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City commissioners move forward on expanding rental registration program to all rentals in Lawrence

November 27, 2012

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Get out your checklist, Lawrence landlords.

A majority of city commissioners on Tuesday said they were ready to move forward on a new program that would require every rental unit in the city — all 18,000 of them — to register with the city and undergo periodic inspections for code violations.

“I have seen some pretty awful sites in town that need to be cleaned up,” Mayor Bob Schumm said. “I think this is going to be a big step for the community, and a positive step.”

At the moment, though, it is a step with a lot of unanswered details. Commissioners did not approve a specific program Tuesday evening. Instead, they directed staff members to prepare a report on how to implement a rental registration program that eventually would cover every rental unit in the city.

But commissioners said because of the enormity of the task, they understand it may take several years to fully implement the program. Commissioners likely will receive the report in January. Commissioners approved creation of the report on a 5-0 vote, but City Commissioner Mike Amyx indicated he may not be able to support the final plan. He had argued the city should expand the program to inspect only rentals 50 years or older.

Currently the city requires only rental homes in single-family-zoned neighborhoods to register, which includes an inspection once every three years. The single-family rentals, however, represent only about 10 percent of the city’s rental units.

City staff members are estimating they will need to hire five new code enforcement officers and two new administrative support positions to fully implement the rental inspection program. Startup costs are estimated to be about $370,000. Commissioners were told the current $25-per-year rental registration fee may need to be raised to $30 to fully cover the operating costs of the rental inspection program.

But commissioners directed staff members to look at several scenarios that may require city staffers to do fewer inspections. Those include the idea of allowing landlords who have routinely passed inspections to have units inspected on a less regular basis — perhaps once every five years instead of every three. Commissioners also mentioned the idea of using a sampling method to inspect large apartment complexes, rather than inspecting each unit.

Leaders from about eight different neighborhoods urged city commissioners to expand the program. A pair of representatives with the Lawrence Apartment Association argued against an expansion, warning the city that it was creating a large bureaucracy to tackle a limited problem. They also said the inspections and fees would place an undeserved burden on the apartment industry.

“I challenge you to find an industry that is more vested in this community than the apartment industry,” said Matt Hoy, a Lawrence attorney who represents the association. “Who pays more in property taxes in this town than the apartment industry? They’re your friends, your neighbors. The Lawrence Apartment Association is not an organization full of rich fat cats.”

Commissioners tried to alleviate some concerns of the industry.

“I know a lot of good landlords who are fearful of this,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “But I think this is just a responsibility we have. I think this will level the playing field for the industry though. Cheaters rent cheaper, typically.”

Commissioners said rental inspections would continue to focus on living and safety issues such as ensuring rental units have proper ingress and egress, smoke alarms, ventilation and other similar code issues. But commissioners also said the inspections could provide the city an opportunity to work on broader neighborhood issues such as problems with trash or poorly kept exteriors.

Comments

Loretta James 1 year, 4 months ago

They know jayhawk mgmt doesn't take care of their property since mushroom were growing in the hall. They should have inspected all their propertys, they would have found massive violations.

They should also make the companys give back deposits and the current month rent when they have to move in the middle of the month, no waiting 30 days to refunds it. Quit making it hard on the tenant. Look at all mobil home parks all are in need of bringing up to code.

Also if a city comminsioner is a landlord he should not be part of the planning. Amyx only wants it on property over 50 years old. Has he got a screw loose.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 4 months ago

Who is inquiring? Tamara Quinn from Topeka Capitol? Kinda reminds me of Salina Piece. J/W wouldn't touch the story until kc star did just as with Francisco's 3% loans. JW let's the other papers do the work and then follow.

Lawrence being led by Schumm , well is bad for Lawrence . Guy cannot even get a grip on the blight downtown, but worries about awnings.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 4 months ago

Topeka Capitol has been following the antics in Lawrence for some time not to mention massive down zoning of Oread . Who really wants this stuff? Schumm doesn't have the guts to identify and like wise the staff either. Lawrence is being led by amateurs, duped by McCullough building a resume and the status quo endorsed by the JW be it registration, school bond issues, homeless and the T. Lawrence cannot attract big fish employers of course no labor pool. So the commission fiddles away time on puddly stuff. Small minds try to fix small matters.

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LadyJ 1 year, 4 months ago

Inspections only for buildings 50 yrs and older, I don't think Colony Woods was anywhere near 50 yrs old when one of their decks collapsed http://www2.ljworld.com/news/1996/feb... which led to the city to consider changing the building codes http://www2.ljworld.com/news/1996/mar... Just because it's newer doesn't mean it's safe, it just means they get a free pass for 50 years.

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Gotland 1 year, 4 months ago

WHy not inspect all houses, rental or not. THere are plenty of owner occupied homes that are dumps and unsafe.

