Yes. The following residential structures are exempt from the rental code:
- Owner-occupied single family dwellings;
- Hotels, motels;
- University housing;
- State licensed health and custodial facilities;
- Other residential occupancies specifically regulated by state or federal authority;
- Fraternity and sorority houses.
Closet lights are not required in a rental property. Closet lights are allowed to remain; however, they must have fully enclosed globed fixtures. As an alternate you may choose to remove the existing fixture, properly terminate the wires and install a cover plate.
Yes. For new rentals, numbers and dimensions of off-street parking spaces must comply with standards in the Zoning Ordinance, Section 29.406, of the Ames Municipal Code. There are provisions for approval of pre-existing parking areas for a rental property in Section 13.403 (8), of the Ames Municipal Code.
Yes. An appeal request must be made in writing and filed no later than 30 days after the date of the inspection deficiency letter. The appeal will be heard by the Property Maintenance Appeals Board. Rental property owners are entitled to file one appeal per structure, per inspection cycle, at no fee. Successive appeals filed on the same property within the same inspection cycle will be charged at the standard rate established by City Council, as set forth in the City of Ames Municipal Code, Appendix L. (link to appeal form).
If you are considering the purchase of a rental property, please complete the on-line Rental Housing Registration form to request a pre-sale inspection before purchasing the property. You may request a copy of prior inspection reports if the property has been or is currently being offered for rent. If you decide NOT to register the property as a rental a fee of $54.47 will be assessed. There is no charge for the inspection if you decide to register the property.
Can my gas fired furnace and water heater be located in or in close proximity to a bedroom or bathroom?
No. Gas fired furnace and water heaters cannot be located in, or open directly into a bedroom or a bathroom. This can not be approved as a pre-existing condition and must be corrected immediately upon notification. This provision does not apply to direct-vent appliances that obtain all combustion air from outdoors. These appliances can be located in an adjacent room when there is a solid wall and door separating the bedroom or bathroom from the room in which the appliance is enclosed. The wall must prevent the passage of air from one room to another. The door or door frame must be furnished with gasketing or weather-stripping along the sides and top to prevent passage of air through the doorway, and a snug fitting threshold must be provided.
Yes. Or, your registered operator or authorized representative may be present in your place. However a tenant is not considered an authorized representative of an owner or operator. If you, your registered operator or authorized representative are not present, no inspection will be conducted. The owner or operator is responsible to provide a minimum of 24 hour notice to tenants prior to any inspection.
Rent is defined as payment of money, goods, labor, service or otherwise for use of a dwelling. Chapter 13, of the Ames Municipal Code defines an owner-occupied dwelling unit as any townhouse, condominium, or detached dwelling that is occupied as a dwelling by the owner or owner’s relative within the first degree of consanguinity (mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother); and may include a live-in nanny; live-in nurse; one live-in exchange student; or one roomer. If you are accepting rent as defined above and your property is not owner-occupied as stated above, then it would be considered a rental property and must be registered. If the tenant is purchasing the property, there must be a legally recorded contract with the Story County Recorder’s Office for it to be considered owner-occupied.
A “Request to Remove from Rental Housing Registration” form is required to be submitted. Fees will continue to be charged until such time the form is received by the Inspection Division. (click here for the on-line form to remove)
How many ground-fault protected outlets does a rental property need in the kitchen? In the bathroom?
All receptacles serving the kitchen countertop surfaces must be ground-fault protected (GFCI). Additionally, each bathroom must have at least one ground-fault protected duplex electrical outlet (GFCI) where an electrical cord may be easily and directly plugged in with a minimum of inconvenience. Note: All outlets in the bathroom must be ground-fault protected (GFCI) but there must be at least one provided.
- A Letter of Compliance is valid for a period of one, two, three or four years, and it cannot be renewed without inspection. The period is determined by the criteria found in Section 13.301(3) of the Ames Municipal Code.
A notice will be sent to you by email so it is important that a current email is always provided to the Inspection Division. The notice will include the date and time for your upcoming inspection as well as the name of the assigned inspector. You may also request that the notice be sent by regular mail.
I heard there were new requirements for automatic alarm systems in apartments. Does this affect all apartments?
There are requirements, but they are not necessarily "new," and they do not apply to "all" apartments. Since 2003, the International Fire Code, as adopted in Ames Municipal Code Chapter 8, has included a provision requiring fire alarm retro-fitting on all R-2 occupancies of more than 16 dwellings or sleeping units. This would mean that all apartment buildings with more than 16 dwelling units or sleeping rooms must have interconnected alarm systems, to ensure that a fire on any floor activate alarms on all other floors, as well.
Thus, the Ames City Council adopted Code language that requires:
- At a minimum, all existing R-2 occupancies of more than 16 dwelling or sleeping units, have an automatic, or manual and automatic fire alarm system installed throughout all interior corridors serving sleeping units.
