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Lawrence’s rental licensing ordinance at center of legislative dispute

March 6, 2012

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— The city of Lawrence and a neighborhood advocate on Tuesday urged legislators to help the city enforce its ordinance that aims to restrict the number of college students who can live in a rent house.

From left to right, Arly Allen, with the Centennial Neighborhood Association, state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Ed Jaskinia, with the Associated Landlords of Kansas, speak Tuesday after a hearing in the Capitol on Senate Bill 400, which the city of Lawrence says it needs to help enforce an ordinance that seeks to cap the number of unrelated people who can live in a rent house.

From left to right, Arly Allen, with the Centennial Neighborhood Association, state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Ed Jaskinia, with the Associated Landlords of Kansas, speak Tuesday after a hearing in the Capitol on Senate Bill 400, which the city of Lawrence says it needs to help enforce an ordinance that seeks to cap the number of unrelated people who can live in a rent house.

Related document

Senate Bill 400 ( .PDF )

"Quiet family homes have become weekend party palaces," Arly Allen with the Centennial Neighborhood Association told the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Allen said absentee landlords are packing in KU students into homes at $500 per room in violation of the city ordinance that caps at three the number of unrelated people who can live in a single-family dwelling.

The inability to enforce the city ordinance has chased away families, reduced the number of children in the area and led to elementary school closures, he said.

"Our neighborhoods deteriorate and the schools are suffering and all the families are suffering," he said. "Our neighborhoods are being converted into businesses," he said adding that the house next door to him recently had five students living there.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, introduced Senate Bill 400 on behalf of the city of Lawrence. The bill would allow cities to require landlords to provide lists of their tenants if a city had adopted an ordinance requiring owners of single family dwellings to obtain residential rental licensing permits prior to renting.

Lawrence has adopted such an ordinance, but almost immediately after it did so in 2000, the Legislature passed a bill that prohibited it from enforcing the requirement to provide a list of names of any tenants of a landlord.

SB 400 would provide an exception to that law. City Attorney Toni Wheeler said the city would also support a blanket repeal of the statute.

Wheeler said currently it is extremely difficult to enforce the ordinance. If the city receives a complaint that there are more than three unrelated people living in a rented single-family house, the city tries to contact the owner. If the owner doesn't cooperate, she said, the city must have inspectors monitor activity at the dwelling to determine if there is a violation.

"If we were able to get a list of tenants, it would save time," she said.

But the Kansas Association of Realtors and Associated Landlords of Kansas opposed the bill.

Luke Bell, vice president of governmental affairs of the realtors group, said cities have zoning, safety and health ordinances that they can enforce if there is a problem.

He said if the Legislature allowed unnecessary restrictions on private property that could increase rental costs.

Ed Jaskinia, president of the Associated Landlords of Kansas, said the Lawrence ordinance violated the privacy rights of tenants and landlords.

Several members of the committee seemed hesitant to support the bill.

State Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said single-family homes can become party houses regardless of the number of students living in the house.

"You have my genuine sympathy," he told Allen, but added, "I don't know that having a list of occupants is really going to get at the problem."

Chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said he would let the bill "simmer" for a while so that committee members could hear from others about the proposal.

Comments

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 9 months ago

Umm.....isn't State senator Marci Francisco a Lawrence landlord? Somewhere here there is a saying about rocks and glass houses.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

Maybe landlords and renters should recuse themselves from this topic.

Liberty275 2 years, 9 months ago

"Sen. Francisco seems to be doing her job by advocating what the City has requested of her to do"

She should be listening to the people, not the city. The city didn't elect her.

LadyJ 2 years, 9 months ago

I believe Francisco's rentals are mostly in area's zoned for multi-residential. They take older big houses and divide them up into apartments. Now ask her if she would support an ordinance requiring "all" rentals to be licensed and inspected and she what she says.

George_Braziller 2 years, 9 months ago

All of marci's properties would pass inspections without a problem.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 9 months ago

I am making no such accusation. I merely find it funny that Sen. Francisco is 'coming to the rescue' of neighbors who are tired of seeing their neighborhoods become rental-villes, all the while profiting off of said rental properties.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Actually profiting off multi family properties that are the root of the problem. They dont have to comply with the current ordiances... But hey, if it's good enough for Compton,Stultz and the rest of the "special interest" it must be good for her. What a load of C&%P we let them get a way with!

