Archive for Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rental code enforcement leaves much to be desired

Brian Markowitz lived in a Lawrence single-family rental home with more than three unrelated people. He admits that it was not in line with city code, but may be a common practice as some landlords try to work around the law. And the city has done little to enforce the ordnance.

Brian Markowitz lived in a Lawrence single-family rental home with more than three unrelated people. He admits that it was not in line with city code, but may be a common practice as some landlords try to work around the law. And the city has done little to enforce the ordnance.

September 26, 2010


Brian Markowitz thought the e-mail was odd.

Rental regulations lacking enforcement

Some rental property regulations are not being properly enforced in Lawrence. Some properties located in single-family zoning are housing more unrelated roommates than allowed. Enlarge video

He and his five roommates at 1736 La. each received it from their landlord. Apparently, there was going to be a city inspection of the old two-story home: Could the six of you please not be around when the inspector comes by? Also, by the way, we’ll be removing those window air conditioners from the attic, where two of the roommates slept. But don’t worry, we’ll put them back later.

It all seemed a little odder when one of the roommates, who was late in leaving the house on inspection day, told Markowitz that workers for the landlord had brought in a large closet-like object and placed it in front of the stairway that led to the attic.

It was so odd that Markowitz brought the scenario up in the course of conversation with some of his friends. That’s when it started to become clear. His landlord was playing a game and hadn’t let him and his roommates in on the fun.

Since 2002, the city has had a code that says no more than three unrelated people can live in a home that is zoned for single family use. The home at 1736 La. is zoned single-family, and Markowitz and his five roommates aren’t related.

But to Markowitz, perhaps the oddest aspect of all this is what happened after he turned the information over to city inspectors. For nearly a year, he waited for his landlord to receive some sort of fine or punishment. It never came.

“This whole thing has made me feel like the renting practices in Lawrence are really shady business,” Markowitz said.

• • •

Let’s be clear here, Markowitz — now a Kansas University senior — didn’t exactly come forward out of some sense of renter’s remorse. He came forward because he was mad at his landlord, Serina Hearn and her company Rainbow Works LLC.

Markowitz and his roommates had become embroiled in a dispute with Hearn over a sizable security deposit that wasn’t returned upon their departure from the house in July 2009.

But unlike many angry tenants making accusations, Markowitz came armed with quite a bit of documentation. He had kept a copy of the e-mail from Hearn’s assistant, asking — on Hearn’s behalf — that he and his roommates not be present during the inspection and notifying them that the attic air conditioning units would be temporarily removed.

He also had a copy of the lease, signed by all six tenants, requiring that they pay with a single check of $2,850 per month. And Markowitz’s father — a Johnson County attorney — had thought to get sworn affidavits from five of the six tenants (one already had moved out of the area) swearing that they had lived together in the home and had seen activity that suggested Hearn was trying to hide an over-occupancy issue from the city.

In October 2009, Markowitz’s father provided copies of all those documents to city inspectors. Last week, he also provided copies to the Journal-World.

In essence, he gave the city what it has long said it has been lacking in these type of a cases. Since the code took effect in 2002, it is believed the city has never collected a fine from a landlord for violating the provision, said Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning and development services. (Fines can be as high as $500, though the court has broad discretion in setting fines.) Only one case has ever been taken to trial in Municipal Court, and the city lost it.

City leaders have said the code is tough to enforce because finding solid proof of over-occupancy is difficult. They frequently point out that counting cars in a driveway is not enough to win a case. They’ve said previously that documents like a lease or a tenant agreeing to testify is needed.

Markowitz said he told inspectors that he was ready to testify that he had lived in the house with five other tenants.

“I told them I would help however I needed to help,” Markowitz said.

But the city decided not to take the case to court.

Brian Jimenez, codes enforcement supervisor for the city, said a key factor in the decision was that by the time Markowitz stepped forward, he and his roommates already had moved out of the house. A violation was not currently occurring.

The information, though, did cause the city to notify Hearn of what Jimenez believes she already knew: No more than three unrelated people are allowed to live in the home.

“We’ve educated this landlord many times on what the codes are,” Jimenez said.

But the city, when contacted by the Journal-World last week, said it is now looking into the situation again. After receiving the information from Markowitz in late 2009, the city received a complaint that more than three people were once again living in the home. (It currently is vacant because it is being renovated.)

“We’re definitely looking at this case in a different light,” said Jimenez, who said the city still has the ability to prosecute the alleged 2009 violations.

• • •

Serina Hearn has a real enthusiasm for old homes. She’s eager to show before and after photos of homes that she and her husband, Tony Backus, have restored. Hardwood floors reclaimed. Dirty plaster and lath made clean. Once-painted bannisters returned to their original glory. Hearn — who owns multiple properties in the center of Lawrence — points out that she is saving old homes when others are just fretting about demolition by neglect.

Hearn also has an enthusiasm for history. She has spent hours upon hours reviewing old city maps and pre-1950s Lawrence phone directories. She has highlighted lines on copied phone book pages that detail how long 1736 La. has had multiple phone lines. That’s evidence of the home being something other than a traditional single-family home even back in the 1940s, she says. That’s why the house has two kitchens.

What Hearn doesn’t have much enthusiasm for is waiting on the city.

Hearn does not dispute that six people were living in the home as Markowitz alleges. (She declined to address the other allegations that she took actions to hide the fact from the city.) She also does not dispute that the zoning of the house is single-family.

But she contends that her research proves the rental home should not be subject to the no-more-than-three-unrelated code. In essence, it should have grandfathered-status because its two kitchens have made it a duplex in a single-family zoning district.

The city has not adopted that position. There’s a process for having a home declared a legal, nonconforming use, and Hearn has not gone through it, planning director McCullough said. Hearn agrees that the city hasn’t given the home grandfathered status, but based on past projects she wasn’t entirely sure the project needed to go through a formal process.

