Archive for Saturday, August 24, 2013

For tenants and landlords, knowledge is power

August 24, 2013


The occasional landlord-tenant dispute is to be expected in a town like Lawrence, where more than half of all housing units are occupied by renters.

Landlords must trust relative strangers to take care of their property, and renters can feel helpless if a problem arises in their homes. While the city’s proposed rental-unit inspection program aims to mediate some of the landlord-tenant tension, complicated leases still can lead to confusion about who is responsible for what. The best advice for everyone: Know the law and your rights.

‘As a tenant, I have rights.’

Recent Kansas University graduate Jenna Jakowatz spent part of her last months in Lawrence researching state rental laws. Since last August, she had experienced escalating issues with the company managing her apartment.

After trying and failing to resolve several issues, including a last-minute increase in rent, unexpected renovation noise and a broken air conditioner, Jakowatz and her roommate sought advice from a staff attorney with Legal Services for Students.

In June, as the temperature became warm enough to make the apartment uncomfortable, Jakowatz used advice from her lawyer and mentioned a 14-day/30-day notice to her property management company. That allows a tenant to terminate a lease in 30 days if the landlord fails to repair a problem within two weeks.

After she mentioned the notice, Jakowatz received a new air conditioner, an accomplishment after almost a year of frustration.

“The most important thing I am taking away from this situation is that I now know how to deal with a landlord who won’t resolve issues,” Jakowatz said. “As a tenant, I have rights.”

More inspections coming

Currently, only properties in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes are inspected routinely by the city. The city’s new rental registration and licensing program, tentatively set to begin in early 2014, will send city inspectors to rental properties once every three years to check for housing code violations such as mold, fungus, clogged drains or roof leaks.

Bill Larzalere, chief litigation attorney with Legal Services for Students, said the increased inspections will benefit renters. “Inspectors can really go out and act quickly,” Larzalere said.

But just because all rental properties aren’t inspected regularly now doesn’t mean they're all neglected. Director of Morning Star Management Paul Horvath said most landlords do check their properties frequently and the new inspection program won’t necessarily be a huge change.

“The city is always coming up with new regulations,” Horvath said. “We check to make sure we’re up to code pretty regularly. I mean, they’re your properties; you take care of them.”

The landlord’s gamble

Renters are not always the victims in landlord-tenant disputes. Horvath said property owners are often the ones with the most to lose.

“Most of our properties are worth $100,000,” Horvath said. “It’s like you lend your $10,000 car to someone and who’s more at risk: the person who borrows your vehicle or the owner?”

To better ensure that their properties will be handled with care, Horvath said, Morning Star Management screens rental applicants. Still, unforeseen problems can arise.

“Every landlord has a tenant horror story,” Horvath said. “I know of one property where the tenant’s cats had so sprayed the kitchen that the landlord had to totally pull out all of the cabinets and replace them.”

Repairing damage can be costly. While landlords can keep the security deposit, some fixes can be more expensive than the law allows them to charge in deposit - 1 1/2 month’s rent.

Horvath said that in cases where a rental unit is left in extreme distress, landlords often have their hands tied.

“Landlords are really limited by how much they can do, especially if a tenant skips town after move-out,” Horvath said. “You can try to track them down to make them pay or to take them to court, but that could take months.”

To avoid problems, tenants and landords can familiarize themselves with the law.

For tenants who have just begun their annual leases, here are some things to keep in mind:

Read - and get a copy of - your lease.

Though hasty renters may not want to bother with the fine print, leasing agreements are legally binding. If you sign something, be prepared to follow through.

It is easy to forget all the lease requirements, so having a copy on hand could save some trouble.

“It’s a good way to protect yourself," Larzalere said.

Know your legal responsibilities.

Tenants are responsible for any destruction, defacement or removal of any part of your rented residence, even if caused by a guest or a pet.

Landlords may charge for damages that exceed normal “wear and tear.”

"There will always be some carpet dirt or marks on the wall, but we only charge for damage that is beyond 'lived-in.''" said Candy Gunderson, property manager of Garber Property Management.

Know your landlord’s legal responsibilities.

Landlords must comply with building and housing codes. They must also maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning appliances that come with the apartment or house.

If there is a problem with the condition of the apartment or if something is not working, contact your landlord. If the landlord does not fix the problem in a reasonable amount of time, Larzalere advises contacting the city code inspector.

Know your rights

If a security deposit or a list of charges isn’t sent within 30 days of the lease's end, or if a tenant believes charges are wrong, Larzalere said to contact the landlord or management company first. If that doesn’t work, seeking legal aid would be the next step.

When dealing with security deposits, tenants may file a lawsuit in small claims court for the amount of the deposit plus an additional one and a half times the deposit amount.

“Know your rights by looking at the Kansas Residential Tenant Landlord Act,” Larzalere said. “Know your rights, and always talk to the landlord first.”


jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I believe that Morninstar's director is named Horvath.

And, it's been a long time, but when we looked at some of their properties many years ago, they were very run down and neglected.

Kansas_Native 4 years, 8 months ago

Run down and nailed's a letter from the city to horvath. Available at the city's website. Read Treni's narrative, the city that went out to the house. There's even photos of the house falling apart.

Laura Wilson 4 years, 8 months ago

He doesn't even own this property anymore. It and several were foreclosed on a couple years ago. Just not a good landlord all around.

Bursting 4 years, 8 months ago

We do not need a rental-inspection program. Sorry guys, people should be competent enough to know a bit about leases and landlord-tenant laws when renting.

Armored_One 4 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I'm gonna side with Kansas on this one. I almost want to ask Bursting if they understood leases and landlord-tenant laws, as he/she put it, but I'm almost positive what the answer will be. I can't think of anyone I knew at the ripe old age of 18 or 19 that knew much of anything about those topics.

Bursting 4 years, 8 months ago

99% of 18-19 year olds in this town have co-signers, most of the time their parents. So I stick to my comment, know what your signing. Tenants, are very very protected already guys. If a landlord doesn't fix something and you go to court, damages can be awarded to the tenant. (moving fees, refunded rent, etc...) I've seen it happen. Yes, it's a pain but it's the way the world works currently.

You're protected under law. I just don't feel that a few rental horror stories should justify a completely sweeping and expensive registry program... Last time I checked Lawrence was still standing and doing better than a lot of other places, it's gonna be ok everyone...

MarcoPogo 4 years, 8 months ago

"99% of 18-19 year olds in this town have co-signers"

I'd love to know where these numbers came from.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I disagree.

Many landlords don't operate as they're supposed to, and it's too much to ask that tenants carry the burden of making them do that.

It's quite reasonable for the city to inspect property and ensure that landlords are living up to their legal obligations, in my view, and I'm glad to see this program implemented.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

And how about those landlords who go for nine years without a property inspection? The roof falls in, the foundation falls in, the tenant calls the city, and when the city condemns the property as "unsafe", and the tenant has to move, the landlord gets off scot-free while the tenant incurs about 5,000 dollars worth of expenses. Yeah, the landlord knew the law, and so did the tenant. The tenant knew it was illegal for said landlord to go for so long without inspection. The tenant knew it was illegal for the landlord to sneak in to the property with no notice, no emergency, and without the tenants knowledge. (Supposedly. Motion-activated video cameras are awesome.) The tenant knew it was illegal for the landlord to keep the deposit on a condemned property, too. The landlord also knew he was charging for things he legally couldn't. Know what? Being illegal stop the landlord, and didn't magically make a lawyer appear in this town who specializes in these kinds of cases who isn't already retained by the "Lawrence Landlord Mafia". So, YES. We do need a rental inspection program. It will keep some of those shady landlords honest.

George_Braziller 4 years, 8 months ago

My neighbor tried for six months to get the leaking roof repaired so she didn't have to put a bucket on the top of the fridge to catch the water when it rained. Pieces of the ceiling fell down, the heater didn't work, there wasn't a fire extinguisher or a smoke detector, and the shower leaked. The final straw was when she turned on the ceiling fan and sparks shot out of it and the switch. I was there and saw it. She called the city to have an inspection done and when the landlord found out he evicted her because she was "a nuisance tenant."

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

Oh. Sounds familiar. Wonder if it's my old landlord.

George_Braziller 4 years, 8 months ago

Most likely not. This guy only owns one property but is completely clueless and shouldn't even attempt to be a landlord. He and his wife lived in one of the apartments after they bought the house and one tenant moved out after more than 20 years because she couldn't deal with his incompetence. Shortly after another long-tenant did as well. At one point there was only one person living in a house with four apartments.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

Suppose the landlord did fix that leak above the fridge. And fixed the crack in the ceiling and he fixed the heater as well. Suppose he installed a fire extinguisher, a smoke detector and fixed the shower. And then passed on those costs to the tenant. Isn't it likely that you or your neighbor would then be critical of the greedy landlord for trying to extort maximum rents from poor working people?