Orwell 2 years, 9 months ago

Making a profit and following the law. Which one do you oppose, or is it just the combination of the two?

Liberty275 2 years, 9 months ago

If she is a public official and stands to put herself at advantage by limiting her competition's ability to rent, perhaps she should recuse herself. That seems fair.

kernal 2 years, 9 months ago

Didn't there used to be a problem for landlords getting insurance on single family detached dwellings that were used as rental properties if the number of tenants exceeded a certain number? Did that clause go away?

fudgystuff 2 years, 9 months ago

Maybe the CIty shouldn't have rezoned all the houses along Tennessee & Ohio as multi family. Those houses used to have families in them yrs ago. Now they are split into 5-6 rooms per house sharing 1 or 2 bathrooms. The city makes decisions and then they complain about it later. hummmm? What did they think was going to happen? I doubt if those particular owners are paying $25 per tenant, they are probably paying only $25 for one house with 6-7 students living under one roof. I know one house that has up to 10 students living there........

optimist 2 years, 9 months ago

I for one don't like the ordinance as it is written. It's invasive to demand a list of names and for the city to involve itself in a private business transaction provided no harm comes to others. It shouldn't matter who or how many live there only that they are good neighbors. One way to regulate it without overstepping property owner's right to fair use of their property or the tenant’s privacy is to require off street parking. Prohibit parking along these streets during the hours of 2am and 6am. If people can't park they won't live there. Parties and other issues can be addressed with existing noise and nuisance ordinances. If a property becomes a problem then fine the property owner and/or tenants.

Jonathan Fox 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree, it's their property, and I think they should be allowed to use it as they please, so long as they don't disturb the peace of neighbors (which is a simple phone call to the police) other than that, I don't see how it is anyone else's business. This is a college town, you can't just ban students from your neighborhood. The landlord rightfully purchased the property and rents it out to students, and they should be allowed to do with it as they please so long they don't break the law.

Right to privacy trumps inconvenienced neighbors.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Arly needs to find a new hobby.. He has no idea what he is talking about!

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

Unfortunately, whether Arly wants to admit it or not, neighborhoods change over time.

For example, there used to be lots of kids on our block. Then all our children grew up and moved away...but we aging parents still live here. This being the case, whose "fault" is it that there are no more kids on the block???

It seems to me that Arly wants things to be the way they used to be...but isn't willing to admit that he - by still living there himself - is partially "to blame" for fewer children living in the neighborhood and attending local schools :-)

No. I'm not saying he should move. I'm simply saying that he needs to acknowledge his own role in the changes of his neighborhood.

muddfoot55 2 years, 9 months ago

A dead give away should be the number of mailboxes on the house. If that doesn't work, can you ask the Postal Service?

itsalwayssunnyinlarry 2 years, 9 months ago

if there are multiple mailboxes it's a house split into separate apartments and doesn't fall into this.

melott 2 years, 9 months ago

These people all get their mail in one box. A rental house is a business, even if it's rentals to help pay for Johnny's housing, and as such can and should be regulated.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

This nonsense is just....well....so much nonsense: We got us this Arly Allen character, coupled with Francisco who was tossed out of the Oread Neighborhood Association because she and her cronies weren't looking after the neighborhood in general: They were foxes in the henhouse taking care of their own personal properties and peddling influence wherever they could. Still do, too: Francisco is a co-organizer of "new" and rather clandestine "neighborhood group" The Oread Residents Association which calls itself a "club" and screens its members prior to allowing a resident or owner within the Oread neighborhood to "join" and "participate". What's even more amusing is dopes like Margene Swarts, city of Lawrence, entrenched big wig and who controls much of the planning dept., along with her boss, Scott McCullough give this "club" a wide berth and actually listen to what this secret organization has to say relative to the Oread Neighborhood! Incredible....only in Lawrence.

Some of us people here in Lawrence already live in ghettofied areas, filled with wannabe thugs, Greek hoodlums, and drunks who criminally destroy property, litter, and just generally take up space. These laws and restrictive city codes silliness essentially seal our collective lots/fate. Let the market place rule: Let's "share" some of these wonderful renters with the rest of Lawrence so they're not all so concentrated in one or two areas, please.

