Vermont Tenants, Inc.
Tenancy Policy Issues
December 23, 2008, Burlington Free Press,
August 29, 2008, Burlington Free Press
Read the legislation creating the committee Act 176.
Membeship list of the "Rental Housing Safety and Habitability Study Committee"
Topic: Rental housing health and safety code enforcement. Vermont Tenants, Inc. (VTI) believes that Vermont needs and deserves an effective, responsive, objective, consistent, professional system of rental housing health and safety code enforcement throughout the state.
Fact: Each year VTI receives complaints from about 400 tenant households experiencing maintenance issues in their homes - a fair number of these households are in situations involving serious health and safety code violations and these situations that come to our attention only scratches the surface of the total number of substandard rental housing situations in the state. The majority of these tenants will be referred to Town Health Officers after VTI staff provides them with general information.
Unfortunately Vermont's Town Health Officer program - always tenuous in many towns - is now in worse shape:
"The technical assistance program for municipal health officers has been cut because of budget constraints, leaving town officials around Vermont wondering where they can turn for help with questions about rental housing codes, floods and sewage problems."
Hastings, municipal administrator
for the town and village of Johnson,
sent a stern letter to the Department
of Health, saying the town
has had enough.
The state expects the municipalities to enforce rental code issues, health issues, lead paint issues. The rental code alone is incredibly onerous and complex," Hastings said in an interview. They provide absolutely no financial assistance to do that, and precious little technical assistance. It's the perfect example of the state of Vermont creating a set of rules and regulations and requiring the local municipalities to enforce them with no financial or technical resources to do so." Duncan Hastings
On August 14th the Burlington Free Press published an "Its My Turn" piece written by Rep. Peter D. Hunt of Essex Junction: "Clearing up statements on health officer funding" which explains that the Legislature in 07 session restored some funding (above the Department's original request) for aspects of an ongoing Radon gas program and for the Town Health Officer program. Nevertheless there is still a significant diminishment of Department of Health support for the Town Health Officer program.
You can view a copy of a letter from Vermont's Department of Health to cities and towns announcing the end of significant Town Health Officer Program support and a response letter from the Vermont's League of Cities and Towns.Click Here (PDF)
In December, 2000 a Housing Registry Design Task Force (convened by the state in response to a legislative resolution) released a report (pdf) with a set of recommendations which included the creation of a professional statewide code enforcement system. Despite repeated attempts since then to pass legislation to create such a program, it has not yet been done. Meanwhile the situation only worsens.
Click here to read : "A Report on State Public Health Work: Based on a Survey of State Boards of Health" (PDF) By Charles Value Chapin. An excerpt from a reprint of a 1916 ed. of a study published by the American Medical Association, Chicago.
One might conclude from reading the excerpt above that the condition of Vermont's health code enforcement system has not improved significantly from the year 1916.
Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity