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Archive for Monday, August 19, 2013

City provides more details on rental registration program

August 19, 2013

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From dirty furnace filters to leaky roofs, Lawrence landlords may want to start making a list and checking it twice.

City inspectors are moving closer to checking every rental unit in the city for those types of violations and a whole lot more.

The city will hold a meeting from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesday at Lawrence City Hall to go over the type of violations the city will be looking for and how often city inspectors will visit properties after a proposed rental registration and licensing program begins, probably in early 2014.

“We’re planning to do a lot of public outreach before this begins, and our hope is that landlords will look at these issues and start being proactive to get their properties in good condition,” said Brian Jimenez, the city’s code enforcement manager.

Here’s a look at some of the key details.

• All rental properties must register with the city once a year. Properties will be charged an annual license fee based on how many rental units they have to register. The fee schedule includes: $10 per dwelling unit for properties with 1 to 50 units; $9 per dwelling unit for properties with 51 to 100 units; $8 per unit for properties 101 to 150 units; $7 per dwelling unit for 151 units or more.

• Owners of rental property must have a local address within 40 miles of the city, or appoint a resident manager who lives within 40 miles of the city. The resident manager must have the legal authority to receive legal summons and other notices from the city.

• The city will create a system to inspect rental properties once every three years. Apartment complexes will have a sampling of their properties inspected. The city will inspect 10 percent of the units on a single property or up to 15 units. If a major violation is found in any of the units, the city inspector will have the immediate right to inspect an additional 10 percent of the units on the property.

• Landlords will pay a $50 per unit fee for every unit that is inspected by the city. Landlords also are liable for a $25 re-scheduling fee, if a landlord fails to show up for a city inspection.

• City officials have created a list of minor and major violations that could be found in rental units. Minor violations include: BBQ grill on deck; inoperable bathroom ventilation fan; clogged drain; cracked window; dirty furnace filter; poorly fitting doors; missing electrical panel door; extension cords used for permanent power source; small areas of mold or fungus; faulty ground fault electric outlets; violations of the city’s grass and weed ordinance; faulty handrails; inadequate storm drainage; leaky plumbing fixtures; broken light switch covers; inoperable smoke detectors; inoperable windows; missing window screens; small areas of rotting exterior siding or trim; yard trash or debris.

Major violations include: Over occupancy of a unit; backed up sewer line; improper ceiling heights; lack of deadbolt locks; improper dryer vents; improper egress for bedrooms; exposed or frayed electrical wiring; improper fire escapes; large area of mold or fungus; improperly vented furnace or water heater; no smoke detectors; roof leaks; structural deficiencies; windows without locks; large areas of rotting siding or trim.

The city also will take into consideration whether a tenant created the violation. If a landlord can show the tenant created the violation, that violation will have to be fixed but won’t be counted as violation that goes on the landlord’s record.

The proposed code gives city officials the authority to decline to issue or renew a rental license until violations at the property have been corrected. No property can be rented without a license. For violations that are deemed severe, the code gives city inspectors and the city’s Building Code Board of Appeals the authority to revoke a rental license, and to declare the property ineligible to receive a license for two years.

Jimenez said such revocations would be rare. The city has the same authority under its current inspection program for rental units in single family neighborhoods, but he said the city has not revoked any licenses under that system.

Instead, Jimenez said the city focuses on getting violations fixed.

“I think this is going to create a system where we’ll be able to identify where the bad properties are in the community, and really focus on getting them improved,” Jimenez said.

He said the system also is designed to reward landlords who keep their properties in good shape. If a property is inspected and averages five or fewer minor violations per unit, it won’t be required to be re-inspected for a period of six years.

Currently, the city only routinely inspects rental properties that are in single family-zoned neighborhoods. Rental inspections in other neighborhoods are done on a complaint basis.

