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Archive for Sunday, October 2, 2011

City mulls policy that would crack down on landlords

October 2, 2011

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A crackdown may be coming against landlords who allow too many tenants to live in single-family houses across Lawrence.

City commissioners at their meeting Tuesday will review a proposal that would give city staff members much broader authority to revoke the licenses of landlords who allow more than three unrelated tenants to live in single-family homes.

“These are big changes from how we’re doing this right now,” said Brian Jimenez, code enforcement manager for the city.

Under the proposal, the city would start using the city rental licensing program as leverage to get problem landlords to comply with a city code that says no more than three unrelated people can live in a single-family home. The proposal has several provisions. They include:

• First time violators of the occupancy provision would be put on probation, which would consist of being told that they have 30 days to either evict a tenant or take other means to bring the property into compliance with the occupancy code. If they fail to comply, the property would lose its rental license and could not be occupied.

• Landlords who violate the ordinance two times in a 24-month period would automatically lose their license. Those landlords could appeal the revocation to the City Commission for a hearing.

• Monetary fines under the rental licensing ordinance can be from $250 to $1,000, and would be at the discretion of the City Commission. The fines currently attached to the occupancy code range from $10 to $500, and are at the discretion of the city’s Municipal Court judge.

• The proposal also would change the definition of a resident to make it clear that any person who stays at the house for 14 or more days during a 30-day period is counted as a resident under the city’s code.

The proposed process is expected to speed up the time it takes to resolve an over-occupancy case. Currently, city inspectors must build a case that is taken to Lawrence Municipal Court, unless the landlord voluntarily agrees to comply. That can take several months, Jimenez said. Under the proposal, city inspectors would be allowed to make an administrative finding that the property is violating occupancy standards. If property owners disagree, the appeal process would go to the City Commission — although a landlord always has the ability to sue the city in a court of law.

“We’re not going to be too quick to pull the trigger on any case,” said Jimenez. “We’re going to make sure that there is a violation. But we think this process could take a few weeks instead of three or four months.”

City commissioners asked staff members in June to come up with ideas for strengthening enforcement of the occupancy code, which has been a major concern of several residents who believe their neighborhoods are becoming dominated by illegal student housing.

City Commissioner Bob Schumm said he wants to review the proposal in more detail but likes some of what he’s seen so far.

“I’m interested in a stiff fine, I’m interested in clearing up the definition of what constitutes a resident, and I think the revocation of a license certainly would be meaningful and appropriate,” Schumm said.

One key question city commissioners will have to decide, if they move forward, is how long any revocation ought to last.

Schumm said he wants to have a policy that is strong enough to get the attention of the minority of landlords who are violating the law.

“What is going in a lot of neighborhoods right now is reason for worry,” Schumm said. “Sometimes people’s entire net worth is in their homes, and they don’t want to see that vaporized because their neighborhood has turned into something completely different than what it used to be.”

City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 years, 6 months ago

All the landlords know this cannot be enforced. For the same reason it has never been effectively enforced. City Hall has never authorized enough staff to enforce the regulation.

As yet nothing much has changed...

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uncleandyt 2 years, 6 months ago

I propose that no more than 3 unrelated people can sit at a table to eat bar-b-q in local restaraunts. Don't ask why.

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sickofgoodoldboysthatrunlaw 2 years, 6 months ago

Most of the slum landloard don't have their rental places check buy the good old boys, because they(the city) look at their places as apartments. They don't even have to get a licence.Have anyone ever really look at the dumps (apartments) the rent around KU, and don't let the city say they don't know about them, those slum lords are very good friends with the City Gods. they wash each other backs all the time.Think about who is building all the apartment around lawrence just really look.

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imastinker 2 years, 6 months ago

Yet another reason Lawrence is unfriendly towards business.

Landlords seldom rent to more than three people because they know the law. How are they supposed to control tenant behavior?

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

The ordinance is so dumb that an owner of a property on W 19th had as I recall 3 sons living in the house and a cousin of the boys. One had to move, because only 3 unrelated could live there. Thank Arly and Erv Hodges for that. The owner as I recall had something to do with a school district very nearby. Certainly that status should have pleased Mr. Allen.

