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Archive for Tuesday, July 8, 2008

City plan affects 3,000 rentals

Program would require apartments at least 50 years old to be inspected

Apartments in Lawrence could soon fall under more scrutiny from city officials. 6News reporter Chad Lawhorn has more.

July 8, 2008

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About 3,000 additional apartments would undergo city inspections if commissioners approve the city manager's plan to expand Lawrence's existing rental registration program.

But some city commissioners are concerned about the approximately $150,000 the new program would add to the budget.

"This may be too ambitious given the financial condition we're in," Mayor Mike Dever said. "There's a time and a place to implement new programs, and this one appears to be timed poorly."

As proposed by City Manager David Corliss, the program would require any rental unit at least 50 years old to register with the city and undergo an inspection at least once every three years to ensure it meets basic health and safety codes.

Currently, only rental units in single-family homes are required to be registered and inspected, although tenants of any rental unit can request a city inspection.

Expanding the program is an intriguing idea to some commissioners.

"The issue of life and safety is part of the oath of office that we take," said City Commissioner Mike Amyx, although he said he would rather try to do the program with existing staff members instead of Corliss' recommendation to add two new inspectors.

Amyx, however, may not end up with a vote on the item. Amyx owns rental property in the city and has asked staff members to research ethics laws to determine whether he can vote on the matter. Commissioner Sue Hack, according to past substantial interest statements, also owns rental property in the city.

Members of the Oread Neighborhood Association have lobbied for the additional inspections.

"I think there are a lot of people who are not living in very good conditions," said Candice Davis, vice president of the Oread Neighborhood Association. "And some renters aren't in a good position to complain. They fear they won't have a place to live."

The program would allow city inspectors to check for electrical problems, plumbing issues, fire code violations and other similar concerns.

Davis said there are several rental units in the Oread neighborhood that are deteriorating and will ultimately cause blight to take hold in the neighborhood. She thinks the 50-year limit will catch most of the problem properties.

Landlords, though, have expressed concerns about cost and fairness issues. Bob Ebey, who owns 13 rental units and is a member of Landlords of Lawrence, said he's concerned about a fee increase that accompanies Corliss' proposal. If adopted, the annual rental registration fee would increase from $25 to $40.

Ebey said he also thought the city was being unfair by not inspecting newer apartment complexes.

"You can take a five-year-old unit and it could be as bad off as a 60-year-old unit if there isn't any maintenance done on it," Ebey said.

Corliss, though, said that is often not the case. He said he recommended inspections for property 50 years or older because past inspection history showed those properties were more likely to have significant health and safety issues.

Corliss said he recommended the fee increase in order to make the program self-sustaining and to pay for the two new inspectors at $47,000 apiece.

Comments

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

Either inspect all rental units, or dont inspect any of them.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

This is a good idea, but I believe they should do even more.The comment about tenants being afraid to call city inspectors is right on.In addition, why not allow the city or tenant to make any necessary repairs, and recover the costs from the landlord? This would prevent landlords from simply refusing to comply and having their properties shut down, thus forcing tenants to find another place to live.

cowboy 6 years, 5 months ago

The city will have to develop a new code for this , are you going to demand these units meet todays code or is it going to be old standards in good repair , enforcement costs , time to come into compliance , not as simple as one would think. As godot says you better inspect them all or it is a discriminatory ordinance. who can make the repairs , owner , or only licensed contractors. I believe the current code will only let an owner make repairs on their primary residence when it comes to structural , major plumbing and electrical subject to permit and inspections.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

Corliss cavalierly demands a 60% increase in the rental registration fee. Guess I'll just have to tack that on to the rent. I'm sure my tenants won't mind.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

And if it is to be all or none, I vote for "none."

madameX 6 years, 5 months ago

I must have missed thomgreen's post the first time. Definitely a step in the right direction.