By the way....the houses/apartments/rooms filled with reefer smoking would be 1970's hippy types never seem to be the ones making any trouble. Nope, it's the "organized groups" and their sense of self-entitlement with their Daddy's SUV and thumping ghetto rap crud who seem to always be in the limelight.

I'm always thrilled to death when I see people like Arly Allen get to contend with such irresponsible behavior as those of us in the core inner city of Lawrence are subjected to. "We" don't need no legislation or city codes. "We" need to let the market place dictate where these sterling citizens live, reside, whatever. Let their criminal actions move further west out over where the gentry own stuff....and let Arly Allen and Francisco and her cronies sit on tacks.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah? The story you heard? A free and democratic election open to any and all with business in the Oread Neighborhood is what displaced Francisco and her band of strumpets.

So, not_holroyd, I take it you support a club that restricts its membership to cronies only and then promotes itself as representing the entire neighborhood? What a hoot! http://oreadresidents.org/

The city of Lawrence has no business "recognizing" clubs that restrict their membership (race? color? creed? National origin? gender? age? income? sexual orientation? religion? Etc.). Period. However, according to not_holroyd, if a group establishes itself within a neighborhood and it's sole purpose is to make certain it remains white; or doesn't allow Muslims (or Jews for that matter), etc., etc., etc., etc., the City of Lawrence shall provide said group the exact same amount of City based recognition as well as "input"?

Finally, not_holroyd, you have displayed your not so latent bigotry and bias. shrug Thanks for playing. You lose.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

http://www2.ljworld.com/crime-map/2011/ is the "crime map" for Lawrence. Notice how much/most of the crime is centered in a couple of specific areas? What's that? No crime in Arly Allen's neighborhood? What's ole Arly doing to help the rest of us out? Is he only worried about his own sorry backside? What a wonderful community minded boy ole Arly Allen is.....

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

If ex-City Commissioner Lance Johnson didn't/doesn't have to pay his property taxes, why should anyone else? When a property sells, the County gets paid first! Good business! Increased cash flow!! Get a clue, please not_holroyd!!! hahahahahhahahahaha

headdoctor 2 years, 9 months ago

I would take a wild guess and bet that most of these houses that are being complained about are located in a multifamily zone or are part of the large chunk of houses that became exempt from City licensing when the City rezoned the areas from RS to PUD and didn't bother to update their licensing laws to cover that. I would think that some of those houses in the PUD would be in areas that would certainly draw complaints if they were turned into a college house.

streetman 2 years, 9 months ago

Has this ordnance ever been challenged in court? Doesn't seem that it would stand a chance. Four students in a house is illegal, but if two of them are sisters, no problem?? Four unrelated people in a house is illegal, but 12 in the house next door is OK if they are a family?? Sounds like the definition of "arbitrary and capricious."

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

I have to admit that I've been wondering how comes it's OK to have 4 people living in a house with 4 bedrooms if they're a family (or at least some of them are related), but not OK if they're not?

pablo94 2 years, 9 months ago

I grew up in the Centennial neighborhood until I was 13 (late sixties to early 80s). It has always had a close relationship to the campus and always had a mixture of families and students like most of Lawrence.

Frankly, those old neighborhoods should really feel lucky they were never redeveloped to allow apartment buildings to go into the neighbhorhood, which is how Lawrence "leaders" ruined many other parts of town over the years. ie, build a bunch of homes and then allow mulitplexes and apartment buildings around them to drive down property value, which is what happened to my parents property off Kasold and Clinton Parkway once the apartments started in the mid-eighties. Or worse be allowed to be take some architecturally significant home/artifact (say the house at the corner of 21st and Alabama) and chop it up into 12 rooms with no chance for ever restoring the property similiar to the Oread scenario.

Anyway, It is a simple solution if they must have an ordinance at all. A single family home is designed and built with X # of bedrooms. So if the house has 3 bedrooms it should allow 3 tennnants, 4 bedrooms, 4 tennants, etc. Of course, this logic assumes all renters are of the age of 18 and considered adults. Dens are per the building code and would not be allowed as bedrooms and would not qualify as another bedroom.

Then you just have the usual headaches...enough parking, loud music and laughter--god forbide!