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LadyJ 1 year, 4 months ago

Acorn, Renaissance, and Wilbur, did you by any chance get an e-mail from a reporter in Topeka regarding comments you made on this story http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/mar... and wanting to ask you questions?

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gilly 1 year, 4 months ago

Registration and inspection are good ideas, and it's about time the city took them seriously. While there are responsible landlords in Lawrence, many are slumlords, and they have gotten away with renting out housing that they either don't maintain or ineffectually maintain. Students pay for that kind of housing, and slumlords rely on their naivete and transience to get away with it. I think the city should not only fine slumlords but offer tours of inspection failures to the general public. It's a badly needed reality check for those who think that registration and inspection are "government overreach."

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 4 months ago

The city might do well be starting to enforce the blight downtown? How about that Mr. Schumm and Mr. Carter? We know Amyx won't has he has had plenty of chances being a commissioner several times.

This rental stuff is much like homeless and the T and sidewalk dining. That is all the commission can do . They are inept at attracting vialbe employers to contribute to the tax base. (Probably best they aren't coming, because any new revenue contributed is spent 10 fold before getting it).

Amateurs at work at City Hall. Lead by Schumm, duped by McCullough, endorsed by the J/W.

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Matthew Herbert 1 year, 4 months ago

As the owner of many rental properties, all of which are currently registered with the city (I paid my annual fee and have never heard from a single inspector, by the way) I am fine with inspections that focus on safety issues. I take pride in the fact that my properties when purchased were run down foreclosures that I have renovated to be in far better condition as rentals than they EVER were as owner-occupied/turned bank-owned properties. I am more than happy to prove to the city that my properties are made safe for tenants. It was the last line of the newspaper article that has me worried about massive government overreach - "But commissioners also said the inspections could provide the city an opportunity to work on broader neighborhood issues such as problems with trash or poorly kept exteriors."

poorly kept exteriors? Seriously? Could you get more vague with your definitions of what your 'inspectors' will be looking for?

Stick to inspections for the purpose of public safety and safety alone. The city commission doesn't need to be spending resources (or billing us to pay for) assessing the quality of the exterior on anyone's property.

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HutchSaltHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

I would be willing to bet that all of the single-family homes used as rentals are not inspected. The house next to mine is a dump !

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Keith Richards 1 year, 4 months ago

This system should be complaint based. Talk about an overreach of government.

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Gotland 1 year, 4 months ago

I've seen this government dance before. It adds up to a lot of nothing. The only winners are the few who soak up that 300+K.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 4 months ago

I see a burgeoning government bureaucracy that once implemented, will be nearly impossible to reign in.

If there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed right now, then do it. If it's a small problem, one that can wait, then wait until we're in better times. If this is a feel good solution in search of a significant problem, then put this so far on the back burner that it'll never see the light of day.

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cowboy 1 year, 4 months ago

Sounds like a major cluster **** already. My thoughts.. Ditch the existing inspections Inspect all over 30 years old Inspect only every 5 years Create some schedule for compliance i.e. safety immediate , codes compliance on a longer period Change the permitting process so owners can have repairs made or do themselves and have an inspection , currently they would have to have a licensed contractor perform the repair on plumbing / electrical / structural. Publish an inspection criteria so owners can prepare and inspections will be consistent. Including what features will be waived like egress requirements in older units.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 4 months ago

"City Commissioner Mike Amyx indicated he may not be able to support the final plan. He had argued the city should expand the program to inspect only rentals 50 years or older."

This is very arbitrary, and doesn't take into account that there are numerous structures well over 50 years old that have been very well-maintained, and lots of others between 20-50 years old that haven't.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

'Startup costs are estimated to be about $370,000."

The city gives away millions to developers. It is ready to blow $25-$40 million on a field house we don't need. It typically finds millions of dollars when it is a project they are interested in accomplishing.

Not having enough inspectors is not a new problem. Code enforcement has been under staffed for years. Not funding ENOUGH code enforcement staff is the same as deregulation. The current regulations are not enforceable due to lack of staff. City Hall knows this.

$30 per property is not that big a deal and if it helps fund the project this should work.

Age of a structure should have no bearing. In Lawrence,Kansas a relatively new structure can be in violation. Not only that builders and property owners cannot be trusted to honor site plans. Why? They know enforcement is weak.

Does a furnace that has been red tagged necessarily get replaced? Not from what I hear. There is not enforcement.

Keep in mind elected officials,people in city hall and other movers and shakers are property owners/slum lords. Don't expect much substance anytime soon. If ever.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 4 months ago

Will Neighborhood Resources actually provide resources or is the name of the department just that, a name?when is the last time the department provided resources? Not under Torres, not under, McCullough. Slightly under Goodell. Now, none under Schumm!

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