Archive for Monday, January 9, 2012

Lawrence City Commission considering enforcing limits on how many unrelated people can live in a single-family home

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 Tuesday evening meeting 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,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm. “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 multi-family 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 cell phone 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. on Tuesday at City Hall.


kernal 6 years, 3 months ago

Yeow! Sounds like this new and improved ordinance has some teeth to it. So glad I'm not in the property management business.

Scott Kaiser 6 years, 3 months ago

Quote: "The proposal would require out-of-town landlords to hire a “resident agent” who serves as a city contact for enforcement matters."

This undoubtably would require licensing, at a fee. Them Commissioner Boys are really getting creative about revenue generation.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 3 months ago

The fees and fines pay for the costs of enforcement. They are probably not high enough when you think about tracking records, court costs, police, and staff.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 3 months ago

No big deal. If big gubment says I can't share a cheap arrangement with my college buddies I can always go rent from Compton.

Hey, wa-a-a-it a minute!

Since we're being forced to purchase something we may not want to or need (an extra apartment), I have to ask--how many council members are property owners or have crinks with property owners.

jjt 6 years, 3 months ago

A single Mom with two children lives in a home, she finds herself wanting to live with a single Dad also with two children. Is that illegal in Lawrence? Thus is the code unenforceable?.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 3 months ago

The ordinance says "three unrelated". Then, exceptions are listed. I'm not sure how your example fits.

JimmyJoeBob 6 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like City Government trying to get bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper into everyone's pockets

Carol Bowen 6 years, 3 months ago

We would not need this ordinance if rental units in residential neighborhoods had not become a major problem. I'm all for self-regulation, but it's not happening. The landlords who have always taken care of their properties have not been affected.

kristeniswright87 6 years, 3 months ago

If only landlords like that existed in Lawrence.

mcmandy 6 years, 3 months ago

They do exist...few and far between, but they do. I've rented from three :)

asixbury 6 years, 3 months ago

The good landlords are usually the ones that only own a few rentals. The big rental companies are mostly a**holes and are the ones necessitating this ordinance. I love my landlord, but he is with a small rental company that only owns a few places in Lawrence.

budman 6 years, 3 months ago

Jesus Christ. More government intrusion into the lives of private citizens.

Private property is called privat property for a reason. Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves as we speak.

Hardrain 6 years, 3 months ago

How about the right of a private property owner to not have a cycle of 6-10 college kids next door throwing parties every night and wrecking your property value?

In the words of George Costanza, "WE ARE LIVING IN A SOCIETY," and sometimes government needs to intrude on the rights of slumlords to ensure other homeowner's rights aren't trampled

JimmyJoeBob 6 years, 3 months ago

Use the Codes Enforcement Unit that already exists. There are three or four people working in that office. No need to create more rules and charge people more money when we have a unit to take care of these problems.

beatrice 6 years, 3 months ago

Two unmarried couples can't share a house. How is this an example of small government?

Brian Laird 6 years, 3 months ago

I guess that technically each couple could register as a domestic partnership with the city and I would imagine that the city would have difficulty saying that no relationship existed.

Brian Laird 6 years, 3 months ago

I guess that technically each couple could register as a domestic partnership with the city and I would imagine that the city would have difficulty saying that no relationship existed.

Brock Masters 6 years, 3 months ago

Limiting the number of unrelated people living in a home is the wrong way to go about it. Address the "crime" and do not set an arbritray limitation on who can rent a home. Add fines for littering, noise, etc. regardless of how many related or unrelated people live in the home.

4 senior unrelated adults living in a home is a crime, but a family with six kids, 3 dogs, 4 cats, and a whole lot of relatives that like to party all weekend isn't???

Punish the people who litter, who create a public nuisance, etc. not people who are law abiding and perhaps unable to afford their own home and share with others.

mcmandy 6 years, 3 months ago

I see where you're coming from, but there are laws that I have seen enforced (however irregularly) regarding noise and blight. I've lived in the Oread, East Lawrence, and the area southeast of campus and never had issues with any neighbors except college-aged groups who obviously had many more roommates than was practical for their houses. That's not to say that instances like you say don't arise, but in my experience they're not the majority.

I think enforcing the three unrelated residents rule could crack down on a lot of issues, especially in the Oread. I've never loved a house as much as the one I lived in on Tennessee Street, but I had to move after one year due to the infiltration of noise and trash caused by my neighbors, all whom would have been affected by this ordinance. They should be enforcing all these ordinances all the time, but I can see where that is a very expensive endeavor for the city.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 3 months ago

I understand but why regulate the entire population over the misdeeds of a few?

JimmyJoeBob 6 years, 3 months ago

It won't stop people from coming over to visit and park their cars on the street and have loud parties.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 3 months ago

How about making sure all owners of rented property are registered as landlords.Many who only own 1 or 2 properties outside of the property they live in are flying under the radar.Who enforces code with them?The last one we lived in didn't even have any smoke detectors.

GSR1855 6 years, 3 months ago

The few properties that are ruining this for all rentals need to be addressed. Adding more regulations that cannot be enforced any better than the ones already on the books won't solve the problem. As for parking, alot of students park near the KU campus, who don't live in the area, because they won't pay the parking fees on campus. There is no city regulation that will resolve that problem!

thinkinganalytically 6 years, 3 months ago

It seems to me the the problem for neighbors is that "single-family neighborhoods have become prone to noise, litter, parking problems". If that is the problem, the solution is to regulate the behavior, not try to make something associated with the behavior illegal. After all single families can make a neighborhood trashy, multiple unrelated people can be very neat. I lived in a house with five unrelated people while in graduate school. There was no issue with parties, trash, or parking. If, however, the goal is to drive up demand for rental apartments, and therefor increase apartment rents in the short run, and apartment construction in the long run, then the proposed regulation does make sense.

@GSR1855-there are potential city regulations that can resolve resident parking problems. Many municipalities have residential parking permits for specific areas of town. Communities have been doing it for years.

Don Whiteley 6 years, 3 months ago

With the new liberal marriage laws, why worry? If six unrelated college guys live together, they can pair up, marry each other, and be fully within the law PLUS qualifying for lots of government benefits. Shoot, a couple more years and they can even marry their dogs too. Come graduation time, they all get divorced, go their own way, and the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill...again.

beatrice 6 years, 3 months ago

Yes, when only men and women are married, only then is it a sacred bond. Just ask a Kardashian.

Matthew Herbert 6 years, 3 months ago

As a landlord, I take great pride in the fact that all of my properties are flipped abandoned foreclosures. I have improved neighborhoods, not destroyed them. When You say "I don't want rentals in my neighborhood" you do so very narrow mindedly. First, I can show you 1,000 owner-occupied properties in this town that have gone to crap because the home owner doesn't maintain their property. As a landlord, I HAVE to keep my properties nice; it's called supply and demand. If I want high dollar, I must provide high quality. Secondly, your statement implies all renters are bad neighbors. Not having enough money to buy a house does NoT make you a bad neighbor. Being a classist bigot does

budman 6 years, 3 months ago

I could undertand families being upset when college students are bad neigbors. But enforcing arbitrary housing codes that would do unnecessary harm to realators is no the way to go.

And its not like Lawrence cops take noise complaints lightly.

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