My guess is that your neighbor traded an apartment in need of significant repairs for a much lower than expected rent. But I don't hear you complaining about that lower rent. The point is, you can't have it both ways. You're either going to pay higher rents for apartments that have been inspected and brought up to code or you can live with the defects in exchange for lower rents. Both those options are available now and you're free to make the choice that best suits you.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Except, of course, that landlords have legal obligations and responsibilities.

You're suggesting that we simply let them avoid those, because they might charge lower rent for those units.

In other areas, you're pretty "law and order" oriented - how does this square with that?

Also, this tenant was actively trying to get these things fixed - doesn't sound like she wanted to just let them slide. And, the landlord retaliated for those attempts, much as I've been saying all along - tenants aren't in the best position to be enforcing these things.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

The market worked much as it's supposed to work in this case. A businessman operated his business poorly and the customer went elsewhere. Didn't George say that that apartments went unoccupied after long term tenants moved out?

Let's make a couple of assumptions here, things that are pretty much common sense. Let's suppose there are two apartments on the open market, one a very nice place and the other a place that is not very nice at all. But they're being rented for the same price. Well, I think we can safely assume that the customer would choose the nice place over the not so nice place. The only reason a person would choose the not so nice place would be if the rent were lower.

Again, I think we can safely assume George's tenant benefitted from a lower rent. But there is no mention of that in his comment. Why? I think it's because he wants to tell one side of the story, that being about a poor landlord. Why didn't the neighbor simply move to a nicer place? There are many of them in town. I think the reason is obvious, the neighbor didn't want to pay the higher rent. She wanted more for her dollar than she should reasonably expect. She wanted it both ways.

George's tale sounds very one sided to me. Yes, I think landlords and tenants should obey all legal responsibilities each has. I'd be very interested in hearing the other side of this story as I suspect it would sound very different from George's account.

Let me ask you something, Jafs, based on a couple of assumptions I've made here. Let's assume the tenant here did in fact pay a very low rent for this dilapidated unit and let's assume she cannot afford to pay more. And let's assume the landlord made all the repairs necessary and passed those costs on to the neighbor would could not afford the new, higher rent. Where will she go? Should she go into subsidized housing or the shelter or shall she become homeless and live on the streets? What options are there for her?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I notice you didn't answer the question - why aren't you "law and order" oriented here? Landlords have certain legal obligations they are supposed to fulfill, and tenants have the right to expect that, even in lower priced rentals.

Your question is interesting, but suggests that you think poorer people should have to live in housing that doesn't meet legal requirements, which is hardly something good or desirable. If you're really concerned about those folks, then you should support programs to help them, or laws requiring landlords to make affordable housing available, or higher minimum wages, etc.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

I said landlords and tenants should obey their legal responsibilities, so I did answer the question. With this particular issue, laws vary greatly from community to community and I'm frankly not as aware of each and every requirement here. But yes, laws should be followed.

Should poor people live in substandard homes? Maybe. In my life, I've known many people who earned enough to live in decent housing but made their choice to spend their money unwisely, on drugs and alcohol, or cars or whatever, with little money left for housing. That's their choice. And no, we the taxpayers should not then subsidize that choice. And no, I don't think landlords need make affordable housing available. If that is deemed to be good public policy, then we should all do it. We could raise minimum wage or we could assign a representative payee to each person and make certain they spend their money on things we approve of. No alcohol for you, no big screen TV, etc. There are lots of things we could do. Not all of them are desirable.

And speaking of not answering questions, the woman who will be priced out of an upgraded apartment will go where?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, I missed that.

In that case, this landlord was wrong for not doing so, right? And wrong for evicting the tenant because they called the city - agreed?

So, now you veer from presumed compassion for poor people back to judgement, and a lack of desire for programs that help them. Something doesn't add up here for me. Do you care about people at the lower end of the income spectrum or not?

In my world, because I believe that everybody should make enough to support themselves, even at lower wage jobs, I support a minimum wage that makes that possible. And, because I believe that everybody deserves a place to live that meets legal standards, I support programs that ensure that.