OnlyTheOne 6 years, 5 months ago

"This may be too ambitious given the financial condition we're in," Mayor Mike Dever said. "There's a time and a place to implement new programs, and this one appears to be timed poorly."Here we go still! For once Corliss comes up with a good plan to help curb the deterioration of rental housing in Lawrence and it's too expensive for the (oh I just don't know what I want to call them right now)!Raise the fees! Raise the Taxes! Throw it away on pet and worthless projects, consultant fees and anything else they can think of!AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!

supercowbellninja 6 years, 5 months ago

The city needs this ordinance, though if approved, I'd like to see these older units inspected once a year instead of every three years.As a former KU student, I've spent my fair share of time living in and hanging out in many of the older homes around campus that I think this proposal is targeting.There is definitely a wide array of sketchy patch jobs done to everything from the plumbing, the electrical work, fixture attachments, heating & cooling, etc. Most recently I stayed in a home that was still using knob and tube wiring as its primary electrical source - and this unit was retro-fitted with new outlets, electric AC and Heat, and was also asked to support a stove, mircowave and fridge on this ancient system.This is exactly the kind of setup I hope this ordinance would target in a plan to update these accommodations. There are way too many accidents waiting to happen in these older homes that have been carved into far too many apartments.

madameX 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, jg. I live in East Lawrence, my husband and I work very hard to keep our house and yard nice, and I think it's a lovely neighborhood. Now, why can't the city just charge an inspection fee to pay for this program? Hear me out: the headline says that the program would affect 3000 properties and the article says that it would cost about $150,000. According to my calculations, that's $50 per property. The article also says that inspections would need to be done every three years. What if the city made landlords and tennants pay, say, $25 each at inspection time to offset the cost of the inspections? I don't think it would be a major hardship for either to spend $25 every three years to make sure the properties are safe, and that way the people who use the services of the inspectors are the ones paying for them.

monkeyhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

It will only be a matter of time before the Candice Davises of Lawrence have this city locked down tight. More regulation and higher taxes is what is needed to ensure that Big Sister can set an example for other communities to emulate. Perhaps if the real reason why Candy is sooooooooo concerned for the helpless folks that must rent in the ghetto was publicized for all to hear, they would understand that it is her own personal agenda that motivates her. She wants to maintain her property value at the expense of other, unfortunate property owners. It is not that I disagree with the premise of the regulation. I believe that people deserve to live in a safe environment, but I also believe we already have the means to achieve that. Of course, Candy preempted that argument by stating that some people are too afraid to complain. So, here comes Super Candy to save the day for the downtrodden, and all of the usual control freaks in town are cheering her on. How long before the she wants the city to inspect ALL properties? Such as, say, in merrill's neighborhood?I truly believe that all this was started when a well known developer in town either had too many vacancies, or wanted to fill his yet-to-be built monster complexes. Now look what we have.I agree with Godot - inspect ALL or NONE.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree that this might not be the best time to find new ways to spend money... but this is something that needs to be done and inspecting houses 50 years old or more is a start. There are definitely newer places that are in just as bad a state, but probably not as many of them.

Jackson 6 years, 5 months ago

ALL student rental property should be inspected annually.The city's actual cost is probably closer to $100.00.Landlords fear the cost of repairs more than the inspection cost.Rental to more than 2 unrelated persons should be restricted to multi-family zoned areas of town.Central Lawrence is a giant slum in-the-making because of student rental houses located in single family neighborhoods.

igby 6 years, 5 months ago

Candice Davis, and the Oread cronnies are back too harasing landlords as usual. Now that they have their historic district and hotel on the hill, their back too doing what they have done for the past 20 years.Anti-student.Anti-landlord.If anyone gets an Oread newspaper in their mail box without postage, complain to the U.S. postal service about the Oread associations violations of the federal law.Make these student and landlord haters pay their own way just like everyone else.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

The difference between one who speaks up against a government that confiscates another $3.34 per month from his income and one who views $3.34 as chump change is the difference between a smart business person and a chump.