City commissioners already have approved funding to create the rental registration and licensing program. But commissioners must still approve the ordinance and specific rules. Jimenez said that the ordinance could be presented to commissioners within the next month, depending on the feedback his department receives at Wednesday’s meeting.

Funding for the program will begin in 2014. Jimenez said the city is likely to try to have the program operational by early 2014.

Comments

joes_donuts 1 year, 4 months ago

Wow, that is not a Registration Program, that is requiring all properties to meet current city codes, regardless of when the property was build. "Grandfathered" properties will be a thing of the past.

What is going to happen when the city walks in a property and a water bong is sitting on coffee table? Look the other way or call the police? And if they don't call the police, if a fire is caused by smoking and the city did nothing, are they liable?

Big Brother is always watching, and why not make our local government bigger.

elliottaw 1 year, 4 months ago

The people will know a head of time so if they leave it there that is their own problem.

joes_donuts 1 year, 4 months ago

I would be willing to bet over 25% of the houses owner occupied in Lawrence wouldn't pass those tests, and most of the owner occupied are the newer houses (most rentals are older).

Not meeting egress standards, improper ceiling heights, structural deficiences, and improper fire escapes are not easy or cheap fixes. And before someone says those are needed, many houses have egress windows and fire escapes but they aren't up to current code.

elliottaw 1 year, 4 months ago

But they also are not making money but letting other people love in their buildings

jhawkinsf 1 year, 4 months ago

If properties that are seriously distressed are required to be brought up to code using today's standards and not the standards in use when they were built, some of those will require extensive renovations. Those costs will be passed on to renters, or the property will be taken off the market. The net effect will be that those renters at the very bottom of the market will find themselves priced out of the Lawrence market. What's the plan for them, subsidized housing, the new shelter, homelessness?

DanR 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes, the slumlords forced out of the market can live in subsidized (i.e., up-to-code) housing or the new shelter.

joes_donuts 1 year, 4 months ago

With the "full inspection" list above, it will take over an hour to do one rental property. This program will come nowhere close to paying for itself, nor will the city be able to come even close to checking everything they want to each year without at least doubling the number of inspectors originally proposed. And that is not including re-inspections that will have to be done on many properties, or paperwork/actions against uncooperative landlords.

The inspection list above is about the same as what a home inspector does before a bank gives a load. And they charge over $500 for a reason.

Look how much time it is still taking to get the Packard house issues solved (one house).

Eugehne Normandin 1 year, 4 months ago

home inspectors are not skilled trades men or women and usually miss real issues and cause headaches over minor problems and get paid way too much.

joes_donuts 1 year, 3 months ago

Mike,

There are bad apples in every barrell, but that doesn't mean you need to throw out the entire barrell. The city already has a process for tenants to get inspections. And according to 10 of your 8000 words above, the city did little when called. What makes you think they will do a better job now?

Bursting 1 year, 3 months ago

Mike, your last two comments:

  1. How would a once every 3 year inspection have stopped that mold which could have grown in a matter of days or weeks?

  2. Trust me, Realtors want issues taken care of in inspections. The last thing any of them would want is a homebuyer to come back to them with negativity after purchasing a property with issues that weren't found. Now that my friend is bad for referrals...

BringBackMark 1 year, 3 months ago

This entire program sounds like an absolute nightmare to administer. If there are building code violations in a rental unit the tenant should simply call the City, explain their concern, and the City look into it. The "People's Republic of Lawrence" is taking this way too far. Again we'll spend resources on a ridiculous program when there are so many needs in this community.

beezee 1 year, 3 months ago

Yep. A simple effective approach that several recommended some time ago. But noooo.... Lawrence has to go over the top.

