Due to a new state law limiting local authority over housing codes, the city of Asheville can no longer require the inspection of rental properties before their occupation by tenants.
The new law, “the inspection department may make periodic inspections only when there is reasonable cause to believe that unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise hazardous or unlawful conditions may exist in a residential building or structure.”
“The way the city’s housing code currently reads, it allows an inspector to go in and conduct periodic inspections,” Assistant City Attorney Martha McGlohon tells Xpress. “Now, you can’t periodically inspect a property unless you ‘have reasonable cause,’ for example, if it’s done on a targeted area approved by City Council.”
McGlohon says staff is currently considering asking Council to designate such areas.
“We can no longer require a landlord to have a housing certificate before a tenant occupies it,” McGlohon says. “There were a number of municipalities, including Asheville, that sought to ward off trouble by requiring that all rental properties have a housing certificate, so we know we have a good, safe, decent, affordable housing market.”
Greensboro and Raleigh are among the other cities that have such a requirement.
Now, the city can’t require a landlord to get such a certificate — and the required inspections — before renting a property. The new law does not address refurbished or newly built houses. The law also prevents the city from treating owner-occupied and rental properties differently.
As for “reasonable cause,” the new law defines the criteria as a history of the landlord violating housing code, complaints about conditions, the inspectors having direct knowledge of unsafe conditions or a violation visible from outside the property.
McGlohon adds that the city is consulting with the League of Municipalities and the UNC School of Government before deciding on its response to the new law.
— David Forbes, senior news reporter