Godot says something about enforcing existing ordiances. Won't happen.It's always by complaint . Why can't officers hear noise? Open the windows , hello?

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Godot 2 years, 6 months ago

How does the City define the word "adult?"

Our district court has labelled 18 year old men who commit rape as "children."

Kansas law says anyone under the age 21 is a child, unable to make the decision to consume alcohol.

Students who are supported by their parents are labelled as children by the University.

Obamacare ordains that all people under the age of 27 are children under their parents' insurance policies.

In the eyes of the Lawrence City Fathers, when does one become an adult as it applies to this ordinance?

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workinghard 2 years, 6 months ago

None2 says: "We need more of that so that the city government doesn't keep expanding its tenticles into personal matters. You gave the example of girlfriends. I have another example. What if two committed gay couples wanted to room in one large house together?"

Hasn't the city passed all sorts of laws to stop discrimination against gay people? Yet this ordinance clearly discriminates against gay people. So does this mean nobody else can do it but it is ok for the city to thumb their noses and do as they please? Gay people cannot legally marry, it should be four unrelated people.

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Godot 2 years, 6 months ago

The city could enforce existing ordinances to keep neighborhoods quiet and orderly.

I suggest the commissioners impress upon the police department that it should enforce existing parking, noise and disturbance ordinances by giving tickets to the perpetrators who will then be required to appear in court or pay a fine if they choose not to dispute the ticket. If they neither appear nor pay the fine, they will land in jail. Problem solved for the neighborhood.

The issue should not be how many adults inhabit a residence. It should be how the adults behave. If they misbehave, there are laws and courts (not Neighborhood Resources employees) to deal with them.

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DVLPER 2 years, 6 months ago

Hopefully the city carefully examine the potential impacts this will have. Standard occupancy numbers like, three unrelated people is not the answer. Parking requirements, sq ft per person, and condition of the property are much more important. They will find out quickly that anything will be hard to enforce, Manhattan went down this same road in late 2008. They just removed their inspections and requirements. Not enforceable and a strain on city government. http://www.ci.manhattan.ks.us/index.aspx?nid=1474

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 6 months ago

How will some feel when 64 bedroom boarding houses start popping in your backyards and/or next door?

Only one half parking space per bedroom is being forced through which means the other 32 cars will park where? 32 extra cars plus all of the vehicles that "lovers" bring along.

These will do wonders for property values. No older neighborhood is sacred territory. "Animal House" rides again.

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workinghard 2 years, 6 months ago

The college town my child lives in has "all" rentals licensed.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

Don't ever make your home your major investment. Never.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

What is a "single family " residence? Is it defined by a zoning or usage? The condos at Hobbs Taylor are used as a personal residence. What is the zoning? What is the zoning for the condos at The Oread INN.?

What is real is that the city has an ordinance against parking in theyards on grass. So, all Schumm and Amyx and Mayor Cramwell and Dever and Carter need to do, is inform Corliss that effective Wednesday the 5th Chief Khatib will instruct officers to write tickets each and every time a car is found to be in violaton.

Mr. Jimenez has done that with "weeds" and other environmental issues": by instructing his staff members to do so without official complaints.

All officers need to do when driving through the so called "problem" areas on Friday and Saturday nights is roll down the windows and listen for the noise. If noise is coming from inside a house, then the noise is too loud. If occupants in side a structure can hear noise from the outside, then the noise is too loud.

But the police won't do that, because they have been instructed to not do it.

The only noise that would be hard to figure out is the chatter inside "not_holroyd'"s head. Poor thing needs new medication. Poor thing still stuck on property ownership in Arizona. Too bad McCullough doesn't get it right either. You want rental registration, work it the way Maricopa County does. But then Arizona is far advanced than Lawrence will ever be.

Maybe the J/W since they , I guess still own a paper in Payson Arizona will research Arizona. Assuming the local cub reporters aren't too busy trying to figure out how many cross dressers and transgenders can live in Arly's neighborhood.

