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Raleigh Looks at Punishing Landlords for Tenants' Crimes

Raleigh City Council members are going to consider a proposal to hold landlords accountable if their tenants break the law

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh City Council members are going to consider punishing landlords if their tenants break the law, but many residential landlords question how they are supposed to know about illegal activity at their houses.

Rules in the city already hold landlords accountable for parties and noise on their property. A proposal that is going to a council committee would add offenses like drug dealing, prostitution and gambling.

“We have a lot of areas that are becoming blighted, rundown. With that increased crime, we are seeing these neighborhoods getting to a point where they are irreversible,” Council Member Thomas Crowder said Wednesday.

Landlord responsibility has been getting attention because of crime problems at rental houses owned by a Raleigh police sergeant, but Crowder said there are many other examples.

“We need to have property owners show personal responsibility,” Crowder said.

Landlords argue that a standard lease gives them the right to evict a tenant if the tenant is charged with illegal activity on the property. They say no new rules are needed. Crowder said that not all landlords evict tenants who do illegal things.

“I just don't understand how we are supposed to know this stuff until there’s a public notice of the problem,” said Jim Morton, a landlord, “how I can be held responsible for someone who decides today to become a criminal at one of my properties.”

Jim Morton owns a few dozen rental properties in Raleigh, and he said good landlords are being punished for the bad behavior of a few. He said that he cannot control the actions of his tenants, despite safety nets like criminal background checks.

Crowder proposes that landlords not be responsible for a first criminal offense at a rental property.


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