West U program to watch homes while residents are away will not move forward

A program to allow West University Place residents to request city staff to watch their homes while they are away for extended periods of time will not be moving forward.

The decision to not move forward with the program came from the West University Place City Council by consensus during its Nov. 9 workshop.

The decision mirrored a not-to-proceed recommendation by city manager Dave Beach, who spent the last two months since mid-August workshopping the idea with staff, other city departments, as well as the city attorney.

As presented during the council's Aug. 12 meeting, the program-called HomeSecure-would have designated a city staff member to be granted right of access to a resident's property during a period of absence, limited to the exterior. The program would have provided a method of notifying the homeowner or their designee of any conditions needing repair that were found.

However, the liability and exposure from an insurance standpoint would be the two greatest hurdles.

"There are a lot of bureaucratic issues that would need to be wrapped up," Beach said.

For example, a homeowner could successfully file a claim against the city should a staff member miss spotting a potentially hazardous home repair.

In addition, the homeowner would still need to be a part of the process, defeating much of the intent of the program.

"It's a nice concept and a nice thing to have, but we would be required to work with a homeowner or designee through power of attorney," Beach said. "At that point, it would be simpler for them to deal with it themselves. Because any issue discovered the homeowner would still have to deal with."

Council Member Lauri Lankford expressed disappointment that the program wasn't moving forward and inquired as to if a small portion of the program could be used to address issues with unmaintained vacant homes in West University Place.

Despite that, Lankford and council members Ed Sobash and John Barnes thought exploring the idea of such a program was a step in the right direction for the city.

Sobash and Barnes, for example, suggested leveraging city communications, such as Senior Services' Hi Neighbor Newsletter, to inform seniors about resources that may be available to them if they are away for extended periods or struggling financially.

Meanwhile, Beach will develop a list of vacant homes in disrepair to glean a clearer picture of the issue.

This article comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.

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