Jaylee 6 years, 5 months ago

"I truly believe that all this was started when a well known developer in town either had too many vacancies, or wanted to fill his yet-to-be built monster complexes. Now look what we have.""or wanted to fill his yet-to-be built monster complexes""or wanted to fill his yet-to-be built monster complexes""or wanted to fill his yet-to-be built monster complexes"sorry... phrases like that haunt me. just like any other truth."This may have the affect of reducing the low income population. These inspections will close some properties. The better maintained properties will cost more to rent. Those unable to afford them will leave town."probably just end up with a lot more homeless people and have more folks living in each individual property (to hell with bordello laws! ha) causing remaining properties to deteriorate quicker, which would coincedentally both help and hurt the new rental inspection plan.you see, when properties deteriorate quicker, the inspections will produce mass amounts of citations and fines one could be most certain-- if the city isnt making money, why do it? i cant wait until 2009 when lawrence decides its two inspectors were doing such a bang up job that they recieve compensatory pay and benefits and/or raise for their hard overtime work that you know what?..... was great but just not enough so they decided to hire on four new buddies for our two residing inspectors. and ill leave the chain of events to be continued from there for now.the unfortunate thing for this plan though, is that most of this town are opinionated, sometimes obnoxious bastards like me. MY LAME IDEA WITH POTENTIAL: i think it would best suit the purpose of this proposition to have the city (pay to, yes, but i wouldnt think $47K twice over annually) distribute a tenant questionnaire concerning the property itself as well as the landlord which would immediately and decisively indicate which properties had cause for alarm to the city, while over years allow the city to recognize (though im sure they already do) which property owners and landlords were not maintaining healthy, safe environments.i understand that some or most people wouldnt recognize some or most hazardous situations unless they were causing some sort of immediate trouble.like leaks, etc. that is where the informative flyers posted with the questionnaires come in. they wouldnt have to be too fantastic in content, just some basic tips and maybe some knowledge on renter's (and homeowner's) rights.far too ambitious a plan to completely SOLVE the issue at hand, but a potentially better and more feasible start than two paid inspectors who will forward their work to another paid party who will sift through all collected data and issue fine collections statements which will be carried out by another paid party or the paid post which is obviously a stolen idea from my plan.feelin imaginitive boys! feelin creative!

KsTwister 6 years, 5 months ago

When the registration went into effect there did not appear to be an exemption for different types of rentals. It was made out that all landlords with units would pay $25 registration and all would need to pass inspections made by the city. Somehow, I smell a lawsuit. When the fees are raised, when the taxes are raised the cost is passed on to the consumers. If you think rent is high now ---just wait. Glad I shed my homes in 2005, I guessed right about this town. Greedy. This really doesn't add any enticement to live here.

sjschlag 6 years, 5 months ago

"Anonymous userJackson (Anonymous) says:ALL student rental property should be inspected annually.Rental to more than 2 unrelated persons should be restricted to multi-family zoned areas of town.Central Lawrence is a giant slum in-the-making because of student rental houses located in single family neighborhoods"We gotta live somewhere, and it sure as hell ain't going to be in one of those new massive super complexes out south or west of town that Doug Compton is building. Students will always live in the center of town, even though neighborhood associations, developers, and the city commission have other ideas. I'm sure KU wants students to live down here too, since then they wouldn't have to ask us for more money to buy more buses to ship us all in for class from our apartments at 6th and Wakarusa....which makes more sense right?This is a step in the right direction. Make it all properties, and every two years. It's a wonder that no more students have been victims of apartment/house fires here in town, with how well our slumlords keep our rental units maintained.

Gina Bailey-Carbaugh 6 years, 5 months ago

The current rental property 3-yr inpections are a joke. My landlord still hasn't fixed any of the issues sited. And, why should he? No one comes back to see if they were done!And, as the rentee, I got stuck with the inspection fee, not the landlord.

