Code Enforcement to push for ordinance changes, landlord registry

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Martha Wilkins Bond showed WREG pictures of what she says were roof rats that infested her Frayser home.

“We woke up one morning and they had, was eating our clothes up, they was all in my cabinet in the kitchen, all behind the stove,” said Bond.

Bond says the property owner used poison to kill the rats.

“They came out there and put poison all around the house and inside my house where it was visible, where my grandbaby or a small child could get a hold to it.”

Records show Bond called Code Enforcement about the rats and a sewer back-up in August.

Inspectors issued violations and the case was closed this month.  But not before Bond was evicted.

According to the owners, Bond stopped paying her rent in June.

A spokesperson for FirstKey Homes said in an email, “We began the eviction process in October 2017. During the eviction process, the resident gave up possession of the home and handed-in her keys to our staff. We wish her the best and remain confident that we treated her fairly and in line with our values.”

Bond said she wasn’t going to continue paying to live with rats.

“Y’all won`t come out there and fix anything. You want they money, but you don`t want to fix anything.”

WREG has previously uncovered health and safety concerns and code violations at places like Eden at Watersedge where residents were living with raw sewage and no air conditioning.

Of course, there have also been numerous issues at complexes in Memphis like where taxpayers foot the bill.

Public Works Deputy Director Patrick Dandridge says Code Enforcement has been working to be more aggressive at attacking such problems.

“If we get a chronic amount of complaints, similar like at Watersedge, where the air conditioner company is going out, that may prompt us to do what we call a sweep.”

Although they’re still in the planning phase, Dandrige says the city is also looking at having the ordinance updated that governs Code Enforcement.

The rules Code uses to issue violations address everything from high weeds and debris to dilapidated and unsafe housing.

“Make a determination what works, what is not working, what is a chronic type problem that we see.  The ordinance is very old, and so we know it needs to be corrected and updated.”

Dandridge says several parties are working behind the scenes and he doesn’t have a hard timeline, but they’d like to present the information to the City Council in the next few months.

On a separate note, Dandridge also says he’s still pushing for a landlord registry.

The city currently has a database for vacant properties. This helps in the fight against blight.

A landlord registry would require owners to register and have an inspection before renting out properties.

“It could be from the viewpoint of aggressive, chronic nuisance, type of owners who are routinely, as opposed to some of the better players who are landlords who are responsible. But at some point, and we`re talking about rental properties for the most part, at some point we have to be able to be on the front end of it rather than responding to it.”

Dandridge says one of the other problems they often encounter is getting residents to call 311 due to fear of retaliation.

Click here to file a complaint with Code Enforcement

“We’re trying to engage and improve tenants rights and, what can a tenant do and be safe and how can we implement some sort of tenants’ rights programs…to make them not fear if they call in anonymously, and we can just go and do an inspection.”