We can either force businesses to pay wages that let people live on them, and force landlords to provide decent housing, or we can let them do as they like, and then we wind up having to subsidize people, and/or provide public housing. Your version seems to offer neither.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

In your world, everyone works hard, at least 40 hours per week, at a job that is legal, productive, honorable. They then spend their hard earned wages in ways that are legal and in their own best interests, foregoing things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. What is the name of the world you live in?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Not at all.

I see people making bad choices all the time, at all levels of the income spectrum, and in all categories like race, gender, age, etc.

That's sort of irrelevant to this discussion though, which is about policy.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

It's not irrelevant. People of all sorts have all sorts of different values. I would never live in what I considered to be substandard housing. But that was not always true. While a student here, I earned minimum wage, lived in housing that was not very good at all, studied, partied, all those things a typical student did. If you asked me to give up my beer money so that the windows could keep out the cold, I'll have chosen not to do that. In fact, I did make that choice. People make choices all the time to use their money for drugs, alcohol, gambling. If you completely eliminate low end housing, if you enforce regulations that will cause rents to go up, if you enforce regulations against a certain number of unrelated people living together, then those who do make poor choices will not have housing available to them. Unless you can eliminate the poor choices, which you can't, then your suggestion of eliminating very low end housing will create a problem for those folks further down the line.

Again, what will you do with them once that happens? Subsidized housing? Shelter? Homelessness?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

So, you'd rather enable people who make bad choices by letting landlords provide substandard housing?

Seems odd to me.

If minimum wages are sufficient for people to live on at 40 hours a week, and they choose not to work that much (assuming there are in fact enough jobs to go around at that level), that's their business, and they can make their choices and live with the consequences.

That's very different from those wages being set at a level that doesn't allow 40 hour a week employees to support themselves.

Same goes for gambling, etc. If even low end housing meets basic standards, and somebody chooses to spend their rent money on booze, drugs, or gambling, that's their choice and they deal with the consequences.

Again, very different from them not having that choice, because the housing is substandard.

When people make choices and face consequences, it's a good feedback loop that should help them make better ones. Those in the addiction field often say people need to hit bottom to get better, don't they?

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

Yes, I'd rather they have substandard housing if the alternative is no housing.

People will make bad choices, Jafs. That's what I've been saying all along. We can't prevent it. For those few who do make bad choices over and over again, at least now they have the choice between very low rent substandard housing or homelessness. Eliminate one and you're left with the other.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 8 months ago

The landlord referred to in my previous comment was certainly NOT charging "low" rent. He raised the rent every year by 15-20$, which was more than my annual raises kept up with. The city inspectors couldn't believe what I was paying for the conditions.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

There is a glut of housing in Lawrence. Why would anyone pay top dollar for a dilapidated apartment when they could get a nice apartment for the same money?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

There certainly isn't a "glut" of decent housing at affordable prices, at least last time we rented, which was a few years ago now.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

It's been a while since I rented, but I go to work every day and pass by what look to be very nice, fairly new apartment complexes that display signs indicating vacancies. Some have prices listed that appear to be very affordable to me.

Now, let me anticipate your next argument, that if a person earns minimum wage, it won't be affordable to them. It may not be in that perfect range that you desire, but it is very possible. Also, it's been a while since I worked for minimum wage, but even when I worked at McDonalds, raises were given routinely and pretty quickly, if I recall. I hire at minimum wage and give raises if the worker proves themselves to be trustworthy, reliable, etc. So even if a person is working at minimum wage, there is no reason why they should be doing that for very long. Also, I'm sure you're aware that some people work more than 40 hours per week, right? Some people even work two jobs. If they've boxed themselves in so much that they will only work 40 hours per week and they can only work at minimum wage, then they might not fall into that category of paying some optimal amount for housing, or affordable as you suggest. But as someone who routinely works more than double those numbers of hours, you'll get little sympathy from me if you choose to limit yourself so much.

BTW - Perhaps you'd like to take a stab at the question I posed to "rid", why would someone pay the going rate for good housing when only getting substandard housing?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Well, it's your choice to work so much - are you suggesting that our minimum wage levels should be set so that somebody has to work 80 hours a week in order to support themselves?

As I said, when we rented, we found few decent choices at decent prices. We found lots of crummy rentals that were charging more than I thought they were worth, and lots of lousy landlords. In order to get decent housing, we had to spend a lot more than I thought we should.