- Existing buildings not meeting the above specifications, be retrofitted not later than July 1, 2020.
No. Registration may be transferred from one owner to another in the event of a property sale. It is the responsibility of the current owner to inform the Inspection Division of the buyer’s name and contact information. It is the responsibility of the property buyer to register the property in his/her name or company name and furnish appropriate contact information to the Inspection Division. Prompt attention to updating this information will eliminate incorrect billing statements when rental fees are billed.
Yes, unless there is an openable window with an intact screen. The bath fan must discharge to the outdoors.
Existing Rental: Gravel parking can remain as long as it is properly maintained and provided with stationary boundaries.
New Rental: Required parking spaces must be paved.
- This is false. The use of a single furnace serving multiple dwelling units within an existing registered rental structure where air is circulated through more than one unit may continue with certain stipulations as outlined in Section 13.702 (6) of the Ames Municipal Code. It is important to note that a carbon monoxide detector must be provided within the vicinity of the furnace, as specified by the manufacturer. Approval of pre-existing conditions will not be granted to new rental registration applications for duplex or multi-family dwellings. See Section 13.702 (6) of the Ames Municipal Code for detailed information.
You will not be billed for each individual inspection. The City of Ames charges an annual fee based on the type of property to cover the inspection process. Each May, a billing statement will be sent out. The required fee is due and payable within 30 days of the date of notice to the owner or operator. The billing period encompasses the time from July 1st to June 30th of the previous year.
Location Required? Section On the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms YES 13.802(S)(a) Sleeping Rooms YES 13.802(2)(b) In each story within a dwelling unit including basements and cellars YES 13.802(2)(c) Crawl spaces and uninhabited attics NO 13.802(2)(c)
All smoke detectors must be maintained in an operable condition at all times. Smoke detectors must be installed as per manufacturer’s instructions. Smoke detectors must be located at all of the following locations:
- In each room used for sleeping purposes.
- In the hallway or area immediately adjacent to the bedroom(s).
- In each story within a dwelling unit, including basements and cellars, but not including crawl spaces and uninhabitable attics.
Types that are required:
It is recommended that all new or replaced smoke detectors be Dual-Sensor Smoke Detectors. In order to meet the definition of dual-sensor, the detector must:
- Have both a photoelectric and ionization sensor installed, OR
- Two sensors installed, at least one of which detects smoke and one of which detects other hazards such as heat or carbon monoxide.
Garbage and Refuse: All exterior property and premises is required to be free from any accumulation of refuse or garbage per Section 13.410 (1) and 13.410 (2) of the Ames Municipal Code. Additionally, Chapter 10.3 of the Ames Municipal Code states that garbage placed outdoors at all properties for collection must be placed in a water-tight and tightly closed receptacle. (link to Chapter 10)
Yard Waste: For all properties including rental properties, yard waste may not remain on the property for a period of longer than seven days (except for composting) as per Chapter 10.9 of the Ames Municipal Code. Yard waste includes grass clippings, leaves, garden waste, brush and trees. (link to Chapter 10)
Noxious Weeds: The State of Iowa does not permit the growth of noxious weeds on any property in the State of Iowa. The most commonly seen noxious weeds are thistles and cockleburs. Dandelions are not considered noxious weeds. This law has been officially adopted by the City of Ames per Section 5.901. Please scroll down to page 5-53.
Yard Height (rental properties only): Lawn grasses cannot exceed 12 inches in height at any given time per Section 13.406 (9) (a) of Chapter 13, of the Ames Municipal Code.
Outdoor Storage of Appliances: It is a violation of Section 13.410 (3) (a), of the Ames Municipal Code to leave appliances on the exterior of a rental property. For a complete list of the appliances, please see Section 13.410 (3) (a). (Link to Section 13.410 (3) (a)) Please scroll down to page 13-26.
Outdoor Storage of Furniture: It is a violation of Section 13.410 (3) (b), of the Ames Municipal Code to leave household furnishings on the exterior of a rental property. The term “outdoor” includes a porch unless that porch is completely enclosed by fully intact glass or fully intact screen. This is often referred to as the “couch” ordinance.
Junk Vehicles: Motor vehicles must be parked, stored and maintained in accordance with Chapter 30, of the Ames Municipal Code according to Section 13.406 (11) of the Ames Municipal Code. Vehicles that meet the definition of a junk vehicle in Chapter 30, of the Ames Municipal Code may not be stored on private property for longer than 48 hours unless they are covered with a tightly fitted vehicle tarp or which are concealed or enclosed behind an opaque wall that is at least 6 ft. in height.
