Local News

Durham Plans Major Inspection Push on Housing

Posted February 13, 2007

The city of Durham receives 5,000 complaints every year about substandard housing, and 99 percent of them relate to rental properties.

City leaders are looking at mandatory inspections as a way to get some landlords to clean up their act. It appears to be a big project, however. There is no shortage of targets.

Constance Stancil, director of the Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services, says she can point to hundreds of substandard houses in Durham. Her department was created in August.

“We need to have a systematic way of getting on top of the blighted areas,” Stancil says.

Currently, city inspectors only check to see if a house is up to code if a tenant or neighbor calls with a concern. That is not working, Stancil says.

“Especially low-income people and Hispanics who don't want to upset their landlord—they're not calling us and they're continuing to live in substandard housing,” Stancil says.

The city is now considering a system-wide inspection program of all rental properties.

Some people say that idea doesn't add up, however. Durham has 50,000 rental properties and 11 inspectors.>

Colin Crossman and his wife have a few rental properties. They say they do not think the city can get the inspections done, but they have a larger issue.

“I think this is a horrible infringement to our right to privacy,” Colin Crossman says.

Stancil responds, “We have our legal team looking into that.”

Leslie Page of the Durham Regional Association of Realtors said, “We believe this program will create unnecessary bureaucracy, and it's going to take assets away from the other programs that could more effectively address the problems of substandard housing.”

The city hopes to phase in the plan over five years. The plan is to begin with rental properties in so-called problem areas and spread out from there. Houses, apartments and duplexes less than 10 years old will be exempt from the first round of inspections.

City leaders say they would have to hire at least three more inspectors and other staff to help out with the extra workload. The proposal will likely be presented to the City Council in March.

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  • andrewsnc5 Feb 14, 2007

    Many of these landlords have used these properties for years like an abused work horse. They've lined their pockets many times over while letting various properties decay, bringing the community down with it. These derelict properties become a catalyst for decline. If you can't be a responsible landlord by providing properly maintained housing to your tenants and charging rates that cover your needed margin (which is a subjective thing,) then get out of the rental business. How about creating an opportunity for someone to be a first time homebuyer, who will give the property the needed investment to improve its condition? Durham will always have a significant number of rental properties, however creating more home ownership opportunities goes a long way to get the desired stability in an area.

  • svtigrz Feb 14, 2007

    I agree that the housing should be habitable. One problem I forsee is if the owners of the properties are required to bring them up to standard, they will have to pass those expenses on to the tenents. That means a raise in the rent. Where are tenents suppose to live if major renovations are required? What happens if the low-income families cannot afford the hike in rent? Are we going to see a story about how terrible landloards are for trying to recover the expenses they were required to pay out?
    smokehound- you cannot make the landloards responsible for their tennants. Landlords can do criminal background checks and credit checks prior to renting to anyone. With that info, you can pretty much tell what kind of person your dealing with.

  • dragonslayer Feb 14, 2007

    How will they know what is rental property ?
    If you want to know what creates the blighted areas I'll tell you. The drug dealers . The gang members roaming the streets . Prostitutes all over the place . People that rent and give a damn are not gonna live around that . They are not going to touch that problem , these evil land lords own houses they must have some money .We will make them fix all the houses up so the drug dealers and hookers have nicer places to work .I do have a solution though .Make the landlord responsible for their tennants . If the police raid a house for drugs or prostitution send the landlord a bill for the hours spent preparing and executing the raid .Getting those folks out of his house is a service to the landlord. Make it a fee for service .The offenders would be evicted from the neighborhoods .The people that can only afford to live in lower income neighborhoods could then take care of their homes and actually go outside and not get SHOT .

  • andrewsnc5 Feb 13, 2007

    I'm certain that Bergman, Soles, Schmitz, Patton, Sturdivant, White, Spell and the countless other slum lords will bring their properties all up to standard as a result of this effort. I applaud the City's attempt, but this is a tall, tall order. These guys' properties are like a cancer on many of the older neighborhoods in Durham.