On Monday South San Francisco Fire Chief Phil White and Fire Marshal Luis Da Silva met with representatives of the San Mateo County Association of Realtors to discuss how home safety inspections should be conducted, but the two groups found they still have little to agree on.
"While it was a very cordial meeting with both sides trying to get the other side to understand their point of view, there was no agreement," Realtor Carole Fogelstrom wrote in a blog post this week.
Issues surrounding home inspections came to a head in October, when fire officials proposed to city council a new ordinance that would clarify the fire department's process of inspecting homes before they are sold to a new owner.
Local Realtors protested the ordinance, saying that the department's inspections unfairly impose fines and reconstruction costs on home sellers, to correct code violations that were made by previous owners. The ordinance, Realtors say, would only further encourage this practice.
Fire Marhsal Luis Da Silva confirmed in an interview that there are cases of home sellers who bought houses when inspections were less rigorous, and who are now dealing with code violations implemented by a previous owner.
"It’s definitely a possibility where somebody could have bought a home quite a few years back, when we were looking more along the lines of just smoke detectors," he said.
SAMCAR Executive Officer Steve Blanton said that another part of the problem is that, in some cases, the city does not have complete records of permits issued several years, or decades ago.
"If [home improvements] happened some years ago, we feel like the burden should not be placed on them to prove they're innocent," Blanton said.
At Monday's closed meeting, fire officials proposed hiring a third party to conduct the point-of-sale home inspections, with specific training from the fire department. But third-party inspections are already being conducted as part of the home sale process, according to the Realtors.
Fire Chief White is expected to provide a letter to the SAMCAR representatives in the next couple of weeks with proposals on how to proceed. Fire Marshal Da Silva said that it is likely the department will present a proposed ordinance again to city council after that letter is sent.
The proposed ordinance would take home inspections that are already required "a second step," Da Silva said. He hopes it would not only streamline the process, but allow the department to officially require certain code violations to be corrected, rather than just disclosed to the buyer.