“All I know is I’m working very hard right now to bring these facts to the attention of the city,” Hearn said.

But as the conversation goes on and grows more emotional, Hearn does share more. The economy has created financial hardships for her business, and it is clear that she and Backus have philosophical differences with the city code.

“On the one hand, I totally agree with a community’s right to regulate itself,” Backus said. “But on the other hand, it seems constitutionally people would have a right to live together if they aren’t causing any problems.”

And Hearn said she’s not convinced the community understands some of the unintended consequences of the city code. There are lots of large, old homes in single-family neighborhoods. Many need significant work. Sometimes landlords are the only ones who can afford to take a major restoration project on. She asks, Is watching the homes fall to the ground a better option?

“In the end, the city gets its money out of the property values from these houses that they tax,” Hearn said. “Right now, we’re painting that house and we’re continuing to fix it up.

“My question to you is what does the neighborhood prefer? And does Mr. Markowitz give a (expletive) about Lawrence and its economic hardship and what is happening to these houses, or does he just want his revenge?”

• • •

As for what the neighbors prefer, several said they would like to see changes at City Hall.

“I just wish the city had more tools, and more of a willingness to enforce the code,” said Tom Harper, a Lawrence real estate agent and member of Centennial Neighborhood Association.

The city department responsible for code enforcement is down two inspectors from past levels. Neighbors have noticed.

“Brian (Jimenez) doesn’t have the staff to enforce this,” said Betty Alderson, a Centennial neighborhood resident who pushed for the code’s adoption in 2002. “No new taxes. You’ve heard that over and over out of City Hall.”

But there’s also a philosophical issue pending at City Hall. McCullough said the city’s philosophy on code matters has been to focus more on obtaining compliance rather than writing tickets. It hasn’t been the department’s position to use fines as a way to punish a person into changing their behavior, he said.

That philosophy, though, may get another look. McCullough said his office is currently compiling data on the number of repeat offenders that inspectors deal with on this code and others related to student housing issues. If the data show high rates of repeat offenders, his department may recommend changes to the code related to stiffer penalties and new enforcement options for habitual offenders.

Neighbors hope it is a discussion that reaches all the way to the City Commission.

“I’m glad we have the ordinance,” Alderson said. “I just wish we would change the attitude on how it is enforced.”


Amy Heeter 7 years, 9 months ago

They might want to go a step further and deal with the slumlords that don't repair properties too. I can't believe some of the places people are living.

Kat Christian 7 years, 9 months ago

I agree with you. Most rentals in this town are a disgrace and how they get away with renting them and charging such high rent is beyond me. If we want this town to protray a certain look of intelligence then we need to clean up these properties. When I was looking for a rental I would ask the landlord if they'd fix a broken structure that was hanging off the house and they said, 'NO' that would be your job. Ask if they'd donate the seeds to fix up the lawn, oh no again. Slumlords, that's just what they are. But then again most people who rent don't care about the property and tear it up. So you can't much blame them for not wanting to throw in extra $$ just to have the property torn up again. I just think some people in Lawrence have no pride in their homes or the way they live. They just live.

fester0420 7 years, 9 months ago

agreed. they lived there and had no problem with it till they had problems with the landlord there just cry babies

Pablita 7 years, 9 months ago

I have been following this exchange and am, quite frankly, somewhat amused by the ill informed content of many comments.

I do not live in Lawrence, rather I live in a place where regulation of properties is considerably less rigorous. Somehow, people manage to survive and compromise.

When I did live in Lawrence, some of the landlords around the KU campus were infamous. One house I sometimes visited had at least 8 people living in it. The main floor was a two bedroom apartment that was rented to three people, with the enclosed back porch serving as a third bedroom. There was a hole in the bathroom floor that was covered with a piece of plywood, because the landlord would not fix it. The second story had four rented bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom, and the attic was rented out to two or three people at a time. Cockroaches, mice and mold were part of the package.

Much of that part of Lawrence had for many years been occupied by students in houses that were operated as boarding houses. In the 70s it was in serious decline and over the years many of the lovely old houses have been demolished to make way for modern efficiency apartment buildings that clash with their surroundings. It is legal, of course, to rent these apartments to students. Why is it not legal to rent older houses that have historically been boarding houses (check old city maps, folks!) to students also?

I agree that Lawrence has had, and probably still has "slum lords" but I have seen some of the houses rescued and revived by Backus and Hearn. Have you? They are lovely places. In restoring these houses, they have helped to preserve the charm and character of old Lawrence. That's a gift.

christy kennedy 7 years, 9 months ago

" . . . spoiled kids strong arming their landlord in pseudo extortion."

Oh come on. Have you counted on getting a security deposit back and not gotten it? Ever been dragged into a land lord's lies and tricks to fool the city that you're not breaking ordinances?

I don't agree with the three unrelated persons rule either and think occupancy should be based on bedrooms (actual bedrooms, not attics, basements, store rooms, etc.) and parking spaces. But while an ordinance is in place, ignoring it and going to great lengths to avoid detection is not right no matter what your research or your thinking leads you to believe.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

The tenants aren't violating the law, the landlord is - the proscription is against renting to more than 3 unrelated people - that's a rule the landlord is supposed to follow.

All of your other suppositions are just that.

It's possible these tenants left the place in poor condition - it's also possible they left it in good condition.

fester0420 7 years, 9 months ago

the law is lame anyway. if you don't like a property then don't live there. if the world only worried about themselves and not what others are doing the world would be a better place for all

CLARKKENT 7 years, 9 months ago


rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

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jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

If the code is structured as a requirement for landlords, then tenants can't violate it.

irvan moore 7 years, 9 months ago

It seems interesting that the article only addresses the issue of unrelated people in a house and singles out these landlords to target when houses that are unfit to live in are left uninspected. The city has to be aware of these unsafe, unsanitary apartment houses owned by notorious slumlords. where's the article on these houses and owners?

