Due to new state law, Asheville can’t require inspections for rental properties

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


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13 thoughts on “Due to new state law, Asheville can’t require inspections for rental properties

  1. sharpleycladd

    The first law of economics: There is no free lunch. Whatever “savings” landlords enjoy due to their “freedom” from certificate-of-occupancy requirements will evaporate when their fire insurance bill arrives.

    If you want to know how regulation really works to assist businesses and preserve private wealth, open a ladder factory in a place with no OSHA regs and a place that has them.

  2. I really don’t get what you’re saying here, sharpley.

    This is a nice treat for slum, er – landlords, though. I wonder how many more awesome pieces of legislation like this slipped through while everyone else was on about the airport, the water system, and redistricting.

  3. sharpleycladd

    Usually, finding of fact in a product liability case begins with the state of regulations and compliance. Did the ladder factory comply with safety regulations? Did regulatory authorities review and approve designs and production methods? Common law jurisprudence plus no regulatory apparatus could get very, very expensive for people who make things. The whole idea of frontierland freedom in the tomorrowland we live in is kind of nuts.

  4. dpewen

    Huh sharpley … ??
    This is not a good thing for renters! The politicans are consistent though .. they pass laws and regulations that favor the business people, not the citizens!

  5. ashevillain7

    This is not good for anyone –

    1. Not the renters (who have to live in conditions of unknown safety)

    2. Not the landlords (yes they might save some money in the beginning but it WILL catch up to them in the long run if they aren’t vigilant)

    3. Not the inspectors (who will now have less work to do)

    I’m curious about why they passed this. Usually when a gov’t passes a law it is in the special interest of some group or another. Who is the special interest in this case? The fire department?

  6. Viking


    No one should be surprised that the Residential Building Inspections amendment was initiated by the Apartment Association of North Carolina. Who represents the interests of tenants in WNC? Heath Shuler?

    Keep in mind many of our politicians are landowners and landlords. Are there ANY politicians at ANY level in North Carolina who rent? There may be a few but I suspect they are the minority.

    Many people rent apartments for primary housing and it is true many NC citizens still live in single-unit homes. The amazing truth is that renters are a MAJORITY: http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/NPTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=04000US37&-qr_name=ACS_2009_5YR_G00_NP01&-ds_name=&-redoLog=false . How could a bill like this get by given the number of tenant citizens? Ask yourself whether the social status of a homeowner is higher than a renter in the US. That’s part of the psychology behind the housing bubble, and that our apartment stock is deteriorating and many landlords are unfamiliar with the National Association of Realtors and National Association of Residential Property Managers CODE(s) OF ETHICS.

    If COA and other municipalities simply advertised these codes of ethics to both both landlords and tenants, market principles of informed commerce could be more realistic. At the same time the rules for apartment dwellers are WAY below the quality regulations a hotel or car renter benefits from. The current bar for “unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise hazardous or unlawful conditions” are basic, but not realistic standards for tenant consumer protection in the 21st century.

  7. Viking

    ,,,and thanks to MX for posting this. I have recommended deeper investigation of the tenant’s POV in local issues. It looks like MX is the only paper to cover the NC apartment owner’s association amendment. The Meadows problems and that fairly undemocratic legislation all give cause for reflection.

    It’s great COA is going after public housing transformation $$, but most tenants are in private housing.

    Shuler’s role as a real estate magnate and the number of WNC landlords with HUD loans makes Shuler a good candidate for tang up tenant’s issues.

  8. Torrance

    Sharpley: What are your qualifications to speak to findings of fact in a product liability case? I get so bored with people that learn a few legal terms and pretend to be lawyers.

    Asheville already has a problem with landlords trying to use their rental properties as their sole source of income, and squeezing exorbitant rents of people while conduct modest, if any repairs when they are needed. I have lived in Asheville for 4 years, and I have yet to have a landlord that performs any time of preventive or regular maintenance.

  9. bill smith

    I think sharply’s ‘point’ is that teh regulations are bad because the cost will be passed on to the the renters. Therefore, we should have no regulations at all. Great idea!

  10. cwaster

    Oh lovely. Nice win for the many slum lords in town.
    Our state already has very few protections for renters, and now even less. Go GOP!

  11. sharpleycladd

    I must have misspoken. I meant to say that regulations can be good for renters and landlords. Level playing field, fewer nuisance lawsuits, etc.

    If you want to gut safety and health regulations, plow that money into a powerful civil courts apparatus to handle all the downstream lawsuits, was what I was trying to say. Deregulation has saved airline travelers money – hooray loud for that one, because it’s the only example of deregulation benefiting the consumer, and the repeal of Glass-Stegall raked the savings on airline tickets back with a vengeance.

    To be clear, I meant to say that deregulation – as opposed to reform and streamlining of regulatory structures – is stoopid.

    The rental housing ordinance did a lot to clean up Asheville’s rental housing stock which – when I moved here in 1990 – was replete with unsanitary firetraps. Many of which were owned or controlled by Charles Taylor and his pals, who fought the Housing Ordinance tooth and nail.

  12. Viking

    If Asheville FD has to fight a fire at a residential unit one day that causes even one injury that could have been avoided by this crappy new law, the NC Apartment Association leadership and the bill sponsors should go to jail.

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