I bought the place next door years back solely to be sure I had good neighbors. It's a NICE place! But it also was built turn-of-century. Been rewired, new copper plumbing, nicely kept.... And I rent it for relatively little because that way I do have nice neighbors who take care of it. But with this asinine program I have to see.... if the PITA-factor (P=pain, T=the) escalates I may use it for storage. I already have the tenants on month-to-month; at the 1st glimmer of City-PITA, they can go live in City Hall. "Deadbolts on doors?" "Approved egress?" [It's a 1-story!]. "Dirty FURNACE filter!?" [And just what constitutes THAT! The Martha Stewart standard!?]

Dan Blomgren 1 year, 3 months ago

This sounds like a bureaucratic mess! Has anyone put a pencil to this to see what the costs will be? Initial inspectors, follow up inspectors, secretarial, management over whole thing.....the list is never ending. And tell me the city doesn't have an idea already where the problem landlords are. Big government is not the answer.

workinghard 1 year, 3 months ago

If you own a home and have an unrelated person living with you, you probably fall under the rental laws. Think about it. That live in boyfriend or girlfriend or live in babysitter may put you in the rental category.

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

This program is INSANE and goes way too far !! I'm sorry a dirty furnace filter is a violation???

With this program I'm willing to bet that 50 percent of all propety's in Lawrence wouldn't meet these standards!

Boston_Corbett 1 year, 3 months ago

Other college cities have had similar inspection structures for decades, and they have not disappeared.

The doom and gloom forecast by many of the hobby-landlords here is pretty much natural, and wrong.

On the top of many good landlords is a set of landlords and units which are horrendous. And nobody can deny that.

Bursting 1 year, 3 months ago

Too Much Government!

We don't need training wheels Lawrence, if a tenant has a problem with a property then let them take the steps already in place to remedy the situation! If a landlord doesn't fix things, tenants can actually win damages in court. That's enough encouragement for me.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 3 months ago

As a rental owner and property manager myself (who has legally registered his properties with the city and been through the previous inspection process on most of my properties) I MOSTLY have no problem with this program as it exists today. The areas of concern for me with the new updated list of what we're looking for are two fold however. First (and primarily) I'm concerned about the growth of items which are tenant related. For example, I can ASSURE you that as a property manager I've never provided a bbq grill for a tenant to use on a deck. At the same time, I can also assure you that I've probably had tenants use bbq grills on decks. If this is a practice that the city wants to outlaw, outlaw the practice and punish the practicer. Ticketing a property owner for the crimes that occur by others on their property occurs with NO OTHER LAW. If a tenant gets busted with pot in one of my rentals, they are punished for possessing the pot, not me. The same should hold true for the presence of a bbq grill in an "illegal" location. Secondly, I am concerned about the generic language with which this is written. Any furnace filter that is not brand new is to some degree "dirty". At what level of "dirty" am I ticketed? The same question would be applied to damaged siding. At what level of "small areas" of damage am I going to be required to re-side? The language with which violations are written allows their enforcement to be too sporadic and inconsistent in my opinion.

jafs 1 year, 3 months ago

The article states that if the problem is tenant caused, it won't show up as a landlord violation.

Of course, there will need to be clarifications, but the idea is not to make you "re-side" for small amounts of damage - that's why they're called a "minor" violation, not a "major" one.

Inconsistent enforcement is always a concern, regardless of the law involved.

joes_donuts 1 year, 3 months ago

This will be enforced fairly and accurately for landlords and tenants alike... Just look at the nuisance house ordinance, the noise ordinance, the fireworks ordinance, the no couches on porches ordinance, the no grills on porches ordinance, etc...

If we just use the laws on our books, we could solve all the problems this new rental inspection to trying to address.

And if you think this program is going to pay for itself, I have a New Rec Center I will sell you....

imastinker 1 year, 3 months ago

Does anyone else see this for what it is: an obvious ploy to shut down older rental inventory and push rates up and more students into the big apartment complexes? These rules really aren't too onerous for a big apartment complex with on site management, but for a landlord with a few rental units who has to take off work to be at these inspections and have property that meets current buildings codes that were not in place when the house was built; this is a big deal!

