Councilmember Justin Outling said to me last week that I couldn’t possibly be against the concept of the proposed “Good Repair” ordinance for nonresidential buildings.
But I am.
I have at numerous times in my life rented office space that would not pass the Durham good repair ordinance standards and the city staff was instructed to model the Greensboro good repair ordinance on the ones in Durham and Charlotte, so I’m assuming they will.
The offices I rented had problems such as peeling paint, crumbling plaster and loose tiles. Sometimes the roofs leaked but only when it rained. The plumbing was usually not up to the standards of the Durham good repair ordinance. They also often had cracks in the floor, holes in the ceiling tiles and one space had a carpet that I believe was purchased when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, but it could have been during the Truman administration.
One office I rented was in a building where the elevator would not stop on my floor on the way up. I usually walked up but some days I rode up to the next floor and then rode down to mine. Perhaps the building should have been condemned for having an improperly functioning elevator, but the rent was right so the people on my floor put up with the inconvenience.
I rented the spaces gladly fully knowing what I was getting for my rent. I rented what Outling and others consider a blight on the city, because that’s all I could afford. If the owners had been forced to fix all the problems in the buildings the increased rent would have priced me right out of the market.
I was going to give a theoretical example of an entrepreneur, but here’s a real one. Double Hung, LLC which does window repair and restoration, now employs 35 people and has had jobs all over the Eastern US. Double Hung moved from founder, David Hoggard’s garage to a space that wouldn’t come close to complying with any good repair ordinance I’ve seen. I know because I was one of the building’s owners who rented Double Hung space in the basement.
For example, there was a working sink and toilet but they were sitting out in the open and of course there was no hot water. Crumbling is too kind a word for some of the plaster walls which had become wet when the basement flooded which it did on occasion. What was left was removed with a shovel. We were never sure what the ceiling in one room looked like because there wasn’t enough left to tell. Cracks, holes, peeling paint the basement had it all.
But Hoggard rented it, knowing exactly what he was getting.
Hoggard said, “At the time it was all we could afford and it was the right space for us.”
Double Hung prospered and only moved out when the business had expanded into every available corner of the basement and still needed more room. Hoggard also left the basement far better than he found it, making many improvements along the way including enclosing, more or less, the bathroom area.
I happened to be at Double Hung on Patton Avenue a few months ago and it has nice offices and a great work area. I imagine the building would easily comply with any “Good Repair” ordinance the City Council chooses to pass. But if Hoggard had started out in that building or one in a similar state of repair, he would have almost certainly gone broke trying to pay the rent.
Hoggard is a true entrepreneur he took an idea, that it was better to restore old windows than to replace them, and turned it into a thriving business. But it didn’t happen overnight and enough money to rent class A space was not available when he started out.
The City Council claims to support entrepreneurs, but doesn’t seem to understand that entrepreneurial space is not class A office space, or class B, in some cases it may be class F.
If Greensboro is going to fine owners for cracked plaster and peeling paint, then the city is going to force entrepreneurs to go somewhere they can rent space they can afford.
As long as the tenants know what they are getting for their rent, why is it any business of the city how that space looks and much of the good repair ordinances the city is modeling its proposed ordinance after is about appearance. As long as the building is structurally sound and isn’t a fire hazard, what difference does it make if the roof leaks a little or if the plaster walls are not pristine.
The ordinance will be anti-small business, anti-entrepreneur and anti-private property owner and the current City Council loves the idea.
I agree with your assessment to a point. I think the key is ‘if the tenant KNOWS what they’re getting’. Often the problems are ones you don’t see until you’re in and attempting to be operational. I believe that owners, at minimum, should have to reveal issues as they do if you are buying a property. You’re right. Small entrepreneurs are always cash strapped, but it doesn’t help to find out after leasing that there are costly issues with things like plumbing, HVAC, etc.
i believe that we have some smart people on the city council, but they
don’t have enough common sense to cover the head of a pin. I don’t
know why the people that have knowledge to do things that will help
the city don’t want to try to get elected to get things done that should be done.
Like making the city a place where little people can afford to live also. without
being over taxed and without all the fees so they don’t have to call it tax.
What John reports is true. I knew exactly what I was getting when I rented the space and it wasn’t pretty. It was just as he describes. I think the whole space, once we opened it up and cleared it out, was around 1500 sq ft. We were restoring windows in the place, not holding corporate meetings… we just needed it functional, not appealing to the eye. Best as I recall, the rent was in the $400 mo range including utilities. Sometimes John, Willie and I would barter even that meager amount out by undertaking repairs on their building.
If we wanted to improve the place (paint, better lighting, whatever), we undertook it ourselves. When it rained, because it was below grade, some water would seep in in places. After we experienced it the first time, we just put things up on pallets… problem solved and we didn’t think any more about it. It was what it was.
Was it a ‘shit hole’? Yep. But we knew it was a shit hole before we rented it and the price reflected its ‘shittiness’. But it was a safe, generally dry space that served our purposes for 3-4 years while we were getting off the ground. Truth be told – now that we own a 20,000 SF facility that is quite impressive and a great place to work for my 35 employees and the inherent issues created by growth – there are many times per week(day) that I wish we could go back to that basement. Good times.
But I doubt we would be where we are if we had to spend a bunch more money on rent during our infancy because the place was a little wet or the paint was peeling.
Lead Paint Chip and Mold Slumlord Hammer,
You admitted in your critique of a Left Wing Proposal to being a completely amoral slumlord willing to put lives at risk for a few pieces of silver. Leasing an unattractive space which is clearly dated for a cheap rent is one thing. Pealing lead based paint and mold are not acceptable to any situation. One causes a brain destroying process and the other an incurable lung disease. It is amoral creeps like YOU who give legs to far reaching costly proposals you roundly criticized. 99.999% of folks who rent space to others do not put renters lives at risk. You admitted you did.
For many small businesses, during the first 2 years, their biggest cash costs are renting a sheltered workplace and paying the vast array of taxes and fees to support an army of bureaucrats. Labor and material costs are often scaled by sales, but the rent and taxes are fixed unavoidable costs.
Not all peeling paint is lead paint, occasional moisture does not mean black mold. The Proposal is an effort by government staff to force additional fees for building permits and inspections, or make it much easier for the City to vacate and demolish the building without compensating the owner.