N.O. City Council says it’s OK to carpet your bathroom

Fear not, New Orleanians. The long arm of government will not be reaching into your bathroom after all.

Two months ago, the City Council passed a sweeping rewrite of the city’s code-enforcement ordinance establishing stricter standards for the upkeep of both occupied and vacant buildings, part of an effort to crack down on substandard and blighted housing.

Among the newly enumerated violations: carpet in bathrooms.

Councilwoman Stacy Head, who co-authored the measure, called the ordinance a “welcome first step” toward fighting blight but said the council might need to “tweak” it in coming months.

On Thursday, the council approved just such a tweak, deleting the requirement that bathrooms must have “smooth, hard, nonabsorbent” floors — in other words, no carpets.

Head said she had received some “fairly angry” messages from senior citizens, led by longtime activist Ruby Sumler, who said they prefer to have carpet in their bathrooms to reduce the risk of slipping and falling when getting out of a bathtub or shower.

The council approved the change unanimously.

James Uschold, a lawyer who specializes in blighted and distressed property issues, warned the council in August that it was going too far in authorizing code inspectors to be on the lookout for structures with defective plumbing, carpeted bathrooms or peeling paint.

“It’s not clear to me that the problems the revisions are intended to solve are actually going to solve the problems,” Uschold said at the time.

“Do we really want to impose thousands of dollars of fines on (owners) and then seize those properties for what may be pretty minor violations?”