We study the BN-pair impurity complex inside a metallic and a semiconducting single-walled carbon nanotube host. For the single impurity in the semiconducting tube, we find that no electron or hole bound states can be sustained because the distance between the B and the N is less than the effective Fermi-Teller radius for that system. If the BN pairs are incorporated at stoichiometric concentrations (BC10N nanotubes), achievable for example with a borabenzene-pyridine adduct C10H10BN precursor, the metallic tube becomes semiconducting for an ordered arrangement of the impurities, but the introduction of disorder restores a finite density of states at the Fermi level. Thus, in the mechanism presented here, disorder effectively restores the symmetry of the nanotube, returning the nanotube to its original metallic character. © IOP Publishing Ltd.