Web only: Complaints prompt second HUD inspection of Rolling Hills

Rolling Hills Apartments received a passing grade from HUD while racking up hundreds of code violations.

An upcoming US Department of Housing & Urban Development inspection of Rolling Hills Apartments will address allegations of fraud by the property owner, but the review also came about because of ongoing complaints about the quality of the housing.

HUD announced the new inspection last week, only hours before the publication of an expose by Triad City Beat alleging that the owner, Aspen Companies, misreported the number of vacant Section 8 units to the federal agency. Complaints about widespread code violations had attracted the attention of US Rep. Alma Adams, who previously visited the site with Councilman Derwin Montgomery. The new inspection is scheduled to take place later this month.

“Because of the concerns raised by tenants and others, maybe even a congressional representative, we’ll go back and take a second look,” HUD spokesperson Brian Sullivan said.

The previous inspection, conducted in April, resulted in a passing score of 80 percent. The score has raised eyebrows in light of recent disclosures by the city of Winston-Salem that Rolling Hills Apartments has racked up almost 650 housing code violations involving 94 out of 110 units since June. 1.

Sullivan said inspectors looked at 22 randomly-selected units during that visit, dismissing the possibility that the owners might have steered the agency towards a couple cherry-picked units to distract them from widespread problems.

“That is not at all what our protocols call for,” he said. “Building owners don’t — or should not — have any foreknowledge of the units to be inspected. There obviously has to be some de minimis notice because we have to let tenants know we’re coming, but not long enough for them to make any structural repairs.”

Federal law requires that housing units rented out to tenants who qualify for Section 8 assistance must be “safe, sanitary and in good repair.” According to federal requirements, inspectors look at dwelling units, including ceilings, electrical systems and smoke detectors, requiring that that all facets “be free of health and safety hazards, functionally adequate, operable and in good repair.”

The inspection also includes a review of the site, the building exterior, building systems and common areas.

The city of Winston-Salem has documented hundreds of violations categorized as “unfit” at Rolling Hills that remained unresolved as of Aug. 26, including the presence of rodents, inoperable smoke detectors, leaking roofs, broken window panes and defective flooring. HUD has said that its inspection parameters might not correlate with city codes.

“We take reports of unacceptable physical conditions at any HUD-subsidized property very seriously,” Sullivan said. “If there’s any indication that any HUD inspection was not adequate and that we need to inspect a larger number of units we’ll consider that. We’ll continue to monitor the situation at Rolling Hills and require them to improve the conditions at that building.”