WilburM 7 years, 9 months ago

Absolutely. The condition of many rentals is deplorable. At least as serious a concern as the number of folks living together.

George_Braziller 7 years, 9 months ago

The house next to mine has been divided into four apartments since the 1940s. A young couple bought it two years ago and lived in one of the apartments until they decided to move to KC. They are slum lords in training.

They won't fix anything, won't follow through on anything, won't even mow the yard. Last month the tenants came home and found a notice from the city that the water was going to be shut off because the landlords hadn't paid the water bill for three months even though the tenants had each paid them for their share of the utilities with their rent.

Two of the apartments are now sitting empty because the tenants had had enough and moved out. A third one will be empty at the end of October because the woman (who has lived there for 26 years) couldn't bear the thought of another winter there.

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

Conditions in 1736 as of Aug of this year were deplorable. Standing water, black mold, rodents, not to mention it looked to be like an old grow house. All of which were ignored by Rainbow Works.

kernal 7 years, 9 months ago

KU does an orientation every year for incoming freshmen. I've always thought they should include a copy of the KS Landlord Tenant Act as part of that package.

been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

Is there an ordinance against 10 to 12 people partying on a slanted porch roof with no rail and windows for access? The landlord at 1800 Louisianna really needs to pay attention to what his tenants are doing. 5 lawnchairs on the roof should be a clue. I'm sure parents will sue if one of those kids falls off. Drinking highly possible.

notanoobhere 7 years, 9 months ago

i agree, put some self accountability on people, railings keep stupid people safe.

fools_gold_is_he 7 years, 9 months ago

I am pretty sure that this lady is one of those landlords who took over the Oread Neighborhood Association last year forcing out the actual residents of the neighborhood.

No wonder. These landlords are beyond belief. They know the rules about how many people can live in a house very well, and continue to openly violate it, and lie to the city about it. And -now- we learn the city totally ignores the enforcement anyhow when they are literally "given the goods" on the violations.

Brian Jimenez ought to have his fanny slapped hard, as well as the City Hall management that allows this situation....where Brian obviously does anything to avoid enforcing the rules against the landlords. It is inexcusable.

Aaron McGrogor 7 years, 9 months ago

Honestly, in my opinion the code is sillly to begin with. First off, how convenient for Lawrence landlords (and I'm speaking of one in particular) that only 3 people can live in one place. Let's face it, the more people under one roof, the less there are to rent these new apartment complexes that have been built. Secondly,I can't imagine there are many "single families" that are going to rent a $3000 house on 17th and Louisiana. So the tenants are most likely going to be college students. That's approximately $1000 a month per person and not including utilities. Now I don't know about you, but I don't know any KU students who can pay that much rent a month. So realistically, the landlord pretty much has to rent to 6 people to be able to rent at all. This is of course assuming that $3000 is a fair and accurate measure of the worth of the house. Also, indeed the students were being immature by tattle taking on their landlord for not returning their deposit, but the deposit must have been almost $3000. That's quite the chunk of change. I hope those kids legitimately didn't deserve the deposit back and weren't just screwed out of it.

been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

Let's hope it was legitimate but with wood floors it could rack up quick. I believe I drove past there when there was some serious partying going on.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 9 months ago

At $3000.00 a month most families could not swing that in rent and if they could they would likely buy a house. I think any broker would be happy to get $36 thousand a year in house payments.

notanoobhere 7 years, 9 months ago

The landlord is in the middle of doing a renovation. Why because the kids messed it up or did they inherit a pile of crap like so many other homes in this town. This landlord is probably screwing the kids but at least she is trying to fix up the home, the rest of La. street should follow suit and use the deposits they steal from these kids to actually fix up the houses. FYI there is a lawyer in town who almost only deals with lawsuits pertaining to the refund of security deposits, landlord are constantly ripping off tenants, and tenants are constantly showing no regard for homes they live in. Take photos when you move in and document all damage and you will get your money back.

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

It was an inherited P.O.S. full of black mold, standing water, and a laundry list of problems that were ignored. That's why when the city came knocking on our door in Aug of this year we choose to move.

fly_on_wall 7 years, 9 months ago

Yes that is the point of the ordinance not to make apartment renters out of houses. Lower prices on rentals so families can live in family zoned areas. Its upside down in Lawrence with families in apartments and collage kids in houses.

naida 7 years, 9 months ago

So what you're saying is only families should be able to live in houses? Because I know plenty of people living in Lawrence who have been through college and are in their late 20s/early 30s who live in rental houses. I, for that matter, live in a rental house in Manhattan, with multiple roommates. I've graduated college and have no desire to live in apartment complex with a large student population, and there are MANY in my situation. We're far from being able to rent a whole house to ourselves, let alone purchase one, so we live in rental houses with friends. Something these cities both have in common are some HUGE older houses that three people alone couldn't afford. Generally, we're a fairly conscious demographic... not so much partying and destruction. There's no reason those in a transitional- if that's the best way to put it- housing phase should be made to live in a student housing situation.

