Archive for October, 2012

Durham PRIP- Insanity, Incompetence and Distorions

On paper Durham PRIP is a good idea.  The onus of the program is to ensure that minimum housing standards are met and adhered to.  Ok, I can get with that.  I am all for maintaining safe, fit and habitable rental properties.  What I’m not with is a city department that is shoddy, slip shot and at heart dishonest. Officers with PRIP make arbitrary  determinations as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Code enforcement officer R.S. showed up at a property that I manage. This is a pretty home, in good condition and owned by a lovely woman who cares for her property.  Officer R.S. came up with a laundry list of code violations; mind you these are not building code violations but Durham’s minimum housing code violations, a different animal.

Now here’s where things go off the rail.  I didn’t get a copy of the violations, they were sent to the owner who digested the list and then sent the digested violations to me.

I immediately set my handy man to work correcting the “violations.”  One violation of note was that there was an active WATER LEAK and SEWER LEAK in the crawlspace of the home in question. The crawlspace door to this home is screwed shut. We do this because the police here can’t seem to catch copper thieves who will crawl under a home and rip out all of the pipes.  It doesn’t matter if the home is occupied or not. If they can get in they go a rippin.

I knew from conversations with the tenant over a ROOF leak that her water bill had been normal so I drew the conclusion that there was NO SEWER OR WATER LEAK.  Additionally my handyman working on the roof leak went into the crawlspace and verified that it was dry and that there were no leaks under the home whatsoever.

Once all of the other work was completed PRIP was phoned and a different code enforcement officer a Mr. M.V. was sent to the property in question.  He was supposed to meet me on Thursday October 4, 2012 at ten am to look over the home.  At the appointed hour, I was in place. I waited, and waited and waited until finally my tenant came out after 40 minutes and said, Mr. M.V. has already come and gone. He was here at nine am.  Mr. M.V. left a paper. A FAILURE NOTICE.

It seems that there was a crawlspace door, the screwed shut one, that door now needed painting and there was a gap at the chimney near the roof line that needed caulk. No mention was made of needing access to the crawlspace.

My handyman was sent out to attend to these matters and PRIP was then called back.  After their long Columbus Day weekend, Mr. M.V. could re-inspect. While working to coordinate a time for re-inspection on Tuesday October 9,2012 I was asked if the screwed shut crawlspace door would be unscrewed for Mr. M.V. to access that space to determine if the SEWER and WATER LEAK had been fixed.

I queried if he’d have tools so that he could unscrew the door and crawl in.  I was informed that the Durham PRIP inspectors do not carry tools. Actually Mr. M.V. stated that they [the city] didn’t give inspectors tools to carry.

Then I asked; how did inspector R.S. determine that there were leaks in the crawlspace? To this Mr. M.V. said he’d have to phone me back. A little later he did!

At call back inspector M.V. said he’d just cross the leaks off the list because the tenant didn’t complain about them and um, inspector R.S. never actually went in the crawlspace to determine if there were really leaks. He’d deduced that the roof leak which we were working to fix was a sewer and a fresh water leak below the home. REALLY? SERIOUSLY?

So, yesterday inspector M.V. returns to the property in question and fails it again because he contends that the caulk at the chimney has not been applied in a workman like manner. Suffice it to say, we had a few words but in the end my man went back to the property in question, redid the work and I followed shortly behind to snap some digital photos to cover myself.  Hopefully this is the end of that part of the story.  Inspector M.V. actually had the nerve to complain that he’d been to this particular property three times.

Here are my questions:

  1. How does a Durham PRIP inspector determine that there is a leak in a crawlspace when:
    1. He doesn’t carry tools to access said crawlspace
    2. He doesn’t actually go into said crawlspace to perform an inspection and carry out his job.
    3. How does a Durham PRIP inspector go from citing an issue as code violation  to:
      1. Simply striking said violation from the list because he doesn’t carry tools to verify that human waste is or isn’t leaking into a crawlspace.
      2. If tenant health is of paramount concern why would human waste leaking into a crawlspace go from violation to nothing at an arbitrary strike of a pen?
      3. How can a Durham PRIP inspector leap from seeing some moisture on a hardwood floor to a conclusion that the water on the floor is a leak beneath the home?   A basic law of physics is that water fords downhill or to a lowest point.  So…a SEWER LEAK or WATER LEAK would not be leaking up hill, but rather down hill.
      4. How can a Durham PRIP inspector just leap to the conclusion that there is a SANITARY SEWER LEAK when there is no ODOR indicating such and that the moisture in question was actually from a roof leak that we were aware of and working diligently to correct?
      5. Shouldn’t the City of Durham just confess that PRIP is a revenue stream and really has nothing to do with health or safety?
      6. How can the city of Durham expect inspectors to do a job without tools; especially screw drivers?
      7. If tenant safety is of paramount importance then is three trips to a home too many?

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