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Remedial Action Program offers training to help landlords improve their communities

SALISBURY — The Remedial Action Program offered training to city landlords Wednesday night at the Rowan-Salisbury Schools administration building.

The training was to introduce software to help landlords and their tenants live in a safe environment. The voluntary program is designed to help landlords better understand criminal activity that may be happening on their property and ways to combat it.

Karen Barbee-Ziegler led the program and spoke about the benefits it can have for the community.

“It is a voluntary sign-up program,” Barbee-Ziegler said. “I want you to know we’re not going to pick on you if you sign up. We’re not going to pick on you if you don’t. It’s to help you help us with disorder activities on your property. We take it case by case to see what’s going on and if we can help you do something to improve that.”

RAP initially was met with some pushback from area landlords, but after conversations with property owners and residents, about 200 people signed up.

Deputy Police Chief Shon Barnes said the program is to help keep landlords informed about the communities where their properties are located.

“We don’t try to embarrass anyone,” Barnes said. “We’re not here to be the big brother thing or scare you into complying. We don’t do that. We’re here to work with landlords. To be honest with you, you don’t know that there are 10 calls to your property this month. You probably know that you got rent one time.”

During the training, landlords learned about laws regarding property ownership and how to do a background check.

City Attorney Graham Corriher explained a state law about disorderly and criminal activity on rental property and how RAP can help landlords learn about the activity and steps to prevent it.

He also talked about how criminal background checks on renters play into the Fair Housing Act, which prevents discrimination based on race.

“As long as you got policies and reasons, what you’re avoiding is discrimination on the basis of race and color in these instances of doing a criminal background check,” Corriher said. “The Fair Housing Act covers all types of discrimination.”

Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Donnie Wagoner encouraged those in attendance to notify law enforcement if they see criminal activity.

“Don’t be afraid if you think there is something going on in your property to contact us — the city or the county — and report activity,” Wagoner said. “I’ve had people do that before, a lot of maintenance people. So I’m just going to let you know, maintenance guys see a lot.”

Michael Cotilla, a Salisbury code enforcement officer, spoke about the violations a landlord can have that would get his office’s attention, such as unsafe fuel containers, blocked exits and raw sewage.

City Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield showed her appreciation to the landlords for learning more about what RAP had to offered.

“I don’t want to miss out on thanking you all for, No. 1, caring enough to be here tonight and, No. 2, providing that safe and fair housing for folks that need it as we continue to grow and have that need. You guys are providing a great service to our community,” Sheffield said.

Barnes said overall, RAP aims to make Salisbury a better place to live.

“It’s important that we create safe communities, not focus on one particular property,” Barnes said. “If we’re called in to help, we’re going to look at the entire community, not just your property.”

He added having a good housing environment will attract people to the city.

“People will want to move to Salisbury because they know there is fair housing here and they’re supported by landlords,” he said.

For more information about Remedial Action Program, visit salisburync.gov/rap-registration.

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