Charcoal grills and other open-flame cooking devices cannot be operated or located on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction. This requirement does not include one and two family dwellings, nor does it include buildings, balconies and decks that are protected by an automatic sprinkler system. LP-gas burners/grills cannot be operated or located on balconies or decks of multiple-family dwellings at any time. (Chapter 8, Sec. 8.202(2) of the Ames' Municipal Code and 308.3.1.1 of the International Fire Code). Electric grills are ok!
A Knox box is a small metal box that is installed at a building entrance to house keys to provide necessary access to rooms and areas as required by the Fire Department. It assures immediate building entry by firefighters and emergency response personnel and it eliminates needless and costly forced entry damage. A Knox box is required for all existing and new apartment buildings with six or more dwelling units with a common entrance capable of being locked.
What is an Appliance Certification form and when do I need to provide one for my mechanical equipment?
The Appliance Certification form was created to provide uniform information regarding the safe or unsafe operation of fuel burning mechanical equipment in rental properties at the time of the routine rental inspection. This form can only be completed by a licensed Mechanical Contractor. (link to form)
An Appliance Certification is required when mechanical equipment reaches approximately 20 years of age or when one or more of the following visual concerns are present:
•Frayed Wiring and/or
A tenant wishing to file a complaint must first contact their landlord in writing regarding their concern/s. If the concern is not addressed to the tenant’s satisfaction, a Tenant Complaint form can be filed with the Inspection Division. Legal questions cannot be addressed through the complaint process. (click here for Tenant Complaint form)
Plastic dryer vents are not safe and are not allowed. Dryer vents must be constructed of rigid metal ducts that have smooth interior surfaces with joints running in the direction of the airflow. Flexible aluminum transition duct may be used but limited to single lengths not to exceed 8 feet. The dryer vent should be properly supported and routinely checked for any buildup of lint and debris. The dryer vent must exhaust to the exterior of the building.
Fire Extinguishers (single-family and duplex)
As of July 1, 2015, all dwelling units must have one charged and operable 2-A: 10-BC rated fire extinguisher located in conspicuous location where it is readily accessible and immediately available for use. Re-chargeable fire extinguishers are subject to required maintenance at intervals of not more than one year by a trained individual. Non-rechargeable fire extinguishers must be replaced after 12 years.
Multi Family Properties (non-sprinklered)
All dwelling units must have one charged and operable 2-A: 10-BC rated fire extinguisher; or, there must be one charged and operable 2-A: 10-BC rated fire extinguisher supplied and kept on each floor of a dwelling within seventy-five (75) feet of every unit entrance located in conspicuous locations where they will be readily accessible and immediately available for use. Re-chargeable fire extinguishers are subject to required maintenance at intervals of not more than one year by a trained individual.
Multi-Family Properties (sprinklered)
In rental buildings that include an automatic sprinkler system utilizing quick-response automatic sprinklers, 1-A: 10-B:C portable fire extinguishers may be utilized. In locations where the 1-A: 10-B:C portable fire extinguishers are allowed, they are only required within the dwelling units, not in the common areas.
All below grade bedrooms are required to have windows/emergency escape openings that comply with the 2006 International Residential Code. These windows/openings are required to open directly into a public street, public alley, yard or court. Where these windows/openings are provided, they cannot have a sill height of not more than 44 inches above the floor.
Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square ft. (Grade floor opening: A window or other opening located such that the sill height of the opening is not more than 44 inches above or below the finished ground level adjacent to the opening.)
Minimum opening area. 5.7 sq. ft.
Minimum opening height. 24 inches
Minimum opening width. 20 inches
Emergency escape windows/openings are allowed to be installed under decks and porches provided the location of the deck allows the emergency escape window/opening to be fully opened and provides a path not less than 36 inches in height to a yard or court.
The minimum horizontal area of the window well must be 9 square feet with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches. Window wells with a depth over 44’’ must be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully opened position. Ladders or rungs are required to have an inside width of at least 12” and project at least 3” from the wall and be spaced not more than 18” on center vertically for the full height of the window well. Any covering on the window well(s) must be removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the window(s).
- The rental housing team has created a document called A Guide to a Successful Rental Housing Inspection. This document will help to familiarize you with most of the things that will be looked at during a routine rental inspection. It is recommended that you review this document prior to an upcoming inspection of your property.
If you need to re-schedule a routine rental inspection, please contact Administrative Services at 239-5153. If you need to re-schedule a re-inspection, please contact the assigned inspector that did the rental inspection with you.
Prior to renting or leasing the structure (13.411(2)(a))
One-family dwelling (13.411(2)(b))
Public or shared areas of structure containing two or more dwelling units and the exterior (13.411 (3)(a))
Public or shared areas of a multiple occupancy structure and the exterior (13.411(3)(a)) x Infestation caused by failure of occupant to prevent infestation in the area occupied (13.411 (3)(b)) x Maintaining structure in rodent and pest-free condition (13.411(3)(b)) x Infestation caused by defects in the structure (13.41193)(b) Exception) x