Lack Of Minimum Housing Standards Could Impact Safety Of Renters

5:39 PM, Jul 19, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- After more than a week of avoiding their apartment because of mold concerns, the Baker family is headed home. They say their landlord started the clean up after a Greensboro housing inspector said the mildew and water damage needed to be fixed.

"I'm very thankful. Once the building inspector got on it, they have been moving ever since to get it correct," Crystal Baker said.

That housing code's great for renters living inside of Greensboro's city limit's sign, but take a single step into the unincorporated parts of Guilford County - it's a different story. They have no minimum housing standards, so inspectors don't have any rules to enforce. In fact 2 Wants To Know found almost every county across the area lacks minimum housing standards for rental property. That missing code would force landlords to fix problems like mold, lack of air condition and bad wiring.

"People in the county, don't have that resource. They are at a much weaker position," Brett Byerly with the non-profit Greensboro Housing Coalition said.

Instead Byerly said he's see cases were tenants had to take their concerns to court instead. Counties without their own minimum housing standards still have to follow the state building codes. But that only applies to new construction and remodels. Renters in existing homes or apartments are out of luck.

In our area, only Forsyth County protects renters with minimum housing standards. Their commissioners instituted the additional housing guidelines in 2001 in response to complaints about unsafe rental properties.

"It has improved the lives of folks and made it safer for them to live in," housing director Dan Cornelius said.

It takes just one person and costs just $15,000 for a county of 350,000 people. That's a little more than four pennies per person.

"It's complaint driven. We don't go out looking for bad houses. We have to get a complaint from somebody and then we go out and investigate," Cornelius said.

So for four cents per person why aren't more counties putting these minimum housing standards in place? The bigger counties like Guilford and Alamance say it's just been this way for so long and they'll have to look at budget figures again  Some rural counties say they're too small to handle it.

The bottom line, if this lack of code ever changes, it will be the elected commissioners who do it.

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