Video shows St. Paul city inspectors still working in apartments during COVID-19 pandemic
St. Paul city inspectors are still on the job, heading into apartments and duplexes for routine inspections, and some want the inspections to stop until the deadly COVID-19 outbreak is better contained.
A St. Paul landlord shared cell phone video with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS of city inspectors performing what are called certificate of occupancy inspections in apartment buildings with multiple units.
Mark Nedoroski, owner of Well Maintained Apartments, told KSTP he disagrees with what he calls "routine inspections of windows and smoke detectors" during the COVID-19, or coronavirus disease, outbreak.
"We have Gov. (Tim) Walz telling us to stay home and businesses are closing," said Nedoroski. "But, at the same time, the city of St. Paul is sending inspectors into dozens of apartments every day to test smoke detectors. Tell me that makes sense."
Nedoroski owns more than 300 apartment units in buildings across St. Paul and said they have all received an "A" rating for safety and therefore only need a certificate of occupancy inspection once every six years.
"So if my buidlings are good to go for six years at a time, why not postpone current inspections?" Nedoroski said. "I mean, I think 60 days to see where we are at with COVID-19 is not asking much, especically for properties that have a good, safe track record."
Nedoroski said he would like to see Gov. Walz require cities to shut down all types of multi-family home inspections unless there is a proven safety issue in a building.
"I think this is a money train for the city and that's why they are not shutting down inspections for 60 days," said Nodoroski. "I mean, why else would inspectors show up wearing goggles, gloves and respirators?"
Maureen Nelson is a tenant in one of Nedoroski's buildings. She told KSTP she turned away an inspector last week because she had a newborn in the apartment.
"I could not believe an inspector showed up with a mask and goggles to do an inspection," said Nelson. "I refused because my baby was only a week old and I was not sure where that inspector had been or who had seen before coming into my apartment. It was unsettling."
St. Paul's Department of Safety and Inspections declined multiple interview requests due to scheduling constraints, but a spokesperson did issue the following statement:
"Saint Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections is continuing building inspections in alignment with public health official guidance to ensure the health and safety of our residents and city staff. DSI is also exploring technology-based alternatives to inspections and ways to adapt its service model to ensure building safety issues can continue to be addressed as public health official guidance evolves. Amid COVID-19 concerns, DSI is working with owners and tenants to respond to cancellation requests to determine if an inspection can be rescheduled."
DSI said certificate of occupancy inspections generated $171,000 in 2018 and $193,000 in 2019.