Is Ben Holder's contract with Greensboro, as a subcontractor, legal?

Whitney Kenerly, Yes Weekly, July 23, 2014 

"When the NC General Assembly voted in June to amend the state’s rental inspection law, it appeared to spell the demise of RUCO, short for Rental Unit Certificate of Occupation, a model program in Greensboro that proactively inspected rental properties...


The Greensboro City Council has drawn heat for opting to remain silent on the issue on the eve of a critical Senate vote.

...The new law amended a section of state law pertaining to building inspections in cities and counties, prohibiting them from making periodic inspections for “unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise hazardous and unlawful conditions in buildings” without reasonable cause.

Which appears to be what Ben was hired to do.

......the legislation appeared to be directed at “periodic inspection programs of local governments,” and suggested a possibility that “local city or county residential inspection program ordinances organized under different enabling authority” might not be affected.

For example, he said, cities might want to explore with their attorneys whether rental inspection programs established on the authority of a part of state law pertaining to minimum housing standards, as opposed to a separate part about building inspections, “remain viable.”

Tom Pollard, interim city attorney for the City of Greensboro, released his opinion on the viability of RUCO to Mayor Bill Knight and members of city council in late August. Pollard said he had discussed the new ramifications of the new law with a faculty member at the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill, and told council: “I have concluded that these clear prohibitions apply to the city’s RUCO ordinance, regardless of the adopting authority.”


What if the proactive inspections originate with a subcontractor?

Tyler Mulligan, a professor of public law ...addressed the question...: “Minimum Housing: A Way Around Residential Inspection Limits?” Even assuming that the two sections of state law “provide separate authority for minimum housing public officers to conduct periodic inspections — a court is likely to resist an interpretation that allows minimum housing public officers to get around the reasonable-cause provisions of the rental inspection law,” he wrote.

Is a subcontractor a "public officer"?

...the statutes for North Carolina’s minimum housing standards law, which authorizes cities and towns to exercise police powers and declares that “the existence and occupation of dwellings in this state that are unfit for human habitation are inimical to the welfare and dangerous and injurious to the health, safety and morals of the people of this state.”

...the statute amended by the General Assembly refers to “building inspectors” while the statute that provides the enabling authority for RUCO refers to “public officers.”

...Nancy Hoffmann [who is now a landlord]...said RUCO had been successful and had improved the city’s housing inventory, but she appreciated that landlords might have a different perspective.

Jim Kee and Zack Matheny...echoed criticism that city staff is inspecting the same properties over and over again.

...Robbie Perkins said, “It’s hard to cry over spilt milk. If the state legislature decides they’re going to put a program out of business, then they’ve got the authority to do that. I think the question is, where do we go from here?” Perkins proposed reducing the territory for which each inspector is responsible..."

Has the City of Greensboro concluded subcontractors can proactively inspect?

I hope so.

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