J Good Good 6 years, 5 months ago

OTR - if you have really driven through EL lately, you would have noticed many nice homes too that have been seriously fixed up. The "dumps" tend to belong to a few really infamous landlords. Some even work for the city of Lawrence.....

George_Braziller 6 years, 5 months ago

Why is 50 years the magic number? I've had friends who lived in places that were less than 20 years old that made the crappiest motel you have ever been in look like a five star hotel.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

madameX, the city already charges landlords of single family dwellings a $25 per year registration fee, not $25 per inspection. As stated in the article, the city proposes to increase that annual registration fee to $40. I already pay thousands of dollars in property tax on my rentals, and apparently I am going to pay much more, thanks to mismanagement of our tax dollars by the city, county and school district officials. I see no justification for me to be charged an additional registration fee that landlords of multiple family dwellings do not have to pay.

thomgreen 6 years, 5 months ago

Just curious, is the $25 rental registration per unit, or just single yearly fee, no matter how many units you have?Also, it seems that this is a needed service from the city, more so than some of the more questionable projects they want to throw money at, but it appears there is going to be toes stepped on no matter what. Why don't they pull together a volunteer group of people representing all the populations this would effect? A few renters, a few landlords, some of the city personnel that would be tasked with running the program, and some of the city commissioners. I know the larger group you have the likelihood they would all agree drops exponentially, but why even chance giving the perception that due diligence wasn't given to such an important matter? Just a thought, that's all.

broddie 6 years, 5 months ago

Why is East Lawrence always singled out? What about all the really dumpy property west of Kasold? I'd take a solidly built 1920's bungalow in East Lawrence over the crap they built and continue to build west of Kasold. Look at those duplexes (built in the 80s and 90s) on Winterbrook/Brush Creek. OUCH, now THAT's some run-down property. Worse than any block in East Lawrence for sure.

Jaylee 6 years, 5 months ago

seriously whats up with this 50-year cutoff?! MAGICAL 50 MAKES ALL LAWRENCE RENTAL PROPERTY GO BAD!!! LOOK OUT!!!!!come on!! everyone knows lawrence housing units only make it 37 to 43 years.dave corliss and candice davis: ya'll are either sneaky and greedy or just thick. 50.heeey!! 50!!! the number IIIIIIIIIIS more aesthetically pleasing!

BigPrune 6 years, 5 months ago

If the City enforced the zoning laws in Residential Single Family neighborhoods, there wouldn't be a lot of homes to inspect. Notice the words, Single Family, not Jim Bob, his friend Ray, Ray's girlfriend Suzy, Suzy's girlfriend Rita and so on and so on.

Godot 6 years, 5 months ago

Good point, Gina. The question is, what authority does the city have to require the landlords to fix the problems?

madameX 6 years, 5 months ago

Godot:I realize that you don't want to have to pay out more of your income from your rental properties, but at least you'd be paying from an income. I also pay property taxes which would likely fund this program if landlords and renters don't chip in and as a homeowner I won't be using it at all. My point was not that the city should be trying to screw landlords out of their profits, my point was that if the city wants to run an expensive but necessary program then they should come up with a way for those who use and benefit from it to foot the bill. Or at least part of the bill. I'm sorry, but keeping your properties up to code goes with the territory of being a landlord and the costs associated with it are part of the cost of doing business. Why should I have to subsidize your business?

KsTwister 6 years, 5 months ago

A sure way to keep a little money in the city coffers would be to quit sending rental registrations to landlords who have already sold them. Evidently writing and calling for 3 years has little response. Its your stamp not mine anymore.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

Bob Ebey has a point. In Lawrence newly constructed rental property does not mean a place is necessarily any safer than a 50 year old home. Without adding new inspectors the task will never get done.If the city has $75,000 to spend annually on a building that will be located on west KU campus then the city can afford two new inspectors.I say don't spend $75,000 annually on a KU building which I think is Dicephera coming through a new back door?

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