Sandy Springs updates inspection requirements for apartment complexes

Sandy Springs is changing the inspection process for apartment communities.

The new code of ordinances requires apartment complexes to hire a third party to inspect units annually. Before the regulations were updated, only 20% of residential units were required to be inspected each year.

The new policy will help the city better address water and structural damage, mold, fire hazards and other issues — especially in older complexes that don’t have sprinkler systems for apartment fires, a statement said.

There are 98 apartment complexes in Sandy Springs and two more are under construction. Existing properties have a combined 25,000 units. Only 28% of residential buildings have sprinkler systems, according to Sandy Springs officials.

The Sandy Springs City Council approved a new multifamily housing ordinance during its Sept. 5 meeting. Apartment complexes will be required to have their units inspected annually by a certified building inspector, and every five years by an HVAC, electrical and plumbing equipment expert who will conduct more in-depth inspections.

Residential property owners and managers are required to obtain training in the city’s new policy and a certification demonstrating compliance with the codes. Certification and proof of insurance will be required for the properties to obtain a new or renewed business license.

Jonathan Livingston, a Sandy Springs building official, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the new regulations will allow the city to upgrade and align safety requirements in charter communities.

“It was hard to keep up with what was being done,” Livingston said of the previous policy, which required 20% of apartments to be inspected annually.

At any time, apartment residents may contact Sandy Springs Code Enforcement to report issues not addressed by property management such as sparks in an electrical outlet. Sandy Springs is conducting community outreach to inform tenants of the city code update, said Yvonne Shaw, code enforcement director.

Officials say measuring the success of the code changes will take some time. In case of fires in apartments.

In June, a massive apartment fire destroyed 24 residential units. The cause is still under investigation. Fire Marshal Jesse Bernard said the change will mean fewer and less serious calls.

“A lot of this is to keep the fires small to give our guys time to get in there and get people out,” Bernard said.

The fire chief said there has been a significant decline in apartment fires since 2016 when there were 75 incidents — more than half of which occurred in multifamily residences. Bernard said that after implementing the new procedures, the number of fires decreased to 7 to 10 fires annually.

He said much of the change is due to community outreach to educate residents.

Cooking accidents, such as leaving something unattended on the stove, are the number one cause of fires in Sandy Springs. Bernard said that fire-fighting equipment is now located under the ventilation holes on the stoves in the apartments to extinguish the fire if a fire breaks out. Condensate contains the same chemical found in fire extinguishers and is released when the flame touches its wick.

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