City begins housing inspections off of East

Durham City Manager Marcia Conner announced Thursday that the city is initiating a systematic inspections program intended to improve the safety and appearance of the community.

 Although the inspections will be conducted citywide, the program will kick off Jan. 28 in Trinity Park off Duke's East Campus and in neighborhoods near North Carolina Central University--older inner-city neighborhoods purportedly experiencing quality-of-life issues.

 Ultimately, the program will cover every residence in all older inner-city neighborhoods in Durham.

 Under the program, two Code Enforcement Teams will visit neighborhoods to identify code violations outside of houses. Although CETs will not enter homes unless the owners or tenants invite them in, the teams will be able to obtain administrative warrants that allow access inside a home if they receive a complaint, see a violation in plain sight, or have reasonable cause to believe that a violation exists inside the dwelling. Each inspector will have City of Durham identification.

 "While the long-term plan is to develop a strategic property inspection plan for city neighborhoods, our immediate objective will be to find code violations and enforce compliance so that residents can rest assured that their homes are safe and meeting city codes," Conner said in a statement.

 According to city officials, common violations include dilapidated roofs, electrical violations, fire safety issues, trash and junk in the yard, too many residents in a dwelling and illegal conversion of a single-family dwelling into a multi-family dwelling.

 Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said the University is encouraging students living off campus to cooperate with the CETs. "We hope students will welcome the inspectors to make sure the living space is safe for them," he said.

 He said the inspection initiative came entirely from the City of Durham, though he noted that Duke has been among the many voices pressing the city to have more stringent oversight of housing quality in the city, citing concern over the substandard housing some landlords offer in areas surrounding East Campus.

 City officials stressed that the inspection program is not meant to target students. They noted, however, that students will be expected to follow city codes and ordinances. This means that, although alcohol possession will not be a focus of the inspections, the Durham police will continue their zero-tolerance enforcement of underage drinking and noise violations during the evenings and on weekends.

 In addition, landlords will be held to the law stating that three unrelated people cannot live together in a single-family dwelling--a city ordinance that was enforced this fall, causing a number of students to move out of their house in Trinity Park when they were found in violation of city codes.

 "The sense from our conversations with officials in the city is that they aren't targeting students," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. "The issue of having more than three students in a house is potentially going to be a problem, but the landlords are responsible to honor the legal requirements. And if you have a landlord running a house that's really unsafe, the city really does have an obligation to do something about that."

 Beverly Thompson, city public affairs director, said the city manager decided to organize the inspections processes of the city's various departments after a number of neighborhoods' Partners Against Crime groups voiced their concerns about violations in their areas.

 "Before, departments individually did inspections. The departments won't stop their own inspections, but this is just a chance for them to look at everything at one time that might be problematic," Thompson said.

 The CETs will include employees from Housing and Community Development, Planning, Solid Waste, Public Works, Animal Control, Police, Fire, Inspections and General Services. Reginald Goodson, associate director of Housing and Community

 Development and program coordinator, said property owners will be notified of violations, inside or outside, and that the city will follow the proper procedures until the violation is corrected. Other than zoning violations where both the owner and tenants are liable--such as when there are too many residents in a single dwelling--the owner will be responsible for correcting the violations.


Share and discuss “City begins housing inspections off of East” on social media.