Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney
♦ The Salisbury Housing Advocacy Commission is a commission appointed by the Salisbury City Council. It is hosting a public forum about the Remedial Action Plan (RAP), on properties. The forum will be held Monday, Dec. 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at One Water Street.
The purpose is said to be to hold landlords accountable for recurring crime and disorderly activity on their properties and an unpublished proposed ordinance is supposed to be similar to Charlotte’s which you can find below. The “Salisbury Spin” is that this is designed to build “relationships” between residential landlords and the police.
While we have not seen Salisbury’s proposed ordinance we have published a link to Charlotte’s below:
As I read it, if “disorder activities,” (mainly violent crimes) occur at a residential rental property it goes into a “Disorder Activity Count” and if it gets high enough, nasty things are triggered for the landlord including mandatory meetings and eventually if “cooperation” is not given, Class 3 Misdemeanor charges.
Proponents of the Remedial Action Plan (RAP Plan) say this plan will hold property owners accountable for repeat criminal activity and force the eviction of folks who may or may not be members of “undesirable” social clubs (gangs) or be involved in certain clandestine and illegal retail trades (heroin, meth, crack, stolen guns, etc.).
Opponents have not been heard from yet and since the proposed ordinance and plan is not published, your writer has no opinion yet. I do note City Council recently revealed that over 2000 vacant homes exist in Salisbury and no doubt this has created a “renter’s market” with many empty houses, particularly in crime challenged areas of the city. Here are some questions that I am wondering about:
If this passes, won’t the smart landlords just put a paragraph in their leases saying if a tenant gets the house put in the RAP Plan that they are in breach of lease and evicted? Is that the goal?
Does the eviction of the tenant get the house out of the RAP plan or does it stay there forever, since the ordinance says the designation carries over to subsequent owners?
Should real estate title searches by closing attorneys check the “RAP List” before doing real estate closings for new buyers? Would there be a title problem as “RAP Properties” might have significantly reduced property values if a new investor discovers they are walking into a potential misdemeanor charge?
The definition of “Disorder Activity” doesn’t seem to take into account whether your tenants caused the problem or not. Would the drive-by house-shooting murder of an innocent person, that was no fault of the tenants, go into the “disorder activity count?” If so, doesn’t this plan sort of assume that victims of violent crime “had it coming” or must have contributed in some way?
Will victims of violent crime in RAP Plan rentals stop reporting crimes to the police to prevent being evicted? If that happens and it becomes known, might these tenants have an elevated risk of being harmed by criminals?
Alex Clark reminded council last week that most Black citizens rent and do not own real estate in this city. Might this plan be utilized as a further move towards gentrification and an additional impediment to fair housing?
In the social sciences, the “law of unintended consequences” are outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action. This city council might want to think real hard about this plan and ordinance.