And really if you are going to close down the grade school, yes I was a Cardinal, not offer any parks or recreation nearby, not improve your access and city streets, then you really haven't maintained a desireable neighbhorhood environment that encourages young mid-income couples to come in purchase homes and start a family and stay for generations to come.

So the neighborhood dies, gets rented, or worse torn down and one of the big three puts up a massive apartment complex on Naismith that ruins the neighborhood altogether.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

So, a couple can't share a bedroom according to your plan? Bedrooms are for one person and one person only.

Alceste thinks/believes a lot of married couples living in a one bed room house might take issue with this absurd notion of what a bedroom is and how many people can occupy it.

Centennial has had it's day. It's over. Those owning and living in Centennial need to learn to adjust to the changes or get out. That's what a lot of us were told who own and reside in the core inner aspect of Lawrence: "Deal with it or sell". Centennial is right on the line of being part of that core inner. shrug

Them's just be annoyed due to market realities at this time that were created by caca who reside in far west Lawrence (East Topeka, really) and could care less about anything East of Wakarusa. The rich run this town and that's all there is to it. Gnash your teeth all you desire; wring your hands; hold meetings; join clubs. It's over. Arly Allen needs to accept his lot in life. The old gray mare? She ain't what she used to be.......

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

I think Pablo's idea was more to suggest that the number of bedrooms would be a better determinant of how many tenants could be allowed, rather than some arbitrary and capricious figure. After all, why should a 5 bedroom house be limited to 3 tenants??

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

Yes. After re-reading, I concur, acornworks. Wasn't trying to be "hard" on pablo94. Alceste is just darn disgusted and annoyed at all the school marms out there that want to dictate what a property owner can and cannot do with property the school marms don't own.

And, acornwebworks, your remark about Arly Allen's inability to accept the reality neighborhoods change is spang on. Thank you for your "voice of reason". I know it was a dirk that Allen and Company simply need to grasp....blade side preferably.

melott 2 years, 9 months ago

No. Centennial is zoned single family. So the comparison to to other areas is irrelevant.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

zoning shmoning.....the game is over. Centennial is, for the most part, a vast wasteland.

As one city commissioner once asked a citizen "You want the bulldozer?"

Liberty275 2 years, 9 months ago

This is plainly an invasion of privacy and severely open to abuse. While it is fair for the landlord to know the names of all renters, it really none of the government's business unless you are under probation or have some other unrelated business with the government.

Kendall Simmons 2 years, 9 months ago

Oh, come on. Lots of people...young people...have been "raised with the value of being good citizens and neighbors". Unfortunately, people have also LONG been raised with the "value" of being judgmental and eager to stereotype :-(

Darrell Lea 2 years, 9 months ago

I want to tell you all a story 'bout a Harper Valley widowed wife Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High Well her daughter came home one afternoon and didn't even stop to play She said, "Mom, I got a note here from the Harper Valley P.T.A."

The note said, "Mrs. Johnson, you're wearing your dresses way too high It's reported you've been drinking and a-runnin' 'round with men and going wild And we don't believe you ought to be bringing up your little girl this way" It was signed by the secretary, Harper Valley P.T.A.

Well, it happened that the P.T.A. was gonna meet that very afternoon They were sure surprised when Mrs. Johnson wore her mini-skirt into the room And as she walked up to the blackboard, I still recall the words she had to say She said, "I'd like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley P.T.A."

Well, there's Bobby Taylor sittin' there and seven times he's asked me for a date Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lot of ice whenever he's away And Mr. Baker, can you tell us why your secretary had to leave this town? And shouldn't widow Jones be told to keep her window shades all pulled completely down?

Well, Mr. Harper couldn't be here 'cause he stayed too long at Kelly's Bar again And if you smell Shirley Thompson's breath, you'll find she's had a little nip of gin Then you have the nerve to tell me you think that as a mother I'm not fit Well, this is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites

No I wouldn't put you on because it really did, it happened just this way The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A. The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A.

"Harper Valley P.T.A." by Tom T. Hall

Scott Tichenor 2 years, 9 months ago

No matter what the laws, Bonita "the slumlord" Yoder will find a way to abuse the system.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

Word on the street is that Yoder was the recipient of a Lawrence city subsidized 3% home purchase loan when Community Development Block Grant monies first came into Lawrence....along with state senator Francisco and a slew of other "movers and shakers"... when the money's essential purpose was to be available for low income, owner occupied HOMES. Anybody have any facts about this word on the street?

