord, the health department still wants you to call them. Inspectors are deciding when they need to enter a home on a case-by-case basis and wear PPE when conducting in-person inspections. You can find more information about how to file a complaint and contact information at the link here.

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