Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 26, 2013

SALISBURY — The owner of the boarding house on North Long Street that a city code enforcement officer found unfit for human habitation said he has repaired the property.
Nathan King Sr. said he has owned the home at 507 N. Long St. for years but no longer lives there. He rents out rooms for $250 a month and has four tenants, including his son, Elvis King, who was arrested at the house in September on drug and weapons charges during a raid of three houses by Salisbury Police.
King showed the Post around the house recently, pointing out repairs to the floors and walls. King said he hired someone to address the code violations and said the work was complete before last week’s City Council meeting, when council members considered an ordinance allowing the city to close the house so tenants could be evicted.
City Council members did not act on the ordinance and instead told Code Services Division Manager Chris Branham to give King 30 more days before they decide whether to begin the eviction process and consider demolition.
Branham told the Post he had heard complaints about living conditions in the house for months before he inspected the home in November 2012 and found 16 code violations including raw sewage coming from the house, blocked exits and no smoke detectors.
King said Branham knew he had repaired the problems and should have reported that to City Council.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Branham told members that King had fixed three issues — recapped the pipe coming out of the back of the house, started repairing a loose handrail and covered an electrical panel in the kitchen. Branham said he had been trying to get King to repair the property for a year with “very little” progress.
Branham told the Post that no other work was done during his last inspection before reporting to City Council.
King disagreed with several code violations from Branham’s 2012 inspection. Branham’s report described raw sewage at the house and said liquid was “freely flowing” into the backyard from the pipe at the back of the house.
King said the pipe connected to a plugged toilet was uncapped for about 30 minutes while it was being repaired and should not have been counted as a violation. King said he was in the hospital when Branham inspected the house but had someone working on the pipe at the time.
Branham said he had heard complaints about the smell of sewage in the yard.
“The clean out pipe was uncapped the day before my inspection, according to the complaint we received, and it was uncapped during our inspection that took approximately one hour to complete,” Branham said. “During our inspection, there was no one on site actively working on the bathroom. It was noticed on a follow-up inspection that it had been capped off.”
King also disagreed with Branham’s assessment that smoke detectors were missing or inoperable. He pointed out two smoke detectors in a hallway to the Post and said both work and were placed in accordance with instructions from the fire marshal.
King said all the bedrooms in the house have working windows but one, and the tenant who lived in that room moved to another. Branham’s report said multiple bedrooms have inoperable windows and two bedrooms have no windows.
King also complained that Branham did not tell him about the City Council meeting. He said he should have been notified and had the chance to speak.
Branham said he called King before the meeting, left a message and went to the house, but he was not there. The Post ran a story before the meeting about four substandard houses that Branham planned to bring before City Council, including King’s.
King, 75, said he has undergone dialysis treatment several times a week for 10 years and cannot maintain the house himself. He said he has paid a repairman about $1,500 in the past month to make improvements.
He said he often takes in people who have nowhere else to go and would sleep on the street if not for his boarding house.
“Chris is so hard on me,” King said.
King acknowledged that he owes taxes on the house, which has a value of $57,688. He owes more than $14,000, according to public records, and his last payment was $23.40 in 2011.
King said the rent he collects does not cover utilities and other expenses, and he has no money left over for taxes.
King said he is aware of drug activity at the house and is trying to resolve the problem.
In September, police seized 4.6 grams (.16 ounces) of marijuana and two firearms. Elvis King, 52, was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and two counts of possession of a firearm by felon. He posted $15,000 bond and was released from the Rowan County Detention Center.
Another son of Nathan King said his father is the victim of discrimination. Michael King said the city is harassing his father and covering up the fact that he had completed the repairs before the City Council meeting.
He also accused Branham of withholding information about home repair funds because his father is African American.
At the meeting, council members asked Branham to provide Nathan King with information about applying for funding from the city’s Community Development Corporation for home repairs.
“He should have gotten that information a year ago, when Chris initially brought up these concerns,” Michael King said. “He’s done a lot of work since then.”
Branham said his job is to enforce the city codes and “improve the quality of life within our community through ensuring that our community is visually appealing, clean and safe.”
Branham said before being asked by City Council to take information to Nathan King, he had never personally given anyone an application for CDC funds. He delivered the application to King after the meeting.
During the meeting, council members said they were interested in creating a packet of information for Branham to present to homeowners after he finds code violations. The packet would include a CDC application.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy told the Post that Michael King has talked to him about allegations of discrimination regarding city code enforcement. Kennedy, the only African American member of the council, said he told King to bring his concerns and any evidence before the entire council.
At the council meeting, Kennedy said he is against eviction and wants the city to make every effort to educate a property owner about available funding before pursuing demolition. He told the Post he also would like to provide tenants with funds to relocate if the city condemns an occupied house.
Branham said the city rarely pursues demolition of an occupied property. He is gathering information at the Post’s request about how many homes have been demolished in the past five years and where they were located.
City Council last year discussed living conditions in several houses on East 11th Street owned by another of Nathan King’s sons, John King. Branham determined the houses did not meet minimum housing standards.
John King agreed to make repairs, and the occupants were not evicted. The houses still stand, and Branham is scheduled to reinspect them next month, as well as Nathan King’s boarding house.
Contact Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.