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Archive for Wednesday, October 5, 2011

City adopts tougher penalties for landlords who violate city code for single-family homes

October 5, 2011

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Unscrupulous Lawrence landlords beware: The price of violating a longtime city code just got much higher.

City commissioners at their weekly meeting directed staff members to immediately begin changing how they enforce an existing city code that prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in a single-family home.

In short, the new enforcement policy would allow the city to revoke a landlord’s rental license for a particular piece of property if that property has been found to be in violation of the occupancy code two times within a 24-month period. In some cases the license could be revoked after one violation if the property owner did not take steps to correct the violation.

“Neighborhoods are suffering from this,” Mayor Aron Cromwell said, although commissioners said they believe it is a minority of landlords who are blatantly violating the code. “But this has become a problem throughout our town, and we have to deal with it.”

When it comes to losing a rental license, the financial stakes could be high for landlords. As city commissioners were told at their meeting, a revocation would mean that the owner of the property would no longer be allowed to lease the property to tenants. The owner of the property could either move into the property to make it an owner-occupied home, sell the property or let it set vacant. Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning and development services, said his interpretation of the code is that a revocation of a license is permanent. In other words, the property owner would be forever barred from leasing that particular property again — although they could receive a rental license for other properties in the city.

Property owners could appeal any revocation directly to the City Commission — and like any City Commission action, it could be challenged in Douglas County District Court.

In addition to changing the enforcement policy, commissioners also directed staff members to:

  • Draft a new ordinance that will set the fine for violating the rental registration ordinance to a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $2,500. Currently it is a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $1,000.
  • Change the definition of a resident to make it clear that anyone staying in a home for more than 14 days in a 30-day period is counted as a resident under the occupancy code.
  • Research the feasibility of requiring out-of-state owners — or perhaps even owners who live a certain number of miles outside the city — to list a “resident agent” for their properties. That would be an individual that the city could serve legal notice to when a property is found in violation. City prosecutors said they have had problems enforcing the law when a property owner lives outside the area or especially outside the state.
  • Those three items will require ordinances to be brought back to the City Commission for formal votes, but the change in enforcement policy is effective immediately. Currently only single-family homes that are used for rentals are required to have a city license. Traditional apartments are not required to have a license, and they generally are allowed to house up to four unrelated people.

In other action, commissioners:

  • Heard more than a hour’s worth of public comment regarding boarding houses and parking issues in the Oread neighborhood. But commissioners took no action on the subject of whether a new code opens the door for too many homes in Oread to be converted into boarding houses. Instead, they sent the issue back to the Planning Commission for more review. Commissioners sent the issue back on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Hugh Carter opposed.
  • Unanimously agreed to reduce weekday green fees at the city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course.

Approved on second and final reading an ordinance that adds gender identity to the list of protected classes in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Comments

Carol Bowen 2 years, 6 months ago

None2, You read way too much into my post. Of course, there are some homes that are not rented by the head. Those homes are not really affected by the ordinance, nor are a lot of other circumstances. I made no reference to slum landlords, nor did I imply that all landlords charge by the head. I merely pointed out how renting by the head affects single family neighborhoods.

I am not sure if the ordinance makes you very angry because you don't understand it, or because you have had bad experiences with it. Could you provide examples?

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 6 months ago

Landlords cannot make a profit without charging by the head. More than one of them stated this for the record at commission meetings. Charging by the head in a single family zone drives up the rent for a home, then a family of any type cannot afford to rent in single family neighborhoods. So, Wilbur, I challenge you to rent your homes in single family zones on one lease with one or two people signing for rent for the house, not the number of people in the house.

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oooreally1234 2 years, 6 months ago

thanks none2. I grew up in small town and when I graduated I decided to stay in Lawrence. KC was too big for me, I didn't want to live in the suburbs and Lawrence fits just right. I work hard and I'd love to invest in my community and I believe I can do that without owning a home. Unfortunately, home ownership for "young children" like me is far away in terms of my financial future. It's disheartening to be stereotyped as a "young child" because I want to rent a home, live with roommates and be responsible and take care of the property. The irresponsible, young college students that do cause problems in your neighborhoods are a gross misrepresentation of most young people living in this city. I don't stereotype "your" generation as a generation of uppity, snobbish, whiners who ruined our economy during a period of rampant deregulation and tax cuts. I understand there are issues with the way housing works in this city, but don't lump all citizens under 35-40 into some troublesome category. I spend my hard earned dollars in this city and I'm doing what I can to give back. Give folks a break.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

juma, may not be far off and Arly Allen and Candace Da is and her "ladies" have been made the scapegoats and they havn't figured out. Why? Because they are on a separate mission.

You see, Chad needs to print in detail the text of Arly Allen's.

