Sent back for rewrites two weeks ago, Durham's Proactive Rental Inspection Program comes back to the City Council Monday night.
"We're working on it as hard as we can," Housing Code Administrator Rick Hester said late last week.
The program, called "PRIP," would give city inspectors the power to check on houses and apartments without waiting for someone to complain, and to keep closer tabs on problem managers and landlords.
When it came to the City Council for approval March 5, Mayor Bill Bell and several rental property managers raised concerns about the PRIP's scope, its lack of specific goals and measures for them, vague language and the housing code the PRIP is meant to enforce.
"This council is going to pass a rental inspection program," Bell said.
"The question is, what form and how big is the target area?"
The original proposal covered a 40-square mile "designated area," covering 37 percent of the city.
Within that were six "target areas," each one mile in diameter, to begin the process of inspecting each of the 1,564 rental units within them.
The six targets were chosen due to high rates of crime and housing complaints received at the city's Neighborhood Improvement Services office.
NIS Director Constance Stancil said inspections there should take about a year; then, inspectors would move on to other parts of the designated area.
Leslie Page, a former president of the Durham Regional Association of Realtors, said the PRIP should be tested in the six target areas and evaluated before going farther.
"Focus this on a certain area and not this shotgun approach," said Kim Griffin, owner of Griffin Associates Realtors. "We need to see some measured results from this."
Several owners and managers said that, while they knew the city was working on an inspection program, they did not see the proposed ordinance itself until five days before the Feb. 20 public hearing.
Page and Lynn Cherry, owner of Cherry Realty, also said the city should involve the police in its push to improve rental housing.
"What we saw was missing was coordinating with our police department," Cherry said.
"It's hard to fix things up and you come back the next day and it's undone, thanks to vandalism and break-ins."
Griffin said he's through rehabilitating houses to rent, due to crime.
"There are too many pitfalls," he said. "I've got two houses sitting vacant, and there's no copper left. They got my compressor, then they got my pipes, then they got my water spigots."
Treating all code violations the same was also a cause for complaint.
"A cracked outlet cover is treated the same as a failing foundation," Page said.
Some property owners and managers also complained that the program puts responsibility and liability on them without mentioning tenants whose abuse or neglect of rented housing results in code violations.
Also, they were leery about provisions for city personnel to enter dwellings without the tenant's approval.
Several real-estate owners and managers, though, have said they support the PRIP, and most of those not in favor said they do support stronger code enforcement against problem properties.
"We want to work with (city inspections), we want to establish it, we want to be fair," Cherry said.
"We all love Durham and want to see it better," she said.