Archive for Monday, January 9, 2012

City to consider stricter enforcement of rental ordinance

January 9, 2012


Three is the magic number, and Lawrence city commissioners are poised to get more serious about making local landlords and tenants understand it.

City commissioners at their meeting Tuesday will consider a host of rental regulations to crack down on landlords and renters who disobey the city ordinance that prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in a single-family home.

The proposal would require out-of-town landlords to hire a “resident agent” who serves as a city contact for enforcement matters. It also would beef up the city’s rental registration program, in effect making it a system where the city could deny problem landlords from leasing particular properties.

“These seem like excellent ideas to me,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said. “These landlords understand what they’re doing when they overload these houses. Single-family neighborhoods are set up for a reason. Lots of people have their entire net worth in their homes, and they deserve better protection than what they’re getting today.”

Several neighborhood groups have complained that the city has been lax in enforcing the approximately decade-old ordinance that prohibits more than three unrelated people from leasing a single-family home. The result, many neighbors say, is that single-family neighborhoods have become prone to noise, litter, parking problems and other issues related to overcrowding of properties.

But on Monday, several landlords said the city had done a poor job of informing landlords of the possible rental changes, and some questioned whether the city was unfairly singling out only a portion of the Lawrence rental market for regulations. Only rental units in single-family neighborhoods are subject to the rental registration program. Apartment complexes and units in multifamily zoned areas, like the Oread neighborhood, aren’t subject to the rental registration program.

“It just targets a very small group of people, and it seems like they are trying to drive some of them out of business,” said Sofiana Olivera, of Lawrence-based A&S; Rental Solutions. “To me it is really targeting the smaller owners.”

Among the regulations up for approval are:

• Absentee owners of rental property, defined as any owner who lives more than 40 miles outside the city, must hire a local, resident agent to be responsible for the property. The city will require contact information for the resident agent, including a cellphone number, so that the agent can be contacted if problems arise at the property.

• A rental license can be revoked if a property is considered to be a “public nuisance.” A property can be declared a public nuisance if a property violates one or more of the following codes: anti-litter ordinance, disorderly house nuisance ordinance, property maintenance code, environmental code, or the land development code. Rather than revocation, the city also will have the option of placing a property on probation, which would give the property owner a set period of time to correct the violations.

• The city also will have greater authority to deny a property owner a rental license. If a property owner has had a rental license revoked for any property in the city during the last two years, that owner would be denied rental licenses on other properties in the community. The city also has a clause in the new regulations that allows it to deny an application for a particular piece of property, if that property has had its license revoked in the last two years.

• In addition to possible revocation of a license, a monetary fine can be levied against property owners who violate the code, and that includes landlords who allow more than three unrelated people to live in a single-family home. The new regulations increase the minimum fine from its current level of $250 to $500. The new code also makes it clear that the city’s Municipal Court judge has no ability to lower that fine.

• Tenants could get hit with a fine as well. If the tenants knowingly are violating the law by allowing more than three unrelated people to live in a single-family home, they could be subject to the fine. Previously, the city took the position that it was the landlord’s sole responsibility to ensure the code was followed.

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


justoneperson 6 years, 5 months ago

Ahhh, now I see what's going to happen with all of those empty [ and over-built] apartment properties. Problem solved

headdoctor 6 years, 5 months ago

What I would like to know is how many versions of this article is LJW going to launch on this same subject? This is at least three in the last two days. No your not getting bigger just fluffing with the same articles that you think are popular. Why bother to take the time to post when the Mickey Mouse search engine wont let you find the thread you did post on. Yes, I know there is a way to find it if I want to waste the time. Sorry Dolph, this site concept is nice but the mechanics of it blows.

itsalwayssunnyinlarry 6 years, 5 months ago

So this doesn't affect the "student ghetto"? the place where students are living in sometimes slum lord like conditions and actually need the government regulation? I'm not as concerned with the number of properties and how many reside in them.Just the fact that some of these homes are hardly inhabitable.

Alceste 6 years, 5 months ago

why do the "students" CHOOSE to live in the "student ghetto" and CHOOSE to live in "slum lord like conditions"? Don't these "students" take a look see before they rent? The vast majority of kiddies attending KU ain't "poor" so don't try to state "...they can't afford to pay more....". These "students" know what they're getting in to from the get and salivate to be in the properties they're in.....

itsalwayssunnyinlarry 6 years, 5 months ago

I think that's far from fair to say every college student is wealthy. Either way the properties are in terrible condition.

notyourmom 6 years, 5 months ago

Most of these properties are rented sight unseen. Because they're kids and they don't know any better. But, they are old enough to sign a contract, so the slum lords just love to have them sign on the line, "quickly, or someone else will get it before you".

notyourmom 6 years, 5 months ago

Most of these properties are rented sight unseen. Because they're kids and they don't know any better. But, they are old enough to sign a contract, so the slum lords just love to have them sign on the line, "quickly, or someone else will get it before you".

JackMcKee 6 years, 5 months ago

With the real estate market it's probably easier for people to rent out their home and move somewhere with actual jobs than it is to sell.

beaujackson 6 years, 5 months ago

Slumlords like Sofiana Olivera ARE the problem because they could care less about ruining single family zoned neighborhoods.

Many landlords have taken advantage of lax enforcement of rental ordinances by cramming as many students into their houses as possible. They have circumvented these ordinances for years because they know there will be no penalty for non-compliance.

Students love "living in the neighborhoods" because they can party, party, party! They have been "playing-house" and trashing central Lawrence neighborhoods for 20 years! Most of central Lawrence LOOKS like rental housing, because it IS.

Student rentals are reason for the decline of families in central Lawrence,. Also, for the inflated values of most central Lawrence housing for owner occupancy.

Rental housing is a " BUSINESS", and those landlords should be paying the same property tax rates as apartment owners. What's the difference?

Bottom line: Rental houses in SF zoned neighborhoods should limit the number of renters to two (2), because three renters automatically makes most of these houses more valuable to rent than for owner occupancy. Inflated sale-values for rental houses unfairly increase property values (TAXES) for similar owner occupied housing in those neighborhoods.

The proper fine for non-compliance should be $500.00 PER DAY.


Grump 6 years, 5 months ago

The city has already tried enforcement? Really? Did they send a stern letter to someone?

notyourmom 6 years, 5 months ago

Sooo, does that mean that the city is going to hire more than just that one person to monitor all of the rental properties in Lawrence?

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