City Council votes to move ahead with eviction at boarding house

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

SALISBURY — City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the eviction process for a boarding house at 507 N. Long St. if the owner does not bring the house up to minimum living standards.
Four people rent rooms in the house.
Code Services Division Manager Chris Branham said property owner Nathan King Sr. has not allowed the city to re-inspect the house since last month, when City Council gave King 30 more days to make repairs and told Branham to provide the owner with an application for home renovation funding.
King told the Post last month he had brought the house up to code and showed a reporter repaired walls, floors and railing. King, who does not live in the house, said he did not let Branham back in because he had already seen the repairs and then lied to City Council about them.
But Branham said based on his most recent inspection, the boarding house should be closed and tenants evicted because the property is a safety hazard. Branham said he has tried repeatedly over several weeks to re-inspect the house.
“He did not allow me in,” Branham told City Council. “I could not verify that things had been complete.”
Branham said when he spoke to King on Tuesday before the meeting, King told him a re-inspection was not necessary.
“The dwelling continues to be occupied and presents a safety concern for its occupants,” Branham wrote in a memo to City Council. “The dwelling also continues to contribute to its surroundings in a negative way and does not promote a quality of life that is up to city code.”
Police recently raided the house, executing a search warrant and arresting King’s son Elvis on drug and weapons charges. Elvis King posted bond, moved back into the house and is awaiting trial.
Nathan King told the Post he is aware of drug activity in the house and is trying to resolve the problem.
“In order to cause the occupants to be removed by eviction and to demolish the dwelling, an ordinance from City Council is required to move forward with addressing this nuisance to the community,” Branham said in his memo.
King and several family members attended Tuesday’s meeting. City Council already had voted to start the eviction process when Nathan and son Michael King addressed council members during public comment near the end of the meeting.
Nathan King said his house, which is between 135 and 150 years old, has more problems than a new house.
“Even in a new house, a code man can find something wrong,” he said.
Nathan King said Branham harassed him. He said he would not allow Branham to inspect the house without an attorney present.
Michael King complained about the way Branham handled his father’s house and another house the family owned where he said they allowed homeless people to stay for free.
Mayor Paul Woodson said he was concerned that Nathan King would not allow the city to re-inspect the house and asked if he would allow three city employees — Branham, Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins and Assistant City Manager Zach Kyle — into the home.
“We won’t get anywhere with that house unless we get that house re-inspected,” Woodson said.
King agreed.
Woodson asked Branham to set up the inspection and report back to the council Jan. 7.
Branham has been writing up the house since 2012. He sent King a list of more than a dozen code violations, including fire hazards, blocked exits and windows, unsafe flooring, plumbing problems and raw sewage coming from the back of the house. King denied several of the allegations and said he has fixed others.
Branham recently began pursuing demolition of the house, but the city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted to delay demolition for 90 days.
The ordinance passed by City Council on Tuesday would not allow demolition but would allow eviction of the tenants and closure of the property. Branham said it would take about 90 days to evict the tenants.
Branham said he checked to see if Nathan King had applied for help from the Salisbury Community Development Corporation or the Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency. Neither organization has received an application from King, Branham said, and the groups focus on helping property owners improve owner-occupied homes, not revenue-producing properties.
Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy said he suggested last month that the city delay eviction until King was made aware of financial assistance opportunities. Since that was done, Kennedy said he supported moving forward with eviction and closing the house.
During his comments, City Manager Doug Paris said he planned to meet with King to investigate his broader allegations of racial profiling.
Michael King alleges that the city demolishes more homes in African American neighborhoods and does not enforce the code as strictly in white neighborhoods.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.