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Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2012

Unfit homes

A condemnation action that put some local residents out of their rented mobile homes signals the need for a city review of other problem properties.

April 15, 2012

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A recent crackdown on code violations at a North Lawrence mobile home park has served as an eye-opener on the living conditions some low-income families in Lawrence endure.

Recently, the city condemned 12 mobile homes in the Riverview Trailer Park, 827 Walnut. The trailers had a variety of health and safety code violations. Some were emptying raw sewage into their yards, others had makeshift additions that clearly weren’t built to safe standards, and most had the dangerous combination of electrical problems and no smoke detectors.

City leaders were correct to take action, even though it has left several families uncertain of where they will live.

The experience at Riverview, though, should serve as a wake-up call on several levels. First, city leaders need to have a discussion about how to better assist families who are forced to leave their homes when city inspectors declare them unfit for habitation.

The city receives more than $700,000 a year in Community Development Block Grant funding. The federal funding is designed, in part, to help low-income families with housing issues. City leaders should seriously consider setting aside a small portion of the funding to provide emergency housing assistance to individuals who are evicted because of code violations caused by a landlord.

The more important course of action, however, is to work to prevent such evictions. Most of the condemned trailers at Riverview are rental units owned by a California landlord. Landlords have both a legal and moral obligation to provide safe living conditions for their tenants.

Whether it be in older homes in the Oread neighborhood or in mobile homes scattered throughout the city, there are legitimate questions about whether all landlords are living up to their obligations.

Perhaps the city does not have the funding or resources to begin a large-scale program to inspect every rental unit in the community. But the city does have the ability to write codes that make it abundantly clear there are serious civil, and perhaps even criminal, penalties for landlords who knowingly allow their tenants to live in unsafe conditions.

There is no better time than the present to send a message that the community takes this issue seriously. City attorneys ought to search the city’s current code to determine what penalties can be assessed against the landlord of the Riverview Trailer Park.

It is a bad situation at Riverview, but it will be worse if the city does not do all it can to let other landlords in Lawrence know that such living conditions are unacceptable in our community.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

What is the city doing to the landlords? This is what needs to be a City Commission agenda item. An ordinance with big teeth.

Then again how many local officials are slumlords?

Or how many city staff people are slumlords?

How many former elected officials are slumlords?

Flap Doodle 2 years, 8 months ago

How many people are out there killing the planet every day?

How many people keep their medical insurance while urging others to drop their own coverage?

How many people are gardening in the all together?

Hmmmmmm?

(from a source)

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

How many city/county inspectors are slumlords?

How many planning commissioners are slumlords?

How many "locally important" people are slumlords?

There is one local slumlord that "demolition by neglect" should be imposed on some of Joy Realty properties however it seems blind eyes is the order of the day. For instance how about this run down white shack that sits on the westside of Brook Creek and is located at 835 E 13th Street? Perhaps two years or more since any tenant made an attempt to reside here. What's up with this?

This is a good one at the SW corner of Oak Hill. A white structure without any visible address which has been vacant for perhaps at least 15 years. What's up with this?

Like it or not is up to the neighborhoods to keep city hall informed and may require persistent follow up.

Gotalife 2 years, 8 months ago

Agree with the neighborhood keeping officials informed. There are three houses (shacks) in North Lawrence, I believe they are on North St., that appear to be falling down. Two of them are brown and then another in the back. Piles of trash, old fences falling down, leaning structures, and yes people live in them. Not sure how the meet any codes.

pace 2 years, 8 months ago

I have no great desire for the city to use Community block money as a special fund for tenants evicted because landlords allowed property to become unlivable. I could see an increase in fines for property owners that aggrievedly neglect property and rented such property. The increased fines could go toward helping tenants find temporary housing. The fines also should go toward the increased inspection, Tax payers should not shoulder the property owner's responsibility.
Many good home do not exactly reach modern code, most of them are quite liveable. It is the condemnable housing that should shoulder the increased fines and the increased costs of both inspections and tenant removal. I applaud the different efforts in the community to increase affordable housing. I have seen many organizations and government efforts. To jump start evicted tenants over the other populations, really takes the onus off the landlord. Hold the property owner to the responsibility. If you can not keep your property to a safe level you have no right to offer it to the market. Sell it and get out of the business. If you offer unfit property to the public, and the public suffers, just like the butcher selling unfit meat, there should be punitive action.

pace 2 years, 8 months ago

Too late to make it short. The landlord should be responsible for the moving cost of a tenant in such cases. I have never seen this happen. Every time, what I see is the renter, loses his/her/their rent and home and it falls on them. I know all the different organizations that help people locate into homes are being stressed by this influx. The people going to work, trying to have normal family life, have my sympathy. If someone comes up with a direct fund raiser to help these people, please post.

jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

That's actually a good idea.

I wonder if it's legal to write legislation that penalizes a landlord in that situation by making them pay moving costs for their tenants.

Any lawyers?

Gotalife 2 years, 8 months ago

I think we should penalize homeowners for the same thing. Look at my comment above about other run down NL structures. Homeowners who keep their properties in this condition (falling down, sagging structures, piles of debris) should be forced to bring everything up to code because of the health, environment, and safety concerns of the surrounding neighborhood.

jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

I might agree with that too.

I just wonder if it's legal to write legislation about it.

Anybody?

Peacemaker452 2 years, 8 months ago

I believe that Kansas already has laws that require the landlord to compensate tenants in certain situations where the landlord did not maintain the property. Getting anyone to enforce the laws against a out of state landlord would probably be difficult.

pace 2 years, 8 months ago

I would like to see them try just a little bit harder. yes there are some laws, but I have never seen them enforced in regards to the tenants. The current policy is it is the tenants responsibility to take the landlord to court. Not their business. I could tell horror stories about the back slapping in city hall.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 8 months ago

"should be forced to bring everything up to code ... " "Codes" are ever changing. Forcing homeowners, businesses, etc. to bring structures up to code whenever they change would force every owner to abandon their properties. Another one of those good ideas until you really think about it.

Gotalife 2 years, 8 months ago

It is a good idea when they appear to obviously lean, are falling down, have broken windows, boarded up siding, etc. This is a hazard for those who live in them as well.

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