Also, in regards to families who live in these neighborhoods, neighborhoods evolve; if you don't like what your neighborhood is becoming, you're free to move. Yes, you may have been there first, but you can't dictate everyone around you. A person may not have chosen to move into a college neighborhood, but by staying put, they choose- present tense- to live there. My mom grew up in a certain neighborhood that was reasonably nice. When she got married, she moved down the street. In the 90s, the neighborhood was becoming increasingly violent. Instead of complain about it to everyone and try to get "the authorities" to crack down and "reclaim the neighborhood" my parents chose to move to a different one. A good choice, since you can't really control the people moving in and out of your neighborhood.

fools_gold_is_he 7 years, 9 months ago

These landlords pay too much for their properties with the belief they can endlessly carve out yet another bedroom and pack the students in, and still make a profit.

imastinker 7 years, 9 months ago

Yet they could make a profit when they bought it - now things changed. The city made this part of their business no longer profitable, or less profitable. The value of the houses drops, and they stop taking care of them even more. Students have to pay more to live other places. Who wins here?

justforfun 7 years, 9 months ago

Let’s be clear here, Markowitz — now a Kansas University senior — didn’t exactly come forward out of some sense of renter’s remorse.

Yep that's right, he's being a whinny little baby now.

been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

So why didn't he take the landlord to small claims court? I know people who have and got their money back? Heck his dad is a lawyer, he could go to regular court. Could it be that they did do the damages and maybe more? If they did, shame on his dad for trying to help him beat the system.

been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

Not defending the landlord for breaking the code.

pinecreek 7 years, 9 months ago

If they've only taken one case to court (and lost that one), what exactly are they doing? What are the metrics that this department (and others) are measured with? Do they publish statistics on number of inspections and % of violations discovered? Number of complaints file, % investigated, % validated?

Don't know about you, but in my job we have very strict metric based measurements for performance--high performance justifies compensation increases, low performance leads to dismissals. Time for this group and the City as a whole to join the real world.

been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

Personally think it should be 4 unrelated people so 2 couples can rent a house together.

melott 7 years, 9 months ago

Here's why: many of these land(slum)lords are members of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber sets city policy.

The City Commission has made this worse by making the "law" a limit of 3, not 2, supposedly so that people who need assistance can have a live-in helper. Then, they added a stipulation that you can (if you put in a "partition") add an extra person, again so people can have a live-in helper. I guess this is a live-in helper for the live-in helper. Anyway, so with a little plywood and paint, you can have 4 students in a single-family home, and not have any enforcement issues.

If the same 5 or 6 cars are parked by a house for months, it can't be used for enforcement because they might be "visiting".

It's the Golden Rule. Those who own and rent the houses have the gold, and they make the rules.

homechanger 7 years, 9 months ago

What does jiminez actually do to earn a paycheck? Looks like nothing. Make a report to code enforcement and he does nothing. Another made up position for a local guy to get paid for nothing.

Vinny1 7 years, 9 months ago

Of course the city won't do anything to these landlords. They pay so much in taxes for all the rental homes the city really doesn't want to enforce the rules. Its a bunch of garbage.

fly_on_wall 7 years, 9 months ago

I heard there is a tax break if you own over a certain amount of properties. This is a rumor I heard but would like to know if its true and how many companies take advantage of it.

JimmyJoeBob 7 years, 9 months ago

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christy kennedy 7 years, 9 months ago

Do you have any first hand information or are you just speculating? Sounds like the latte. Great job at jumping to conclusions.

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

This has nothing to do with deposits and everything to do with zoning. Rainbow works is the one extorting tenants by illegally leasing them a house.

Joe Hyde 7 years, 9 months ago

Ms. Hearnes asks rhetorically, "And does Mr. Markowitz give a (expletive) about Lawrence and its economic hardship and what is happening to these houses, or does he just want his revenge?”

Lawrence's economic hardship? Oh, please.

From just that one house with six renters (three of them illegals) she hauls in $34,200 per year. That's $136,800 over the course of their 4-year stay at KU if she operates the house illegally until all six graduate.

I'm pretty sure it doesn't take that kind of money to drive a few nails into loose boards, apply some latex caulk to interior cracks and crevices to improve pest control, and throw a fresh coat of paint on that crib every twenty years.

Illegal and/or rapacious renting practices give most college towns a bad stink, and you sure don't want to get downwind of Lawrence.

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

You might be the only reasonable person commenting on this story. She tried to charge us $600 for a single pane glass window of which an estimate couldn't even come close too. Oh, almost forgot she tried to charge us because of a "stained" toliet; we had only lived there for 3 1/2 weeks before we choose to move.

Tonie Barnett Bruns 7 years, 9 months ago

Well said...Lawrence has been doing so much better than other cities as far as economicly. We've had a higher rate of commercial and residential projects than even Johnson County for 2010. I am glad there are codes to be enforced (even if Judges don't enforce) because like you said; bad renting practices in college towns gives a bad rap. We don't want that in our city. I don't think a lot of people understand the otherside. Jiminez is probably a monkey on a string, unable to do much, because it honestly comes down to one judges decision or the decision of the City Commision. I wouldn't point blame at one person, because there are a lot of people at fault here. The landlords for doing business illegally, the students/tenants for not doing their own research, and I'm sure most people would like to see the City code change to something more reasonable. However, what is reasonable for one person isn't necessarily reasonable for the next....Remember, not everyone will be satisfied no matter what the rules are.

2002 7 years, 9 months ago

Not landlords. Slumlords. This is one more example of how the City paves the way.

christy kennedy 7 years, 9 months ago

"We’ve educated this landlord many times on what the codes are,” Jimenez said.

Rental registration has been discussed around and around and around. It's done elsewhere and really, truly there's no excuse for it not being done here as well. A small fee per unit, a cost which could be passed on to tenants by land lords who can't tolerate the idea, could fund a simple, annual inspection. Issues that involve tenants' safety and city codes really should be addressed rather than endlessly discussed and then ignored. Fining slum lords would, one could hope, be impetus for improved maintenance and upkeep, as well as support for the inspection and enforcement efforts.

