10/22/09 — City eyes new rules for rental properties

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City eyes new rules for rental properties

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 22, 2009 1:46 PM

With his eye on a cleaner, safer city, Goldsboro's chief building inspector remains committed to making significant changes to the way he and his staff approach dilapidated rental property.

Ed Cianfarra this week reiterated that adopting the Rental Unit Certificate of Occupancy ordinance used in Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh would make neighborhoods across the city more sightly -- and force absentee landlords to take better care of their property.

Passing RUCO-like rules would overhaul the current minimum housing process, a system Cianfarra said grants too much time for repairs that rarely get made.

"The RUCO Act does not give them the amount of time they had in minimum housing. What we're eventually going to do is phase out minimum housing as you know it today," he said to members of the City Council before their Monday evening meeting. "Why? Because the RUCO Act will give the Inspections Department more authority to get things done quicker."

Under RUCO, property would only be deemed fit to rent after the owner has established that fact with the Inspections Department via a certificate of occupancy.

"(RUCO) is telling people how to maintain their property and the things you have to do to maintain a good, viable piece of rental property," Cianfarra said.

Those standards, he added, are not reflected in many homes and apartments currently on the local rental market.

And the existing minimum housing code leaves those people renting out the property in substandard conditions for far too long.

"But if we take your certificate away under the RUCO Act, you can't rent out that property," Cianfarra said. "You can't put somebody else in there. You cannot get an income for that apartment if it's substandard."

Should the council adopt the policy, the time typically granted for repairs under the current code would be cut dramatically.

And all rental property owners living out of state would be required to have local management.

"That (local property manager) has the authority to make that decision (on repairs). If they don't, we're going to pull that certificate and they can't rent that property," Cianfarra said. "I'm going to move those people out a lot faster than we're moving them out right now, because nobody needs to live in some of the conditions ... we run into."

Under RUCO, if a complaint comes in regarding a piece of property, the owner enters a process similar to the minimum housing process currently in place.

A warning is given -- along with 30 days to fix the problem -- only whereas the current process allows months and months before the property faces condemnation, only 60 days are allotted under RUCO before the dwelling is deemed unfit to rent.

"I think what the Inspections Department is really trying to do here is move toward the best maintenance policies ... the best possible method to get it done and keep the city of Goldsboro looking as good as it can," Cianfarra said. "My staff and I are trying to catch these (problems) earlier, get them (dealt with) quicker and then we don't have as many demolitions in the long run.

"You are always going to have demolitions because you are always going to have those property owners. We can't get away from that. But I think if we start catching them quicker with different types of authority ... we'll be able to get better results than we are having right now."

Cianfarra said he will officially bring the RUCO Act before the City Council in the near future, and is confident that once it is adopted, noticeable changes will occur in city neighborhoods.

"We are going to take this thing on," he said.