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Archive for Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rental teeth

Over-occupancy cases still will be hard to prove, but local landlords now face a stiffer penalty when a violation is confirmed.

October 18, 2011

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Somewhere in Lawrence last night, it is a good bet that a sleeping resident was awakened by his neighbor’s stereo. Tonight, as families retire for the evening, it is certain that a parade of vehicles will flow to party houses that can make neighborhood streets resemble a used car lot. Tomorrow as the sun rises, many homeowners will be greeted not by a glorious sunrise but by the litter left from tonight’s party.

For some Lawrence residents, this is the cycle of life on a weekly, if not nearly daily, basis. In Lawrence, residents really never know when their youthful partying days are over. They could return at any moment, depending on who moves into the house next door.

City commissioners are to be applauded for attempting to break this cycle. The commission recently approved a new policy that would allow the rental license of a single-family home to be revoked if it violates the city’s occupancy code twice within a 24-month period.

Neighbors applauded the new policy because violations of the occupancy code — which prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in a single-family home — often lead to many neighborhood problems.

It is an issue that deserves the commission’s continued attention. The 2010 U.S. Census found Lawrence to have grown far more slowly than city officials expected. If those numbers are correct, one cause for the slowdown may be a feeling by families that Lawrence is a less desirable place to live than other communities in the area.

One hopes that Lawrence’s new rental regulations will begin to improve the livability of many city neighborhoods. There are reasons, however, to question whether they will. Landlords still must be found guilty in court of violating the occupancy code, and proving such a violation is difficult. Technically, the city’s new policy may allow city inspectors to make an administrative finding and revoke the license before a court makes a ruling on an occupancy case, but revoking a rental license before a court has spoken on the issue would seem to open the city up to significant financial liability if a court doesn’t end up agreeing with the city’s finding. On the positive side, the new regulation provides for some serious consequences once the city proves its case.

The city should look at new ways to prove over-occupancy. Perhaps the city should work more closely with tenants — the tenants who actually are living illegally in these houses. Each May, thousands of students move out of apartments in Lawrence. Some are unhappy with their landlords for a variety of reasons. Some of those unhappy tenants likely have violated the occupancy law and probably have hard evidence of the violation. They may be willing to share that evidence with the city, if they knew the city would not seek to punish them.

It may sound distasteful, but it would get at the heart of the problem, which is a small group of landlords who flout the law. The idea is worthy of consideration. After all, what goes on in overcrowded Lawrence neighborhoods is not only distasteful, but also is dangerous to residents and the city’s future.

Comments

ThePilgrim 3 years ago

I think that the real problem is with the occupants - not the landlord.

The real reasons that Lawrence has slowed in growth : - Very high sales tax - Relatively expensive housing, or at least real estate that is underwater (which is happening everywhere) - A zoning law that favors yet ANOTHER apartment complex or duplex

I have kept an eye on property in and around Lawrence, and some have dropped $60K or more in asking price, and still don't have a taker.

Even though I can't really complain. I moved to Lawrence, left, and came back. All because of work (or lack thereof).

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headdoctor 3 years ago

I am still waiting for the City to force multifamily units to be licensed. That would clean up a lot of the older crowded neighborhoods. They might not get to many on occupancy violations but they would put some out of business over night with safety and other code violations. I am surprised that some of the older neighborhoods haven't burned to the ground the way the wiring was done in some of those older houses that have been split up into apartments. In many the wiring is nothing more than an accident looking for somewhere to happen.

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tomatogrower 3 years ago

I was just glad to hear this article wasn't about a new business renting out false teeth. Made me look though.

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Carol Bowen 3 years ago

The writer mixed the problems. There may or may not be a connection between parties and too many tenants. It looks to me like rental codes, disturbing the peace, and littering codes need to be enforced. The writers conclusion is interesting. Families might be moving to other communities for a better environment. How does the city expect to attract more seniors, if this is so?

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beaujackson 3 years ago

Of course families are / have moved to other nearby towns for a "better environment" !

Living next to a house full of students is a living hell. KU students live in a different time zone, and have no respect for neighbors.

There should be NO student rental housing in single family zoned neighborhoods.

Period.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years ago

Now lets get onto the noisy dogs. Spend your hard earned cash on a new home and a year later you get dogs barking all hours of the day and night.

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Carol Bowen 3 years ago

The small dogs make the most noise. I prefer dogs to party houses.

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Christine Anderson 3 years ago

Shoot, I was hoping this article WAS about dentures you could rent!

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