David Albertson 7 years, 9 months ago

What???????? The city does require a rental licence and they do inspect.

christy kennedy 7 years, 9 months ago

All I know is that I've listened to debates of whether or not it should be used. The link you provide sure looks like there's registration and inspections, but I looked at the list of registered rental properties and there are only three for both sides of my block, which is almost all rentals. And there not a single one listed for the block of Tennessee behind us that is also almost all rentals. ???

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 9 months ago

Well Christy, there is rental registration, but it is only required in neighborhoods zoned as single family. Your neighborhood is NOT single family, it is multi-family, RM-32. The registrations you found were done so voluntarily by responsible property owners. For the zoning and requirements in Oread, registration of rentals is not required. I do support rental registration, for every slum lord we get to read about in the paper and every problem house that is complained about by you and every other neighbor at every public meeting, there is also responsible investors and property owners truly interested in preserving historic structures in a responsible and profitable way. Those individuals have a hard time doing what they do because of irresponsible owners.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

They inspect at most every 3 years.

Annually would be better.

And the requirements for landlords are amazingly low - they should be increased.

Also, of course, "educating" the landlord doesn't seem to do much - there should be fines for noncompliance.

fly_on_wall 7 years, 9 months ago

I think the point and the point in the ordinance is that families should be living in family zoning. Families can't rent these houses at current prices and everyone knows it. So the price goes down to comply with zoning laws and or the house goes up for sale. So families can buy it. The neighbor hoods are designed for families: parks, schools, churches, it is a tax burden on the public to permit improper use of neighbor hoods, because the public paid for it already. Affordable housing is impossible to find and a big reason is because of these rule breakers. Anyone else remember the family of 7 living at a motel for 800 bucks a month and these kids each paid 500 bucks to live in a house. This is a story I would like to see expanded on.

imastinker 7 years, 9 months ago

Nearly all of lawrence is single family zoned. The other options are multi family or commercial and industrial.

Don't let the word family hang you up - well over 90% of lawrence's residential properties is zoned single family. The stuff that is multi family is mainly duplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings - so the three unrelated residents doesn't affect them anyway. The difference in zoning mainly has to do with structure issues like setbacks, minimum lot width, and the type of building that can be on it.

SeaFox 7 years, 9 months ago

"The stuff that is multi family is mainly duplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings - so the three unrelated residents doesn't affect them anyway."

Wanna bet? I recently ended a lease on a 3BR/2BA apartment, in an apartment complex, that I had been sharing with three other people. The only reason we were able to live there was that two of my roommates were married, and therefore not counted as "unrelated people".

imastinker 7 years, 9 months ago

My point was that most of them are three bedroom or less units - and most people sharing a house won't share bedrooms also. I guess I hadn't considered guys n girls sharing a room.

laika 7 years, 9 months ago

From previous experience, I can tell you that if you ever make the mistake of renting from Rainbow Works, never expect to see that security deposit back without a lawsuit. Of course, they´ll probably lose, like they have several times in the past couple of years. Just go to the Douglas County Court Clerk´s Office and look up Rainbow Works LLC, you´ll see what I mean.

bewarecrooks 7 years, 9 months ago

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been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

What needs to be changed is the way complaints of unsafe living conditions and code violations by tenants in houses not in single family zones. They chop a house up, put a sink in a closet for a kitchen, put in bathrooms, and furnaces not up to code, floors and ceilings falling in. When a tenant complains, the city inspects and gives the landlord 30 days to correct problems. He tells tenant that work cannot be done while they are living there and he will let them break the lease and return that months rent and deposit if they move. They move, but since they no longer live there the case is closed and the landlord is free to rent it out as is since the city cannot do anything unless current tenant complains. Great system, isn't it.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago


It's a bad system that way.

The city should inspect, and have the ability to force landlords to make corrections, rather than simply threatening to shut the rental down.

And, it shouldn't rely on tenant complaints.

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

Nail on the head. Happened to us not more than a month ago in the same house.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

All this animus about "slum lords", and yet not one single property has been identifed by the posting group!! VERY funny!! Put up or shut up seems to apply here. A type of "Class envy" is what this is all about on this "message board" because the vast majority posting don't own a thing, let alone a home. I think the house Lew Perkins owns and the house Mark Magino own are too opulent and need to be torn down! Why? I want one, sorta, like 'em~!~ Heck, that entire area needs to be razed because I don't have the ducats to buy one! It's their fault, too, for owning them and daring to rub it in my face. Terrible. Simply terrible.

When I was a little kid, I was THRILLED I was finally allowed to use the attic as MY bedroom. I guess my old man figured if I got sucked into the whole house fan (this was like BEFORE a/c was the "norm and expectation"), it was on me. Later, I was thrilled to make the basement MY bedroom even though I was forced to share it with my darn mother and her stupid washing machine and drier; both had a lot of light and air and even though our large home had 1.5 baths with a family of 7, everything seemed to work out just fine. I fondly remember standing on a stool to squat in the GIANT sink that was a part of the washing machine system when I had to get up at night.....No trucking up to the REAL bathroom for me! That was in a large two story 5 bedroom house off of Wornal Road and the Loose Park area in KCMO. I guess for people like ckennedy, there has to be a sign on the wall somewhere so she'll have a clue what a bedroom is because it seems HER idea of what a bedroom is the ONLY idea of what a bedroom is!

I suppose what these dopes want is to have the old houses torn down and tri-plexes with chalk board walls and 25¢ per square yard carpeting put in their place? Excellent. Chalk one off for the "preservationists". NOT. I've been in this town for well over 50 years and I want to be able to see these houses. I don't care how many people live in 'em....just as long as they act right; and if they don't...act right....they're gonna hear about pronto.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

Not so. It would be inappropriate to identify properties not mentioned in the article.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago


The ordinance is unenforceable in the final analysis...particularly when there are plenty of unrelated people who CHOOSE to live together and thumb their tenant paying noses at the City: They get the MANY advantages of living in a fine, older structure that has real wood; real walls; real character; real stairs; etc., etc., etc.