How the populace chooses to forget and then, again, what the populace chooses to remember makes a body burst out laughing. It's kinda sorta like walking up or down "Mass. St." and recollecting which dope deal financed which store front.....many of which are still in business this very day......people like to forget things I guess...shrug

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

The way Schumm manipulated the property tax "laws" and "rules", what with changing a vacant, blighted lot in the downtown area and "donating" it as a "community garden" was so magnanamous. I'm sure it had nothing to do with, essentially, negating any property tax obligation. That lot is like obligated to pay $20.00 per year. Meanwhile, Schumm sits out the "great recession" waiting for the next "opportunity".: Alceste's money says as soon as an opportunity rises, no more "community garden".

Look how a "civic leader" fleeces the tax payer....just as another "civic leader" Lance Johnson has done: (Is ex Commissioner Johnson current on all his property tax obligations NOW? Too much work to find out: http://www2.ljworld.com/propertyvalues/?q=Lance+Johnson )

0800 Blk #02 Vermont Lawrence $20 Robert J Schumm http://www2.ljworld.com/propertyvalues/?q=schumm

BrentS 2 years, 9 months ago

You can call for an inspection yourself, but don't count on it helping. I and my (two, thank-you-very-much) college roommates lived in a house which developed an astonishing amount of black mold in the basement, and then was subsequently invaded by a family of possums that got into the floor through gaps between the foundation wall and the exterior sheathing. It took two visits from city inspectors just to get the management company to do anything about the problems we discovered, and their solution to the mold problem was to make us run a dehumidifier in the basement - at our expense - rather than seal up the house.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 9 months ago

I live in a house that I own in a single family neighborhood on the west side of town. I appreciate what this ordinance is trying to accomplish as town-gown relationships are often difficult. However, there are several houses on my street that are rentals. This ordinance didn't help our neighborhoods situation. One rental house had 17 people living in the house at one point and nearly all were related. It was two brothers, their two wives, their kids (one couple had 3, the other 5). Later a third brother and his pregnant wife moved. After that, the grandparents moved in too. Eventually, one unrelated man moved in. Nine people with nine cars. Four cars parked in the driveway, five on the street blocking the flow of traffic. The garage was being used as living space illegally. The other families had a rule banning their kids from playing with these kids as they weren't well behaved. Did I mention there were only 5 bedrooms in this house? They lived on the street for 3 years but finally were evicted for failing to pay rent. Can you imagine that many adults couldn't scrape together their rent? Nobody in this house attended KU. Before them and since them we've had students as neighbors. The KU students haven't been anywhere near the problem this extended family posed. Btw, this was a white family with ties to Manhattan, KS, Florida and Texas.

Alceste 2 years, 9 months ago

Rinkydink problem: Imagine having lived across the way from our town's wonderful "homeless shelter" which has made it's landlord, JAMES DUNN a wealthy fellow. Oh, did I mention that JAMES DUNN is a club member of the phantom Oread Residents Association? http://oreadresidents.org/ Landlord DUNN is also some mucky muck in a group called The Associated Landlords of Kansas (TALK) which is an association of Landlord groups. DUNN was or is the Vice President of his district....or the President of the entire outfit. Maybe the data is outdated because the website is http://www.kansaslandlords.com/chapters.html. "They" "stepped out for a bit". Maybe they're all busy counting that homeless shelter rental income that Lawrence has been paying landlord DUNN for just how long? Howz that money been being divvvvvvvied up?! Who wants to bet that DUNN continues to receive rental income for that building for "programming" for our ever so hapless "guests" of the homeless facility?

Ain't it grand to be able to have it both ways?

So, JayhawkFan1985....rinkydink problem when compared to what some of us have had to deal with for years and years and years and years and years. Be glad that's ALL you've had to deal with.....

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 9 months ago

The problem I described may very well be rinkydink as you say. My point is that the city's ordinance wasn't going to be able to solve all the problems of Lawrence nor were college students the cause of all the problems. And I was complaining about the hillbillies that disrupted our little slice of heaven for a while.

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