To the editor:
I have been a landlord since 1987, and I have just about "seen it all" with regard to tenants disrespecting property and neighbors. I speak from experience when I say that the current suggestion that the definition of a family be changed from four to two unrelated individuals to alleviate these problem tenants is not a panacea.
If concerned neighbors would report violations for existing codes to landlords, we could use those violations to evict problem tenants. I have had incidents where police have been called to one of my properties for a noise complaint, but I was never notified. There should be a mechanism the insures that property owners are informed when a problem involving law enforcement and city personnel exists, and likewise, there needs to be a way for neighbors to inform property owners of problems that might not yet result in police or city intervention.
Other solutions might be to limit occupancy to one person per bedroom up to four individuals per housing unit, to require more off-street parking, and to have landlords include language in leases that give them the ability to evict tenants for code violations The current code and equal housing opportunity policies are so heavily weighted in favor of tenants rights that it makes it nearly impossible for a landlord to evict problem tenants without risking potential lawsuits.
Merely regulating the number of tenants per household is not going to change the behavior of offending tenants. Landlords need the support of local government to enable them to legally keep rental properties free of undesirable tenant behavior.
Changing single-family residence zoning from four unrelated parties to two will only affect a minuscule portion of the total rental population in Lawrence. Has anyone looked at the number and locations of properties that would be affected by this change? It seems unfair to deal with the problems of declining school enrollments and lack of affordable housing on the backs of mom-and-pop landlords.
Other avenues of addressing tenant/landlord/neighborhood relationships should be explored before the city makes such a drastic change, the full effect of which has not yet been identified. Giving landlords a support system for dealing with problem tenants will go much farther toward creating desirable neighbors than simply changing the number of tenants, regardless of behavior, who can occupy a single-family rental home.
Jim Slough, Lawrence.