Now, please, provide the addresses of those houses which are similar to the one in question and which are "slums" sure and include the owner occupied houses as well that don't meet City code. We need to get them poor people out of those houses and into the homeless shelter! Since they're so stupid to own property they cannot keep up, they shouldn't be owning diddly. It is for their own good that the city inspectors need to "help them" understand their limitations and move on.

Concluding, " If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

Amy Heeter 7 years, 9 months ago

Have you been to the student ghetto? East lawrence? Southest Lawrence? Pick a house,any house.

honestone 7 years, 9 months ago

Yeah...yeah Slumlord Yeah..yeah...entitled JoCo child Isn't it funny that this kid was OK with everything until AFTER the fact. While him and his buddies lived close to campus and threw their partys having more then three was cool. Did this child KNOW about the rule prior to moving in...yeah...he knew but didn't care. Then he ran to lawyer daddy AFTER they moved out. The children probably trashed the house and then didn't understand when the slumlord didn't give them all of their money back for the damage that they did. There are a lot of bad landlords but there are an awful lot of very bad tenants too. It isn't just a one way street.

parrothead8 7 years, 9 months ago

So...basically, you're saying the same thing the story points out:

"Let’s be clear here, Markowitz — now a Kansas University senior — didn’t exactly come forward out of some sense of renter’s remorse. He came forward because he was mad at his landlord, Serina Hearn and her company Rainbow Works LLC."

Thanks for the news flash.

honestone 7 years, 9 months ago

I am not shocked by your sarcastic reply. Doesn't it bother you when an entitled JoCo student comes here, sucks on the University community teet until they get their fill and then cry about the system. Are you from JoCo too?

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

Why on earth would a tenant know the zoning laws of a rental properity? We're students. It falls on the property holder to know such things. Serina did and didn't act upon it, lying to tenants year after year without fixing the problem.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

I agree. The property is the landlord's responsibility. They chose their businesses with its pros and cons.

Zype 7 years, 8 months ago

I agree! Why would anyone know anything about what they're getting themselves into! That would be utter madness. That would be like asking someone to read the contract before they signed it. Or like doing a little research before they made a major decision. Preposterous!! On another note, your frequent bashing on this page has not helped your cause. It more likely hurt it than anything. Rather than stalking the page and bitching about things you'll never be able to prove on here, why don't you go focus more on your schoolwork than Internet hazing.

been_there 7 years, 9 months ago

Now, please, provide the addresses of those houses which are similar to the one in question and which are "slums"...

339 Elm and any other houses he owns. Only he chops them up to get the most money he can. The city is well aquainted with the dangerous living conditions but say their hands are tied.

beaujackson 7 years, 9 months ago

Because the city commission has refused to require the city to actually enforce the rental ordnance, they might consider saving taxpayers money by eliminating entire "enforcement" department.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

What has, MacHeath?

Do you know what a "Ling property" was?!

kernal 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't know what a ling property was, but I know who Dr. Ling was. Now there was a landlord. He let a lot of students skip their back rent, but then he only did the bare necessity repairs and eventually lost some of his properties to back taxes when he became ill. Now what is the name of that person who snapped up a lot of his rentals in Oread neighborhood by paying the taxes?

Love_Honesty 7 years, 9 months ago

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imastinker 7 years, 9 months ago

Why only 1%? Why not ten percent?

What exactly do you want to use the money for?

imastinker 7 years, 9 months ago

What would I use the 1% for??

Let's start with the mortgage, putting food on the table, and maybe putting gas in the car. Surely you don't think it's OK to pass taxes that we pay for some unknown reason - because government can find a better thing to spend it on than I would!

That's not what you are saying is it?

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

Inspections should be annual and required, not at landlord's or tenant's request.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

Oneeye makes a good point. A fee or tax should be high enough to support required inspections.

chocolateplease 7 years, 9 months ago

The 2 separate issues seem to be 1.) enforcement question and 2.) wisdom of ordinance in the first place. On the first, isn't it obvious? Enforce the ordinance. Have penalties for those who choose to disregard it, or be prepared for them to continue to disregard said ordinances. Duh.

On the second issue, I think more than 3 unrelated people should be allowed to live in a rental, so long as the rental meets code for the number of inhabitants. I lived in many such rentals when I was in college, and it provided numerous benefits (saving money, learning to live with others, having a real home, etc.) Not everyone in college wants a party house. There are plenty of hard working, responsible, mature college students who just want a decent place to live.

George Lippencott 7 years, 9 months ago

There is a lesson here to think about. We have a zoning law that clarifies the use of the residential property category to reflect that it was never intended to extend to what amounts to a multi-family world. Great - but we apparently can or do not enforce that law. A reason given is it is hard to prove the violation. Why have the law if we cannot enforce it or do so episodically. I wonder just how many other laws we have hereabouts that sound good but are unenforced or unenforceable? Responsible people are limited and irresponsible people are rewarded. What was the argument from the violator – ah yes, we are maintaining our property so we should not have to follow the law??? Wish I could use that argument. No wonder "Government" gets a bad name with some people.

George Lippencott 7 years, 9 months ago


The law is the law. Either we enforce it or change it. Blighted neighborhoods should be addressed. I wonder what life would be like if we did not at least pay lip service to the "rule of law"??

irvan moore 7 years, 9 months ago

i guess i don't care if a few unrelated people live in a house but i do want them to be good neighbors and would like to see off street parking required for each resident. snow removal here is a joke, they need to get the cars off the streets and tow them if not moved so we can have safe clean streets.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago


You underscore my point about the Ling's and, evidently, know Lawrence rental history matters during the "days of rage" here in Lawrence.