Arly claims that if "famillies" have not more than two cars. Families own no more than two cars. Get the letter. Next, if anyone recalls, at a meeting at Lawrence High when Erv Hodges who pushed for the 3 unrelated, one wil recall Arly saying that "renters" need to live in apartments as they are and have been built for "renters". Homes aka structures in single family zoning in Arly's head are for "families:"

In other words, Arly Allen does not want anyone renting in "his" Centennial Neighborhood. . He wants each and every house to be owner occupied (delusional of course, but that's what he wants). He doesn't want just any owner . Remember when Arly was thinking more clearly, the area had professors,like the German Dept head, like the Dean of Men, one Mr. Alderson, professional persons in Lawrence, aka Mr. Bob Blank who signed the letter with Arly. And then the other signer was a Joan Stevenson (wilbur thinks she has been roped into the fiasco).

Arly claims that it is okay for "renters" to live in Oread though. because in his mind, it is all rental property. Now we come back ot the "ladies" who cannot refute that because one of them is a landlord in partnership with one of Arly's backdoor neighbors. Hey, that's ok, because the rental is not in Arly's neighborhood.

So, Oread becomes okay for rentals but don't make the houses too big aka boarding houses, because they just are too big and no familiy would every buy them later. Guess what, death will occur to those so concerned before that happens.

Arly, and the "ladies' have forgotten or never knew that Oread was and has been rental with many of the rental owners living in the houses and working at KU. In fact, it was professors who rented rooms, added on to the crapped out places after the second world war. It is some of those structures that have now been rehabbed top to bottom.

Mrs. Brown whose husband was an electrician had two rental houses, one in the 1200 block of Ohio rented to KU track team members. the other house on the east side at the corner of 12th and Tennessee, which was rehabbed by Crimson Properties. Back to the "ladies' they bitc&**d about the iron fence as it is not 'historical" to the neighborhood. Get the news articles and read them.

The problem : The "ladies' have no children for the families they expect to move into Oread, Arly has none either and his elderly neighbors won't be having any.

.

Arly, ask Mr. Corliss when the last time was that he had the Chief of Police ticket cars parked on grass? Make sure your answer is correct and not incomplete as your letter was.

Yours Truly, Wilbur

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juma 2 years, 6 months ago

This law had ONLY one reason. Keep the Big Developers out of bankrupticy. Force students out to the empty apartments. This keeps the boyz happy.

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 6 months ago

One of the difficulties is the availability of rental units for Lawrence families (no stereotype implied) with low to moderate incomes, as one poster pointed out. Landlords can get more rent charging by the head(usually students), thus throwing the rental market off kilter.

We have a for bedroom house in our single family neighborhood. A mother with four boys tried to rent it. The rate was not even close to affordable.

I see advantages to this ordinance: 1. Stability in single family neighborhoods. 2. Health, safety and rights for tenants in single family neighborhoods. 3. Affordable housing for permanent residents.

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oooreally1234 2 years, 6 months ago

  1. I lived in the "student ghetto" for two years, as well as East Lawrence and a home on Naismith. I'm not sure if those are zoned for single family homes, but the East Lawrence home was where I had to "hide" my room mate.

  2. Too bad us "young children" probably won't be making any large investments in our neighborhoods because even with a college degree and beyond adequate work experience, it's increasingly difficult to find a job that pays enough to afford home ownership along with student loans. Also, you don't know how old I am. Don't assume someone is young because they're just out of college and unmarried. While I have seen some reasonably priced homes and it's possible that a mortgage payment would be less than rent, I'm not buying a home until my job is secure and I know I'll be there for a while and right now I'm not willing to make that large of an investment. That doesn't make me any less "invested" in my neighborhood. Our generation might be a generation of renters for a very long time.

  3. I agree with peartree. My father was a contractor for 25 years and was appalled at most places I lived in. The conditions of these homes are absurd and yes it is sad that beautiful neighborhoods, which students and homeowners alike can contribute to, are becoming dilapidated pits. JOY REALTY is one example. I looked at a few of her properties and I was shocked at the state of these places. She rents a property on Ohio street that looks condemned and she charges an ridiculous amount of rent. A few of her properties, from what I can tell, remain unrented and I can only imagine it's because of the terrible condition they are in. Or take Connecticut street for example. Some of the homes on that street are beautiful, while others resemble a haunted house. I agree, stricter rules for actual property owners/slumlords, instead of "punishing" those just trying to work hard and pay affordable rent.

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Katara 2 years, 6 months ago

I'd actually like to know how big of a problem this really is. Is this just a few upset neighbors (who probably have a right to be) or this more widespread?

It seems to me that some of the arguments given for why this ordinance is good can apply just as well to owner-occupied homes.

It seems to me that if landlords weren't following the rules before, increasing the fines will not scare them into doing so now. They will just be sneakier about it and since it is difficult to prove that they are violating the rules, there is no real gain here.

