Ken Towsley, director of code enforcement, examines the ceiling inside a second-floor bedroom to see if both a smoke and carbon monoxide detector are installed.

How to Spot a Code Violation

City to offer first guided tour to educate on home safety

In order to better inform the public, the City of Syracuse’s Division of Code Enforcement is offering a Healthy Housing 101 training by showing just what a code violation looks like.

To do this, two code inspectors will offer guided tours through a Greater Syracuse Land Bank property in the South Side to note what they look for when investigating a property. The open house will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, June 15, at 1512 S. State St. (a house not directly on the street but accessible behind the property at 1514).

Ken Towsley

Ken Towsley, who oversees the Division of Code Enforcement, noted that the goal of the event is to educate service provides on safety needs in the home. While inspectors can typically only conduct a visual inspection from the sidewalk, tenants who live in the home and service providers who may visit a home, can make note of observed concerns.

His goal is to reach service providers such as social workers, those employed at nonprofits and even the school district because of their access to tenants of rental properties, especially to Syracuse’s refugee populations. Many of Syracuse’s newest residents struggle to trust government entities and may not be aware of housing code requirements. This can make it difficult to have tenants address concerns directly to landlords or report violations due to fear of losing their current home.

“They can be an extra set of eyes,” said Adria Finch, the chief innovation officer for the city’s Innovation Team, which is helping to coordinate the open house.

Towsley explained the process during a walkthrough of the property on June 6. Inspectors start from the top and examine room by room until they reach the basement. Top priorities are first to check that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are correctly installed.

Further interior checks include but are not limited to: chipping or peeling paint, ventilation, condition of stairs and adequate railings, light fixtures and/or working switches, exposed wiring, issues with home’s structure and overall condition. Last, the inspector will do an exterior check by walking around the entire property.

“In this 360-glace, they are looking for anything that jumps out,” Towsley said, noting that at this property the condition of the porch stairs, the overhang of tree branches onto one side of the house and a spot where the siding had pulled away raise concerns.

Towsley believes this event’s proactive approach can help grow trust in the process. If service providers and residents are well-informed, tenants can contact landlords about their home’s needs. If then concerns are not corrected, violations can be reported to code enforcement, he said.

“We’re not coming in to throw anyone out of their home,” he concluded, stressing his team wants to ensure homes are safe and help improve the overall quality of the city’s housing stock.

Code enforcement currently has 28 home inspectors. The South Side property to be toured, in addition to being utilized for this first outreach event, will continue to be used as a training property for inspectors.

During the open house, five to six individuals will tour with an inspector at a time. The event is free and open to the public and will also feature tables providing information such as a Health & Safety Checklist and explain the best ways to report a housing issue.

Refreshments and music will be provided while attendees wait to tour the property. Note the city had already received 80 RSVPs to the event by June 6.

To RSVP, visit here.


— Article and photos by Ashley Kang, The Stand director

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