If Brian Jimenez hadn't spent so much time pulling up yard signs in right of ways and had spent the time , like today after a game yesterday issuing tickets for litter in yards at many houses, Arly and Candace and even Ellie LeCompte a PHD no less who did their own list of "blight", Mr. Jimenez would have alleviated what is still re occuring problems..

Face it, Schumm doesn't have a clue not Cramwell. Just because former Judge Catt complained about his "neighborhood" now Schumm is on the bandwagon.

Schumm didn't have the noise ordinacnce enforced when he was a former commissh, Ed Carter neither.

Lawrence is not catching up. In fact, Lawrence will always be behind, because the leaders are leading from the behind.

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Godot 2 years, 6 months ago

What bothers me most about this is the City's stated objective of circumventing the municipal court by having an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat serve as judge and jury, with appeal limited to the city commission. Apparently this city administration views due process to be nothing more than an inconvenience and a nuisance. Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Kangaroo Court!

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Boston_Corbett 2 years, 6 months ago

Ordinances similar to the Lawrence one are common in cities where unscrupulous landlords encroach upon neighborhoods. Is it any surprise that many of these are in college towns?

Lawrence is just catching up, by actually thinking about cracking down on some well known offenders.

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hipper_than_hip 2 years, 6 months ago

I think the landlord licensing needs to be extended to the commercial apartment complexes.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

Even Schum hasn't figured out waht a "single family" residence is. Is it defined by zoning or usage. Is one person using a house making it then a "single family " residence?

Anyone who makes their home their major investment is a dolt.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 6 months ago

So if three guys, college students, decide to rent a house and all three get very lucky throughout the course of the semester and each moves in his girlfriend, we're going to fine the landlord. No amount of legislation is going to stop that behavior, especially in a college town. The tenants get lucky but the landlord, through the behavior of the tenants, gets unlucky.

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woodscolt 2 years, 6 months ago

Would seem to me the only way to regulate how many people live in a house would be through fire code regulation. While I understand the many reasons why the " no more than 3 non related members" appeals to some, the arguments crumble pretty fast.

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nugget 2 years, 6 months ago

Anyone that thinks this city can get slumlord Bonita Yoder to adhere to some reasonable guidelines is fooling themselves. She'll continue to own her little overpriced slum dwellings and laugh all the way to the bank while waiting until the very last minute and then do legal end-runs around everyone. Been doing it for ages.

And don't underestimate the group of rental owners in town that have banded together and form a powerful lobby in this burg. They'll have no part of this. Shame this city has such a craphole collections of slum lords that devalue neighborhoods.

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Alceste 2 years, 6 months ago

"Destruction of the Center of Lawrence

"Landlords profit from turning the center of Lawrence into a student ghetto, while taxpayers and the city provide them with massive subsidies."

The above was written by:

Arly Allen Bob Blank Joan Stevenson for the Centennial Neighborhood Assocation

The city documents the statement here:

http://www.lawrenceks.org/web_based_agendas/2011/10-04-11/pl_occupancy_limits_communications.pdf

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workinghard 2 years, 6 months ago

The law should be 4 people with no more than 2 per bedroom and no more than 2 in a studio apartment.

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Liberty_One 2 years, 6 months ago

This is a dumb law that should not be obeyed. All those who break it are true patriots. Those who wish to impose this kind of nonsense are true villains.

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usesomesense 2 years, 6 months ago

How about just requiring a clause in the lease of single family residencies that puts the responsibility where it should be? On the tenants. In my college days we squeezed as many people as we could into the house we rented to save money. None of them were on the lease and I was the one on the hook to pay the rent if they didn't. Eviction is a very costly and time consuming process. This proposal merely puts more favor on big box apartment complexes and puts small property owners out of business. If the tenant isn't complying it should fall squarely on the tenant.

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sunny 2 years, 6 months ago

Yes...lets make it harder and harder for people to live and pay their rent. Lets keep raising taxes and raising utility bills. Candice and the like need to move out of the Oread..you know...the area around the University where students live!

