Cleaning up Corvallis

New city Livability Code went into effect Sept. 15, effects students, landlords citywide with possible fines

New changes in the city of Corvallis may now affect the lives of Oregon State University students and landlords, on and off campus.  A new Livability Code, which began development in May of 2012, was passed by the City Council in November of 2015 and went into effect on Sept. 15. 

The code aims to improve the living conditions of the city. If one has seen couches, appliances, or junk lying on the side of the road, or outside of houses, this code puts measures into place to solve such issues. It also addresses unlivable and unsafe building conditions.

“When you walk around a town and you see a lot of junk on the ground, and boarded up buildings, your opinion (of the area) will be lower. When you clean that up, it enhances the property,” said Todd Easton, Corvallis code compliance supervisor.

Included in the code is an online complaint form, which can be found at corvallisoregon.gov. Users can select a topic that best describes their concern, give the address to such complaint, a brief description of their concern, and their personal information. One may submit a concern confidentially, but if they are not available for follow-up questions, their concern may go unresolved. If a student renter is having an issue with their living space that their landlord is not resolving, this is the form to fill out.

Violators of the code may face fines and penalties of up to $500, and possible jail time.

“We don’t allow them to file anonymously, but we keep their confidentiality, and encourage them to look around on our website,” Easton said.

According to Jonathan Stoll, OSU director of Corvallis Community Relations, OSU students had a great deal of influence getting the Livability Code developed.

“My understanding is that there was a handful of students who provided testimony about subpar living conditions,” Stoll said. “Most landlords are good at catering to students, but there are some bad apples who look to take advantage. So the code was written to ensure the health and safety of Corvallis tenants, and set a standard.” 

Kyllie-Ann Setsuko Yasutake, OSU English education and psychology major sees it as a positive.

“I think it’s a good idea. I don’t know how often people would use it, but if the need arose, it would be

good to have,” Yasutake said. 

Easton is in charge of enforcing the code, but would rather talk to someone than write someone up; his main goal is for citizens to understand and comply.

“It’s not heavy-handed. We’ve had 20 complaints, I’ve handled 15 personally, and it was just a one-on-one talk. It’s mostly educational. A bunch of college students didn’t know you couldn’t leave your trash cans on the side of the road. When I told them, they complied,” Easton said. “The advantage with me is that I’m unbiased, because I wasn’t here when they began work on this new code. I’m here for the community first.” 

Steven Germaneri, a property manager and landlord in Corvallis, is unsure about the new code. 

“Folks in town believe that it will raise the cost of rent, or cause a bit more scarcity and fewer rentals. As you put more regulations on things, that puts more cost on the owners,” Germaneri said. “Some folks might not want to deal with that, causing the price of rent to be raised.” 

To foster a good relationship between a renter and a landlord, Germaneri suggests good communication.

“When you rent a place, rent one in which you have good communication with the landlord or property owner. Also, if you have a problem, you need to make sure to communicate it,” Germaneri said.

Easton encourages Corvallis residents to visit corvallisoregon.gov and educate themselves on the code. If students run into legal issues with their landlord, he suggests they seek help through Oregon State’s ASOSU Student Legal program.

In February, in conjunction with their housing fair, Corvallis Community Relations will be releasing a 40 page pamphlet, called “the Corvallis Living Guide.” 

In addition to information on the Corvallis Livability Code, the pamphlet will talk about the significance of communication (both between roommates and with landlords), city codes and the safe consumption of alcohol. It will educate students on why they might not get their security deposit back, and not only what their rights are, but what their neighbors’ rights are.