And, to anticipate your argument, we aren't folks making minimum wages, and can afford to pay more for rent than those folks can.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

A new apartment complex opened near me about one year ago. They've never filled up, as they continue to have for rent signs out front. The rent is $540/mo. for a one bedroom apartment, a brand new apartment. The only reason I can think of why it has remained unfilled is because there is a glut of housing very similar to that.

Would I suggest someone works 80 hours per week? Maybe. There is nothing illegal or immoral about doing that. But I'd be happy if they worked 70 hours per week, or 60, or even 50. The point being that people should work long enough and hard enough so they don't become a burden on others. I'd be happy if they worked 40 hours per week, lived in substandard housing for a time, went to school part time, and gained the skills necessary so they would never become a burden on society. Which is precisely what I did.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Real estate in Lawrence is odd, both renting and buying. Vacancies don't seem to exert the downward force on prices that you would expect.

I'll just point out that your rent example would be more than 50% of the salary of somebody working minimum wage. General recommendations from financial folks are between 25-33%.

Well, I think working 40 hours a week is sufficient, and that nobody should have to live in "substandard" housing - I guess that's the difference between us. If somebody's working 40 hours a week, I certainly don't see them as a "burden on society".

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

Somebody working 40 hours per week and doing a decent job isn't going to be earning minimum wage for very long. If a person is 25 years old, decided not to go to college and instead entered the work force and is still earning minimum wage, that's an indication that there is a problem. If that person is 30 years old, there is a problem. If they're 40 years old, it screams of a problem. What is that problem? Well, it could be that this person is a very, very poor worker. It could be an indication of drug use, alcohol abuse, gambling, something. But there is a problem. Competent, hard working people don't work very long at minimum wage.

There is an equation here, Jafs, two entities who we would hope and expect to behave in certain ways. You demand that of landlords, while not demanding it of the other. The point is still, Jafs, when people do make poor choices that result in the problems I've suggested, you seem to think that other people need to bail them out. I have no problem bailing out some people, some of the time. But I don't feel I'm under some obligation to bail out all people all of the time.

I've had people apply for a job who were 40 years old. They worked at a dozen jobs in the past year. If that's not an indication of a problem, I don't know what is. If I take a chance on that person, and I do sometimes, what should that person expect on day one of his new job? Should he really expect a nice apartment? Should he expect to pay 25% of his wage on that nice apartment?

BTW - A person earning $7.25 x 40 hrs. x 52 weeks would earn $1,256.66/mo. or less than 50% for that $540 brand new one bedroom apartment. I assume a studio apartment would cost less. Living in a house with roommates would cost less still. Again, Jafs, if they're a decent worker, they won't be earning minimum wage for that entire year. My memory is that McDonalds raised my wages after 90 days. If they're still earning minimum wage after a full year, they are a very poor worker and yes, not every very poor worker is entitled to brand new, nice apartments at 25% of their wages.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Well, I think we've beaten this to death pretty well.

I disagree that somebody making minimum wage is by definition somebody with a problem, given the tendency of business owners to pay as little as possible.

I certainly do demand that tenants live up to their responsibilities as well as landlords - but those are far fewer and simpler, like keeping a place reasonably clean, paying their rent, etc.

I don't know that I think we should bail them out for making bad choices, but I do know that we're paying one way or the other, so it's a choice between how we want to pay and what we want to pay for.

I've said it numerous times - a bad employee should be fired. An adequate one should make enough to live on, working 40 hours a week. I wouldn't demand that they be extraordinary in order to do that.

You forget about taxes - folks making minimum wages still have to pay taxes. I'm talking about percentages of take home pay.

You're just much harsher and more demanding than I am in this area. I think it's enough for people to do an adequate job and work 40 hours a week, and that they should be able to live in decent housing, pay their bills, buy some food, etc.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

I didn't say a person working at minimum wage was by definition a bad worker. But a person doing so year after year is a strong indication that something else is going on.

If all bad workers were fired, and assuming you mean that people like me shouldn't be taking chances on people who have that track record, then what, Jafs? Just like housing, you're not taking it to the next logical step. If I don't hire them, who will? You? If there isn't a stock of very low cost housing, where will they live? With you?

So often you say i don't answer your questions. Answer the questions, Jafs.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I don't understand you at all. Are you advocating that you should be able to hire bad employees, keep them employed, but pay them so little they can't support themselves? Sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.

