Denver’s program to license residential rental properties slowed by a lack of inspectors

Denver’s new residential rental licensing program is off to a slow start, with just four government-recommended inspectors available to check out properties.

The Denver City Council passed an ordinance last May that calls for anyone offering, providing or operating a residential rental property in the city and county to hold a license. The city launched the resulting program in March, although licensing is voluntary this year.

“Denver will now have a licensing tool to hold landlords and property managers accountable for providing a safe living space,” said Molly Duplechian, executive director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, in a statement announcing the program.

Licenses aren’t required for multi-unit residential rental properties until 2023 and single-family residential rentals until 2024, said Eric Escudero, department spokesperson.

To get a license, the property must pass an inspection by a third-party inspector who meets specific qualifications. However, the city and county’s list of qualified inspectors only includes four people as of May 10.

So far, 16 residential rental property licenses have been issued as of May 12. Meanwhile, the number of license applications stands at 59, Escudero said.

The number of government-recommended inspectors pales in comparison to the number of rental properties in Denver. Zillow, an online real estate marketplace, lists 525 homes available for rent on May 16 – and that doesn’t include the many that are already occupied.

Right now, officials don’t know exactly how many rental properties are in Denver. “All we have is estimates,” Escudero said, but the program will provide a basis for how much available rental housing stock there is “for the first time ever.”

Escudero’s department is working to bump up the inspector count by meeting with various groups, including employment platform WORKNOW and the Colorado Poverty Law Project, on top of launching social media and mass email campaigns targeting potential inspectors, property management companies and large apartment complexes this month.

“While we are disappointed in the lack of inspectors and applications so far, we are confident all the hard work we are putting forth will pay dividends with an increase in applicants and available inspectors soon,” he said.

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