Dan Blomgren 1 year, 3 months ago

Why is there not a 'down thumb' to go along with the 'up thumb' ?

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Well I think its time for the Landlords of Lawrence Group together and let the City of Lawrence know how just off the wall they are ! This is Insane !

What is the Legal Definition of a Dirty Furnace Filter ??? That is ther puopose is to collect Dust !!!

This to me is starting to Smell more like Stinch between the City and Doug Compton and the Fritzel family wanting to build more Apartments in Lawrence by getting the city to shut down older ones for their profit !

And you don't have to be a Genius to see that Fritzel and Comton own City Hall !! Look at Rock Park deal !! No Bid !!! Get real !!

As far as I'm concerned there should be a Federal Investagition into the entire city of Lawrence and the Compton's and Fritzels and all the under the tables doings !!!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Negligence by property owners brings on new regulations. Too many property owners thumb their noses at neighbors, neighborhoods and tenants. Tenants deposits and rental fees have made some worth a ton of dough. Whine they do but none get out of the business.

Tenants occupy 58% of residential in Lawrence,Kansas which dictates tenants as BIG TIME major stakeholders. Tenants it is YOUR best interest to be at this meeting.

In fact Tenants out number landlords by a significant margin and so do taxpayers who are NOT land lords.

Therefore combined we can be substantial stakeholders and influential in Lawrence,Kansas.

This is about protecting neighborhoods from the slumlords that do exist in Lawrence.

It is also about protecting the tenants in Lawrence from the slumlords who refuse to maintain their properties according to code. It isn't the cost of the programs that concern many property owners it is fear of the cost of updating their properties to meet code.

The cost of the Rental Registration program is about $2.00 per month or less. Several very close neighboring communities have rental registration at wayyyyyy more than $25.00 per year. Rental Registration is not a new concept.

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Merrill sounds like a Code Name for a Compton or Fritzel undercover guy !

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Those who are not slumlords have no reason to fear this low cost Rental Registration Program. There are some good landlords on the planet.

There are also some very nice tenants on the planet. They all deserve up to code housing.

If landlords threaten the tenants there is a large surplus of rental properties in Lawrence,Kansas so the question becomes how much will the slumlords PAY THE TENANT to stay?

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Also Merrill,

According to the article in the LJW today the Ordinance has NOT BEEN PASSED YET ! bY The City of Lawrence!

So there for it is NOT A ORDINANCE YET AS YOU SEEM TO TRY AND MAKE EVERYONE BELEIVE !

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

The Ordinance number came from city hall. The link is provided.

This is like a study session for stakeholders to share their views or just listen. Routine protocol.

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Normal Landlords (not Slumlords), need to unite and fight this out of line BS the City of Lawrence is trying to shove down our throats like Merrill (aka a Compton/Fritzel Lover :)

There are other normal ways of dealing with Slumlords than this BS!

Only Reason Merrill is for it is he wants to put small landlords out of business so him and Fritzel and Comptom and build more big apt buildings in Lawrence! Wake up people of Lawrence !

Oh and PS: Merrill get a real life !

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

In my neck of the woods there are good landlords perhaps not all but they do exist.

However there is one property on east 13th that cannot be rented quite close to the new Burrough's multi use path that seems to get by the City Commission/City Hall. It is definitely a candidate for Demolition by Neglect.

What's up City Hall?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

BTW that property is the first house west of the creek on the south side of 13th.

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Merrill, Works for Compton and Fritzel and thats why he is all for this new Law !

Wake Up Lawrence Landlords !

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Ahhh See what Merrill's last comments are Property that needs to be Demoitioned !!! Geeish figure that one out ???

Now I will be honest I have now idea what the property he is talking about or its condition but here is Merrill telling the city what needs to be demolished !!

Compton/ Fritzel Stinich !

Stayinpositive 1 year, 3 months ago

These rules need to apply to all HOMEOWNERS as well.

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