By Sydney Gold
On Wednesday, the city of Syracuse released the second segment of its three-part healthy housing mini-series. The series, available on youtube, aims to arm the city’s renters and leasers with the knowledge they need to spot code violations while hunting for potential apartments or homes. Hosted by J. Omar Sharif from the Department of Code Enforcement, the video focuses on interior violations, like ceilings and flooring damage, malfunctioning heaters or missing smoke detectors. Sharif takes viewers on a tour of a property located at 706 Tully St., pointing out several of the most common code violations tenets experience in a residence and outlining the necessary remediation steps.
Beginning in the living room, Sharif makes note of obvious ceiling damage, unfinished flooring and chipped paint on the window, all violations potential tenets could easily see walking through a property. He emphasizes to the viewer that the damage in this unit is unacceptable, and the obligation of the owner to fix. Next, he points out the heating system. With Syracuse’s notorious winters, working heat is a must.
He reminds viewers: “From Sept. 15 to May 31 the owner or landlord needs to provide heat, 68 degrees or above.” In a city as cold as Syracuse, this isn’t an issue of comfort, but of health and safety.
He continues on to the bedrooms, Sharif points out a variety of code violations. Vents are uncovered, leaving gaping holes in the flooring. The ceiling is spotted with water stains, indicating a potential leak above the unit. The window is shattered, paint chips and glass shards spotting the sill. He pays special attention to the paint chips, which can be a lead hazard. The video spends several minutes specifically addressing the dangers of lead in dwellings, a pertinent issue in Syracuse, where roughly one in every 10 children has elevated levels of lead in their blood.
“The Syracuse community is facing a common enemy, and that common enemy is lead in dwelling units and structures where young children live,” Sharif said. “And we want to eradicate this common enemy once and for all in this community and in Onondaga County as a whole.”
He offers the viewer instructions on how to safely take care of peeling paint, without releasing lead particles into the unit:
“You have to wet the area with a spray bottle, spray down the flaking paint — it will make it easier for you to chip off — and then once you clean that up correctly, you can dry the area and paint over it. That is the way to properly take care of chipped paint in a dwelling unit or on a structure.”
Another issue Sharif emphasizes is infestation. Property owners are allowed to take care of rodent infestations by offering traps to the tenets, but in the case of other infestations, like bedbugs, roaches or fleas, “the owner would have to hire a New York state licensed exterminator to correct this and provide documentation to [the Division of Code Enforcement] office that it was taken care of in a proper way.”
After visiting the bedrooms, Sharif takes viewers into the bathroom, showing mold on the bathtub and plywood surrounding the toilet, which indicates an incorrectly managed plumbing issue. These issues alone require major repairs, like replacing the tub and flooring, but Sharif doesn’t let the small stuff slide either. After detailing the major concerns in the bathroom, he points out a cabinet door with broken hinges and says: “Anything in the apartment large or small needs to be repaired and maintained in proper condition.”
At the end, the tour moves to the basement.
“The basement is the most important part of a structure because it contains most of the mechanical appliances and plumbing fixtures,” Sharif said. He next points out a variety of problems in the basement: damage to the stair landing, no smoke detectors, an uncovered junction box and exposed wires “that don’t look like they were done by a licensed electrician.”
The list of violations Sharif points out is long, yet makes up only some of the common problems renters and leasers encounter in their properties. Though the barrage of issues feels overwhelming to take in, these videos can play a crucial role in enlightening tenets to their rights and empowering them to hold landlords accountable for providing healthy, safe and up to code dwellings.
Sydney Gold is a Newspaper & Online Journalism student at the Newhouse School