Loophole keeps Charlotte motels open despite soiled sheets, dirty walls

by: DaShawn Brown Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte motels riddled with soiled sheets, dirty walls and even roaches have been allowed to remain open, even if they fail an inspection, thanks to a state law loophole.

Eyewitness News reporter Dashawn Brown spoke to one couple, who did not want to show their faces, who were forced to rent a room at the Queen City Motel after falling on hard times.

“We knew it was going to be a little bad. We didn’t know it would be that bad,” the couple said.

They took pictures inside the room that showed a mattress that was soiled and torn up. The walls were as brown as dirt.

Mecklenburg County health inspectors found the same problems during an inspection Aug. 9, and gave the Queen City Motel a 70 on its annual inspection. Anything lower, and it would have been shut down.

Brown spoke to the manager of the motel as long as Channel 9 didn’t show his face.

He said at the time, the motel earned that score. But he said since then changes have been made.

“We changed the beds in most of those rooms, we started changing most of the tubs, we want to do a complete renovation now,” the manager said.

Brown went through health inspection records for all of Mecklenburg County’s hotels and motels, and found numerous motels barely passing inspection.

The Budget Inn off of Old Interstate Road in north Charlotte scored a 70 in 2016 and a 70.5 in August 2017. Health inspectors reported soiled toilets, sheets with stains and holes and roaches.

The owner told Channel 9 he spent thousands on the motel and was frustrated by the score.

The Regal Inn on Equipment Drive scored a 69 in March. Inspectors found furniture that was dirty or damaged, bacteria growing on the ceiling and dead roaches in the mattress.

Mecklenburg County health supervisor Stephen Graham said he sees several cases like Regal Inn each year. He can revoke a business’ operating permit if it scores a 69 or lower.

But Graham said he’s also seen properties that have failed and are still in business.

“How are they still allowed to operate if you revoked their permit?” Brown asked.

“North Carolina rules. We don’t inspect weekly rentals,” Graham said.

One example is the Economy Inn on Reagan Drive. When it failed its inspection, it was renting rooms on a nightly basis. But then a new owner took over and made it a weekly rental motel. North Carolina rules say that slight change means it’s now exempt from health inspections.

Mecklenburg County code enforcement can get involved but only if someone complains.

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