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BOONE — The Boone Town Council is asking N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein to investigate and take action to stop “unfair and deceptive rental housing practices in the town of Boone.”

The resolution introduced at the April 21 regular town council meeting by Council Member Sam Furgiuele also asked that state Sen. Deanna Ballard and N.C. Rep. Ray Russell initiate amendments to the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act and the North Carolina Tenant Security Deposit Act “to prohibit or establish appropriate parameters and prohibitions addressing the aforesaid practices.”

The resolution states that the council has been made aware of a number of practices that it believes are predatory or unfair but for which the town lacks “apparent authority” to regulate.

It alleges that landlords are charging as much as $800 per apartment in non-refundable fees to pursue credit checks on prospective tenants and their parents but might not actually be paying these amounts for the credit checks or might not be conducting credit checks at all.

The resolution also alleges that certain landlords do not publish or disclose either their actual rental charges and/or the additional application, credit check and other non-refundable fees they impose until the tenant is in the process of applying.

Another practice alleged in the resolution is that some multi-family complexes are imposing a series of fines on tenants that are not directly described in the leases, such as a fine for a pumpkin outside of a tenant’s door at Halloween.

Some landlords rent by the bedroom but require each tenant to guarantee full payment of the monthly rent for an entire four-bedroom apartment, even if the tenant did not know the other roommates beforehand, the resolution stated.

The resolution says there are “many” multi-family housing complexes built in flood zones that have not advised tenants of the propensity of the property to flood, nor have they taken responsibility for flood damages to tenants’ property.

The resolution also alleges that landlords are deducting charges from security deposits for normal wear and tear and that many leases are so complex that “their many predatory and one-sided provisions” are difficult to decipher.

The council heard from a few students and previous tenants in the town, including John Dalton and Emma Strange, who told the council about application fees as high as $200, fees being added to a lease, pressure to renew leases and charges assessed to some roommates but not all roommates in the same apartment.

The resolution was passed by a unanimous vote.

Also at the meeting, the council passed a resolution calling on President Trump, federal legislators, Governor Roy Cooper and state legislators to impose an immediate moratorium on rent and mortgage payments so that the people of Boone do not experience instability with their housing and/or business ownership due to inability to pay rent and/or mortgage payments due to COVID-19.

The resolution was initiated by Councilperson Dustin Hicks and was approved by a unanimous vote.

“The mayor and council of the town of Boone call on all landlords renting or leasing commercial or residential property that lies within the town of Boone” to freeze rents on all residents and pledge to not issue any rent increases, halt evictions, waive late fees for residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions and offer flexible payment plans, the resolution stated.

The resolution is a recommendation from the council and is not binding, as town attorney Allison Meade noted that the town itself doesn’t have the authority to regulate these issues.

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