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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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Richard Heckler 2 years, 6 months ago

The tenants and landlords bring this on themselves. How? Neither respect the live in residents in the immediate areas.

This is how laws and regulations become in demand.

Now is the city commission going to free up the tax dollars to provide for enough inspectors?

If not it's nothing more than lip service.

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peartree 2 years, 6 months ago

I believe this is directed at slum lords, not students as some angry posters suggest. It is actually trying to improve conditions for renters who live in substandard conditions, because many of the violators of this ordinance are the same property owners who are happy to rent spaces to students which are unsafe and do not meet code. People die in houses like this (from fires, etc.) Students often are just happy to have a cheap place to stay and do not know or care about their rights.

Homeowners are angry, I believe, not about a few parties but about a beautiful house being chopped up, run into the ground, and eventually torn down due to lack of upkeep. When landlords are not held accountable, this is exactly what happens. These homes cause property values to plummet, and neighborhood become undesirable. Then, criminality creeps in.

It is not a stone age approach toward students, but a stone age approach toward landlords that we have had in Lawrence. Other college towns in the Midwest have much better zoning and enforcement rules in place for dealing with these issues. Again, these rules protect the renters AND the homeowners.

Also, if a landlord cannot afford to follow the ordinance and risks foreclosure, he or she should not own the property in the first place.

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consumer1 2 years, 6 months ago

Homeowner's make a large investment in this community, and the outrageous price of housing says that ! Renter's for four years ??? not so much. Homeowners tend to improve their property, college students, Hmmm, not so much they do more to reduce the value of property. Once the majority of you young children are actually property owners making such a large investment, reality will reveal itself to you.

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melott 2 years, 6 months ago

This applies to neighborhoods zoned single-family, which the student ghetto is not. So it will not apply there. The neighborhoods in question are typically full of small 50's ranch houses.

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oooreally1234 2 years, 6 months ago

thank you! I went to KU and lived in the "student ghetto" with 9 other non-related girls. No crazy parties were thrown, we needed cheap rent, close to campus. We didn't want to take a bus or drive to campus from West Lawrence or out by Walmart. We wanted to walk to school. What's wrong with that? I graduated, but since I'm not married with kids and I still work in Lawrence, I need roommates and (still) cheap rent. I had to hide my last roommate from my landlord because we were violating the rental agreement. Neither one of us could afford rent, even with full time jobs. We needed to share a place. This is the LAST thing the city should be picking on in economic times like these. BOO HOO Lawrence residents, you live in a college town! It was a college town before you moved here/you were born and will be after you die. Get over it. That's what happens. Some of us "non-permanent" residents fall in love with this town and decide they want to stay and make it our home. If we don't get hitched and pop out some kids, I guess we're going to be consigned to big apartment complexes out in West and South Lawrence. I thought Lawrence was supposed to be "progressive" but this is stone aged, come on. If you're not a family, you're not welcome in our neighborhood. Yes, it's hyperbole, but it sure is the vibe I'm feeling from the City.

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toe 2 years, 6 months ago

There are so few owner occupied homes in Lawrence.

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 6 months ago

Hey, we're all brothers and sisters.

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esteshawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Does this mean a group home of four disabled living together is not allowed?

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Zero 2 years, 6 months ago

As much as I love Lawrence, I left for a city with better opportunities. It became clear that the city government is more worried about noise ordinances and pleasing a few snobs than the economic growth of the city. Every job I ever had in Lawrence relied on the students. Retail, restaurants, small business, education. We wouldn't have been in operation if it weren't for the students. I worked at a school where a majority of the parents were employed or went to KU. Unless it's something like a retirement home (which also doesn't really count because they are staffed by students because it is a physically demanding job that pays little), you rely on students for your well-being. Now we wonder why the enrollment of KU is dropping? Kids are getting smart! Instead of living in a 4 bedroom house close to campus and having to pay for the additional bedroom for no reason, they can live near KC, be closer to a lot cooler attractions, have cheap rent, pay cheap tuition, and still get a good education while not getting treated like crap. Sounds good to me! There are thousands of students who go to KU. Yes, there are a few rowdy ones who are a nuisance. If you don't like it, don't like 2 blocks from a school. I'm a working an adult, I live close to a large university and sometimes there are parties on the weekends. If it bothered me, I would not live here. If the city is so worried about property values, they should have stricter laws on all the slumlords who don't maintain their homes, not some landlord who wants to let four studious, non-related girls live together. What kind of a government makes laws about who can live together in a house? Lawrence, I loved you but you are killing yourself. Good luck trying to be some boring retirement mecca.Glad I got out.

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consumer1 2 years, 6 months ago

spoken like a true Liberal. Thanks for sharing!

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Liberal 2 years, 6 months ago

So the landlord is supposed to do midnight raids to make sure some dudes don't have their girlfriends over every night?

