Who does the inspection?


Deciding who does the inspection is one of the most important questions in designing a Proactive Rental Inspection program.   Some factors that may sway the decision:

  • If a city is interested in inspecting for many housing hazards, a city-based program is a better choice.
  • If a city already has a housing inspection program, adding lead to that program can be a cost-effective option.  
Rochester, New York is often touted as the “gold standard” model of a primary prevention program for lead.  However, Rochester already had a well-established proactive rental inspection program, its “Certificate of Occupancy” inspection program, when it added lead to the program in 2006. While there are many lessons to be learned from Rochester’s years of success, cities are unlikely to see similar success merely by adopting Rochester’s approach without ensuring the design works well given the context of their own community. It is critical to understand the rental market–its size, its renters and landlords, its competitiveness, its age–in order to design an effective proactive rental inspection program.  For example, Philadelphia’s planning commission completed a survey of landlords and tenants called Renting in Philadelphia to understand the rental landscape. That report showed approximately 270,000 rental units in the city in 2010.


The size of the city may render it too big for the city to adopt a “Rochester model” of primarily having city staff conduct the inspections.

  • For example, Chicago found that city-conducted inspections were cost-prohibitive:  “At current levels of funding and staffing, it would take the Chicago Department of Public Health 76 years and $98 million to inspect—let alone remediate—the 197,157 older buildings in Chicago.”
  • In contrast, Rochester’s inspection program has conducted 183,000 inspections between 2006 and 2019.



City does inspections Third party inspection
High level of control Places burden on landlords to pay for inspection
Can cover housing hazards beyond lead Low city staffing = lower cost for city
Inspectors may have leeway on enforcement Can require more frequent inspections, which can lower cost of fixes between inspections
High level of staffing = costly Risk of fraud
May be several years between inspections = need better control efforts or increased lead risks between inspections Difficulty knowing whether landlords are doing it = hard to enforce
Targeted inspections (rather than all rentals) may miss lead hazards If private inspectors don’t exist in the marketplace, it can be expensive