Ling ALWAYS had a first class piece of property for rent the first time around; I know...I lived in one and watched it turned into a slum by those that lived there....truth be told...they WANTED it to be slum...made them feel like they were more better "street people" irrespective of the fact that whenever they got busted they called Mommy and Daddy for bail and mouthpiece money!.....however, after spending tons of money to refurbish these properties, only to have them full on wrecked by the irresponsible "peace and a whole lotta of love" crew of the time, concluded it was just stupid to continue to rehab and rehab and rehab.

The "CIA HOUSE" called Sunflower House has been "adopted" by a certain state of Kansas elected official who resides here in Lawrence and prefers to view herself as a potentate and sage relative to rental properties, although SHE never really has solutions...only regulatory constrictions which inhibit progress. Go over to "Sunflower House" and have a look see.....Just as Ling discovered, soon it will be discovered that the Sunflower House shall always be the "CIA House" and will be able to do no better.

Should "CIA House" be regulated into oblivion or should "CIA House" be permitted to continue with a diverse manner of "being" as well as a diverse experience for those who choose to live there? Lot more unrelated people living together in that joint.....Who is the landlord of that joint? It ain't a SPIKE LEE JOINT....

So amusing how Lawrence, Kansas busy bodies want to dictate to any and all THE way of being......

kernal 7 years, 9 months ago

If a car is blocking your driveway so that you cannot get out, you don't know who owns the car or can't rouse the owner, then call the LPD and have it towed! If the houses you're referring to are rentals, call the property owner. Often, rented single family dwellings are owned by absentee landlords who use property management firms to deal with tenants, etc. From my personal experience, some landlords want to know when there are problems with tenants or the properties, because the property managers aren't going to tell them unless they absolutely have to.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 9 months ago

Centennial neighborhood was once all single family. As resident's aged, "investors" swooped in and bought the houses. Most of the time, the houses were never listed on the open market. The residents who remain must live with young people who have not yet matured. There is little chance the grade schools will have enough students. In Lawrence, a family owner cannot rely on the integrity of their neighborhood. Property rights are for the landlords who break up the neighborhoods.

When this ordinance was discussed, landlords boldly stated that they could make more money on students. Oddly, students supported the landlords. They must not have been very good at math. They did not realize that they would pay more. Another oddity, most of the protesting landlords were from out-of-town.

In our single family neighborhood, we have residents putting up with garbage thrown out of car windows, late night parties, unkempt yards and exterior, overloaded trash cans that are never emptied, loud speeding vehicles. Young children cannot sleep. No one can sleep. And, we only hace about one student rental per street! So, single-family property owners should defer to investors setting up businesses in our neighborhoods?

This landlord blatantly defied an ordinance that attempts to protect family living. The fines are not large enough to deter activity like this.

The city blatantly allows this to happen. Lawrence cannot afford to lose it's affordable family housing. It had better start figuring out how to protect neighborhoods.

Single family property owners need to express their outrage openly. We vote. We live in Lawrence. We should have property rights.

SeaFox 7 years, 9 months ago

"Oddly, students supported the landlords. They must not have been very good at math. They did not realize that they would pay more."

Did they? Look at the prices students pay to share these houses, and look at the prices of apartment rentals. The difference is because having your own place is considered a luxury when there are these roommate situations in these old houses available. Yeah, the prices of apartments might have been forced to adjust to something more sane after a few years, but the immediate impact would be people having to pay much more to live in an apartment than sharing a house and an increase in those already too-high-for-some-people rents because of the sudden shortage in available housing it would cause. Supply and demand.

People going to school right now need a place they can afford right now, not in three years time after the rental market "corrects" itself.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes. The point I was trying to make is that landlords get more money "charging by the head" rather than charging rent for a family/house. Rent prices are driven up artificially.

rockchalkin10 7 years, 9 months ago

Than deal accordingly and stop complaining. Maybe you should walk accross the street and talk to your neighbors. I once was a tenant there and would have been happy to meet the neighbors instead of hearing their complaints from cops and city officials.

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

Having had some bad experiences trying to talk with inconsiderate neighbors, I just call the police now.

Why should anybody have to tell you not to throw your trash in their yard or block their driveway?

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

The houses do not have For Sale signs. "As resident's aged, "investors" swooped in and bought the houses. Most of the time, the houses were never listed on the open market. "

USD 497 should have purchased the real estate out to the streets in the Centenial neighborhood so that it would have a buffer like all the other schools. The LHS development was not equitable.

Matt Schwartz 7 years, 9 months ago

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Matt Schwartz 7 years, 9 months ago

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Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

I think they'e a TON of crummy owner occupied dwellings in Centennial, not to mention Old West Lawrence, Oread, and East Lawrence (but it's cool in East Lawrence....they like 'em like that).

The bottom line is that Lawrence, Kansas is no longer the Lawrence, Kansas of yesteryear. Our downtown is a buffoon's paradise; like it or not, Lawrence expaned to the West and is essentially East Topeka at this point and him that has gets.

How on earth can people in Centennial and Oread NOT understand that they are the victims of the University of Kansas which, just like Lawrence is NOT the kind and friendly esteemed institution of higher education it once was: It's a giant industry padded with fluff jobs and rank cronyism that MANY of the complainers answer to and suckle from.....It's not the people who are rehabbing these old school constructed homes. These complainers cannot have it both ways....and they significantly contributed to the problem by wanting a "boutiqueville" in well as bar central. As the same Daddy who allowed me to live in his attic and risk getting sucked into the 15 story all house fan he had up there noted to me shortly after graduating from KU noted: "Get the HELL out of that hick college town, child! You will regret it if you do not....". My Gawd....the man knew what he was talking about....