The whole policy was unenforceable from the beginning and is not a surprise that it did not work. Guess what this is not going to work either. Again Lawrence going after a problem the wrong way just like the living wage. The living wage has not helped one Lawrence resident yet.

BTW...where do sign up to be a landlord storm trooper? Did anyone read or see the Diary of Anne Frank? This reminds me of the old country... Ok students get your hiding places ready...

I thought I was going to like the current commission but, I also thought that they had a brain.

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Clickker 2 years, 6 months ago

My rentals have about 4 per room. I got no problem with it. Keeps me rented.

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Glo 2 years, 6 months ago

Many people know of over-occupied houses, but almost always, the city's response is that they have no proof that too many residence are living there. How does charging a bigger fine really help? Most landlords will never reach that point and keep operating as usual.

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consumer1 2 years, 6 months ago

I am glad this city is finally showing some concern for the real taxpayers who live here full time.

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not_holroyd 2 years, 6 months ago

Let's put Wilbur and Arley Allen on a TV debate and see who wins.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 6 months ago

But Loring Henderson says that if you show up at 11pm ,then the following day you are a resident?

Cramwell is liking the position of power. So did Hitler and guess what? So, Chad, why didn't you post the actually voting numbers? Any against? How many for? Who?

Students may have the last say in this. They shop with their money.

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headdoctor 2 years, 6 months ago

This is just more symbolism over substance in law making. The City Commission took a law that should have never made it past the courts as it was written and is trying to fear monger those who are in violation by increasing the penalty. That will not do any good if there is no real teeth put into enforcement. The current law already has fines and even an agent clause but the enforcement is very similar to the typical big brother approach. At least with the big brother system, someone has to complain. Then there is a usually a ticket or notice involved followed by possible court action. With this rental law, a neighbor complains and or a Neighborhood Resources Inspector gives notice to the property owner. From there many times the inspectors and the police spend their time pointing fingers at each other as to which one starts the enforcement.

The original idea of the law was to improve the health and safety of tenants and neighbors as well as control the parking issues. If the City is really serious about those issues, one has to wonder why the multifamily rentals are not licensed and or inspected. Every time the licensing of multifamily housing is mentioned, it gets shot down. There is also problems with home owners that keep a half dozen cars on the street but that never gets much attention either.

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demonfury 2 years, 6 months ago

The city can shout at the rain all day long, but the landlords don't care how many people are flopping (over and above the lease holders) so long as they get their grossly inflated rent on time. Enforcement of this code has been just short of a joke. The only reason this is happening now is because people like Doug Compton are pushing the commissioners buttons. Call it what you will, but this code has been on the books for some time now and enforcement has been all but absent. Over 35% of the residential addresses in Lawrence are rentals, and there are more being built as we speak. The vacancy rate of these rentals is hovering around 7% (according to the LJW). That's a lot of rent not being collected by the Doug Compton's of the community. See the agenda behind this new "adoption of tougher penalties" now? The good ole boy network is active and making noise once again.

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somedude20 2 years, 6 months ago

OK you buggers win! I will have 3 or less in my pad but the yard, that is fair game. Rent out tents for the others to sleep in

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sierraclub 2 years, 6 months ago

Follow the money and you will find out who is backing this plan. Looks to me like the big corporate apartments are not renting their rooms and now need to put pressure on the city to make it easier for them. Just follow the money and you will solve all problems. Left or right, just follow the money.

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freestitch 2 years, 6 months ago

"What's up with that creepy old house on the corner?" "Oh, it has been sitting empty since Old Man Timmons allowed 4 people to live there." "Cool, want to sneak in and vandalize it? " "Yeah"

Which is better for neighborhoods, a 4 bedroom house with 4 people living in it or a vacant 4 bedroom house?

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Kerry Putthoff 2 years, 6 months ago

Welcome to the "Communist State of Lawrence" !

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Kerry Putthoff 2 years, 6 months ago

Let's see... it is a four bedroom house, built as a four bedroom house, intended to "house" four people from it's inception! Sounds to me like a ploy to force more renters to the outskirts and directly into some of the new "empty" apartments outside of campus. So what is next, is the Lawrence council going to start limiting how many "related" family members can live together? Who decides what constitutes a "relative"?

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poolside 2 years, 6 months ago

Buy a homeless shelter-put people out of their homes-times it right I would say

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

"Change the definition of a resident to make it clear that anyone staying in a home for more than 14 days in a 30-day period is counted as a resident under the occupancy code."

So if a friend from overseas travels thousands of miles over the Atlantic or Pacific ocean to see you, there is a 14 day time limit to stay with you?

Good one.

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Norma Jeane Baker 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, but now you can golf on the cheap. At least during the week.

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Wadde 2 years, 6 months ago

Another reason why there is homelessness in Lawrence which the public and our

so called Humane Community overlooks to see...

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