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jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree with the above points - the city should do a much better job of making sure landlords are providing a decent place to rent.

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greywolf85203 2 years, 6 months ago

That's fine that they want to stop over crowding of homes. But what about the landlords "slumlords" that do not make needed repairs? There are several in town that think its okay to not fix things such as water heaters, air conditioners, major appliances that are supplied for the rentees and so on. Also I wonder about the rent to own landlords and how the city is allowing them to do this with reporting to credit bureaus as most other landlords do? The city really needs to look at all landlord issues and correct a good many things since this town is largely made up of rentals!

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itsalwayssunnyinlarry 2 years, 6 months ago

I would much rather see them take action against the landlords that allow students to live in essentially uninhabitable houses, proper maintenance of the exterior and grounds as well. What's going to happen to all these kids living in houses that have 6-10 bedrooms or apartments? The student ghetto is very affordable on a student budget, not all of them can afford to live in these "luxury apartments" that charge 700-800 dollars a month for a 300sqft apartment (hawks point for example).

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Norma Jeane Baker 2 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence is NOT a Third World environment! Not even close.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 6 months ago

This demand is not appropriate for a third world enviroment.

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Norma Jeane Baker 2 years, 6 months ago

I need to go take a dump. Do I need a license for that?

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workinghard 2 years, 6 months ago

So tell me if I am correct. Three unrelated people means two married couples can live together, right?

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sunny 2 years, 6 months ago

The Oread neighborhood. Maybe Candice and the like should have never bought homes in that area.

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kernal 2 years, 6 months ago

cheeseburger, you're shaking the wrong tree. We wouldn't even have to address this if it weren't for the few landlords trying to skirt the existing law. This is just another example of the actions of the self-serving few causing the need for fine tuning existing laws or enacting new ones.

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Salvia 2 years, 6 months ago

First- I would like the commission to define what constitutes a rental. We have a problem house in our neighborhood that the city says is not a rental because the homeowner's daughter and grandchildren live there. The city said that even though the present residents are not the homeowners, they can live there because they are family and the house is not a rental. Others, many others, live there as well, but the city can't "verify" that they do. The house is in disrepair, many, many police calls, etc. Can't be declared a nusiance house because it is not a rental! Like the fireworks ordinance, I think the rental ordinace is unenforceable. Frustrating!

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pz5g1 2 years, 6 months ago

This assumes the home is registered as a rental in the first place.

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cheeseburger 2 years, 6 months ago

Our heavy-handed commissioners are at it again . . .pretty soon there will be policies and ordinances governing absolutely everything!

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Jock Navels 2 years, 6 months ago

need an operational definition of 'related' as well. and then, the 'proof' of relationship? better get kolbach on that...

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

I have a problem with this:
"change the definition of a resident to make it clear that any person who stays at the house for 14 or more days during a 30-day period is counted as a resident under the city’s code."

It is not uncommon for a guest from far away to stay for over two weeks. Instead, it should be similar to the policy of one of the apartments complexes here in town, which states:

"A resident is defined as a person that occupies the apartment for more than three weeks in any given month, and receives mail at that address."

City Commissioner Bob Schumm has a very good point when he stated: ",,, I’m interested in clearing up the definition of what constitutes a resident,,,,"

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cmmcphee 2 years, 6 months ago

What determines a single family dwelling? One or two bedrooms? what about some of the big old mansions with five bedrooms and three or four baths? Is a 5000 sq ft house the same as a 1500 sq ft house? I don't have any rentals, just wondering how bureaucrats decide how the rest of the common folks should live.

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jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

How about an immediate mandatory fine, not at the "discretion" of city commissioners?

And, how about 2x and the landlord loses their license, regardless of how long it is in between?

My only reservation is that evicting a tenant puts that person into a bit of a stressful spot, and it's not their fault the landlord is breaking the code, and they may not even know it.

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Number_1_Grandma 2 years, 6 months ago

What can the city do if instead of "rental property" the landlord becomes a "lease to own property" taking the property out of "rental registration" guidelines? Who's to say how long a "lease to own" lasts. I don't think the city could touch them then.

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