Mar 042013


By Wesley Brown

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A violation-based rental registry that would hold landlords in west Greenville and the Tar River-university neighborhood accountable for problems such as messy yards, loud parties and too many residents living in homes is not dead yet.

Last week, the Greenville City Council received a resolution from its Neighborhood Advisory Board supporting the program as a way to “preserve and strengthen neighborhoods in the city.”

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The endorsement was approved on Jan. 17, a month after the council — for the second time in three years — shot down a proposal by District 3 councilwoman Marion Blackburn to inspect and possibly permit rental properties cited for two or more housing violations.

But the document was withheld from the council’s weekly packet of notes until Feb. 27. Ann Maxwell, chairwoman of the Neighborhood Advisory Board, said last week she found the delay to be unacceptable.

“We want more accountability for landlords,” Maxwell, who signed and forwarded the resolution, said. “As rental property becomes a more popular option in neighborhoods across city, any system of checks and balances that can better hold landlords responsible is important to the appearance of Greenville and the protection of its tenants.”

Maxwell said the Neighborhood Advisory Board purposely left out any ideas on the best way to conduct a registry, because it simply wanted more research done on the program.

A registry has been suggested in Greenville since 2009, and was investigated again last fall, but staff said in January it lacked the technology and funding needed to create an automated system that would track police calls and minimum housing violations logged at rental homes.

As a result of the news, the majority of the council, as it did in the past, decided to look at code enforcement as a whole, asking management to bring back a “viable” plan for cleaning up rental property citywide, a recommendation may landlords saw as the right move.

“I think everyone likes the idea of a rental registry, but what has been proposed has the potential to scare away rental investors and ultimately could lead to properties becoming boarded up and overrun by vagrants, vandals and thieves,” Mike Saad, owner of three apartment complexes in city, said.

Saad said he had hoped to borrow money, acquire and repair some of the 80 properties his mother owns in west Greenville, but his request was made too late to stop the city from moving forward with plans to demolish seven homes along Bancroft Avenue. Saad said he considered himself saved.

Saad said all the registries across the nation he is familiar with have failed, except for one in Fort Collins, Colo., which he described as a unique model for regulating rental property.

Saad suggested the council take a closer look at the system, as it provides an adequate supply of quality student housing while maintaining neighborhood quality and compatibility by promoting collaboration between the city and its college — Colorado State University.

While not perfect, Fort Collins officials have considered their ordinance a success because it attempts to preserve the city’s neighborhoods and address the ever-growing demand for off-campus student housing.

The secret, officials said, is it allows property owners to achieve the maximum amount of profit as long as their property is in compliance with city codes.

Through the use of disclosure forms, informational flyers and a complaint-driven enforcement process that gives officials the right to inspect properties upon “reasonable” belief of a housing violation, landlords and residents are encouraged to take ownership of problems, according to reviews.

“Really, it appears it can be doable if there is a good market and it is proven to be beneficial,” Saad said. “If not, the free market works well.

“You can’t force prosperity.”

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.


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