Oh yeah, where is the line to get the free $45, 000.00 SUV? There are so many of those TRUCKS (and that's all they really are....disguised pickemup trucks....) in Lawrence that eat up parking; eat up the streets, blah, blah, blah. We need us an ordinance that bans 'em.....

The time to "fix" the core inner city of Lawrence is just about gone and so, look elsewhere to reside is the future.

I have to go now. I'm putting in my calls to Mark Mangino to find out if I can house sit over where the REAL citizens of Lawrence live.....

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

not_holroyd....Not only do I help run the Oread Association via a perfectly legitmate election, I also am in the inner circle star chamber like group of geezers and geezerettes who run the World. We are more important than the Tri-Lateral Commission; The Skull and Bones Society; The IMF; The Federal Reserve; and let's not leave out our local Chamber of Conmen; etc. combined. We also determine if KU basketball is going to remain in Lawrence and we also determine if they have winning seasons or not. Also, we have made a ton of money renting portta potties out by OUR stadium. It's ours....although we do allow guests.

I presently have Mark Mangino on hold so that I could attend to your suggestion and need to get back with him to see how much the big guy is going to charge me to housesit so I can live over where the good people are....Thanks for noticing my power....

Kontum1972 7 years, 9 months ago

WOW....problems last week at KU with its spilling the slum-lords...jeez people how much money do you need? is city hall next..or the public works dept.?

isn't america great..?

Mel Wedermyer 7 years, 9 months ago

Business as usual in Lawrence. Create a new law and don't do anything to enforce it. They can always say we did our best, but we don't want to upset "fill in the blank group".

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 9 months ago

But the the busy body ousted ONA board couldn't tell you what to do with YOUR property. They know what's best and what you should and shouldn't do with your money. Ask them, they'll tell you!

Worldtourphoto 7 years, 9 months ago

What an intelligent and thoughtful response. Are you sure you live in Lawrence ?

KUisgreat 7 years, 9 months ago

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Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

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Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

I do not understand why my post was removed. I don't know of any of the usage agreement I violated. That post provided names of people who, like the landlord in the article, own properties; rent them out; and are also frequently quoted in the Lawrence Journal World. Those are public people who serve on City appointtee boards; have been very vocal all over town about this matter, that issue, etc., etc., etc.....and then get people to to make posts?

I identifed one poster above who just joined today to take a shot at the property owner which this news article was all about and everything else in my post was FACT. Why was it taken down? Are all posters equal...but some posters are more equal than other posters?

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

Didn't you read above?

There was no "violation of the usage agreement" that I can find and it really would be helpful if LJWorld staff would explain where any "violation" is so it isn't repeated. Certainly YOU aren't the one with THE "understanding. Or, perhaps you are and that explains as I suggested "All posters are equal; only some posters are more equal than other posters".

So, it would nice to have it explained by staff what was "incorrect". What I posted was factual and about people whose names are in the public domain based on the fact they're all landlords; they all have served or are serving or both on Publically appointed commissions, boards, etc.; and well, one hand washes the other, right? Or, is this just another example of " All posters are equal; only some posters are more equal than other posters"? Seems an easy enough and harmless enough and honest question.....shrug

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

If you identified an anonymous poster, that would be a violation.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

Sorry, but no anonymous poster was identified. The names of people who consider themselves "leaders" were posted.....these are people who serve on various City Commission appointed boards; whose names are frequently in the LJWorld; who run for public office; who, blah, blah, blah....again, it's quite clear that all posters are equal...but some posters are more equal than other posters

jafs 7 years, 9 months ago

You said you identified one poster who joined today to take a shot at a property owner.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

Nah, you misread what I wrote....I identified that the posting name was just added yesterday, 9/27/2010.... I don't know who is who on this thing....only know who I am....and am getting quite a laugh out of being outed as one of The World's elite....hahahahhahhaha.....I have to go to the bank now to make certain that portion of my wealth which I keep in Lawrence is still there....

Matt Schwartz 7 years, 9 months ago

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Boston_Corbett 7 years, 9 months ago

Glad all these Oread landlords can meet up on the forum here.

And I am guessing that all tenants with the last name Markowitz will be getting their damage deposits back this year.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 9 months ago

Naw, those Oread landlords salivate on the appearance of a tenant with Johnson County parents. They won't remember.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 9 months ago

No, Hedley. They will be able to rent but this time will get their deposits back.

Alceste 7 years, 9 months ago

I never return deposits; draw interest on the deposit money from day one; and never will return any deposits. Doing so would be just so whack. That's MY money as soon as I get it; it's my right; and I shall continue to do so. There is ALWAYS tenant damage that exceeds the amount of the deposit. This fact is a no brainer. Now....back to being able to housesit in Mark Mangino's house so I can get out of the ghetto.....

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

This is why the tenants you described should not be living in a single family neighborhood. While there may be a few responsible tenants, that is most often not the case. It is not up to the neighbors to parent someone else's college kids or manage the rental unit for a landlord by reporting transgressions to the city or calling the owner.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 8 months ago

Just a thought. Why doesn't KU contract rental units on campus. It would be an expansion that would actually bring money in.

eotw33 7 years, 8 months ago

it must be really hard for alceste to fit that huge head up so many peoples behinds. FYI I have ALWAYS gotten back my deposit. Id like to know what company your with and I'm sure everyone else would too. Sounds like first management but there is so many bad ones its hard to tell. My advice is never rent a house or an apartment in Lawrence that is owned locally. I've had good luck with companies out of texas that own here

Alceste 7 years, 8 months ago

Nah,'s actually pretty easy...and I laugh all the way to bank each and every month. I really enjoy, especially, the rental season time of year.....HUGE cash flow at that time. I'm able to contribute to Sam's campaign with some of that money. It's been working great. By the way....I believe you mean "you're"....not "your". You see, "you're" is what is referred to as a contraction? They teaching that in the schools these days?

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