Those are good and difficult questions. Generally speaking, I would like to invest in helping people better themselves, so I would support programs to help the folks you talk about develop skills and become better employees. But, I understand there are those who won't do that, even if we try to help them.

What to do with people who continually make bad choices even if given every opportunity and help to make better ones isn't clear to me. But, it's quite clear that we're far from that situation, and we can and should provide more help and opportunity, which should decrease that number.

To that end, social service programs should be structured so that they actually help people rather than enable them. There are some like that, and they seem to do a much better job. Of course, some people don't like them, and won't take advantage of them.

Ultimately, there is a certain amount of personal choice and responsibility that can't be eliminated by good social structures and programs, and if people want to make bad choices, we can't stop them, unless we eliminate some basic freedoms that we value as a nation.

And, all of that assumes that there are decent jobs available and decent housing, and people just aren't choosing them, which is a rather flawed assumption in my experience. It may be that low minimum wages affect how hard people are willing to work, etc.

After all, why should somebody work really hard for wages that don't allow them to support themselves?

jhawkinsf 4 years, 8 months ago

No one ever grows up wanting to be a dishwasher or busboy. Very young workers do that job for a period of time until something better comes along. If they're older and doing that, it's because life hasn't worked out as planned. Usually, that's the result of poor choices. Yes, sometimes I take a chance on them, because very few others will take that chance. And all of society benefits when I do that, as they are no longer a burden on society when I do that. I benefit as well, if they become good workers. That happens less than half the time, I'm sorry to say. It happens maybe a quarter of the time.

You keep ignoring the point that if things do work out, they will not be minimum wage earners for very long. The 3/4 that don't work out will, but it will be at the next job, and the one after that and the one after that. With that record, that's exactly where they should be. But for the 1/4 that do become good workers, they won't be earning minimum wage for very long. I don't want them going elsewhere, if they're good workers, just as McDonalds didn't want me going elsewhere those decades ago.

The bottom line is that good work is rewarded while minimum wage is a reflection of someone either just entering the market with few marketable skills or someone with a history of poor work performance. Neither of those should be rewarded with a much better pay until such time as they've proven they're worth it.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

It's nice that you do that, although it's unfortunate that the percentage who work out is so low.

Don't you have any employees who do a decent, but not outstanding job? Those are the ones I think should be making enough to support themselves, and they can't on minimum wages.

I don't like this "prove you're worth" making enough money to live on idea. It's demeaning and dehumanizing. Everybody who does an adequate job should make enough to live on, in my opinion.

Do you apply that in reverse? In other words, do you prove to your employees that you're an employer worthy of respect and hard work, or do you just assume they should treat you well?

Another facet of this discussion is the fact that many minimum wage jobs are boring, menial, mind numbing, soul destroying, and involve working in uncomfortable conditions. So, your version demands that somebody working at a job like that for wages too low to adequately support themselves should do an outstanding job before you'll pay them enough to live on. Mine is that the jobs are terrible ones, and people who do them provide an important function and service, and so they should be adequately compensated for them.

Either that, or you have the sort of continual turnover that you experience, which has it's own set of problems, doesn't it? My wife hates having to hire new people and train them, etc. It cuts into her other tasks, and takes a lot of time (of course, her training is substantially more involved than yours, I imagine), and ultimately if people don't stay, she has to do it all over again.

Maybe you could do some prescreening, and improve your percentages. Or maybe we should, as a society, support you and other businesses that take a chance like that, with job coaching or subsidies for those employees. Convicted felons often have a very hard time reintegrating because it's hard for them to get a job, place to live, etc. If we want people to become productive members of society, I think it would be wise to try to help them do that, and not just give up on them.

In my experience, the employer/employee relationship is often a rather one-sided affair, with employers demanding things they don't offer, like respect.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 7 months ago

It wasn't an "apartment", and there is NO WAY I would ever live in one.

IndusRiver 4 years, 8 months ago

I had refused to submit my paperwork to lease my apartment for one more year so my landlord rigged an eviction. Never heard of anything so devious in recent memory. But I left Lawrence and I left the landlord with something to actually cry about. I don't believe tenants will ever have rights in that loony blue liberal town. Too much money passes between the City and its rental guru's.

Lisa Medsker 4 years, 7 months ago

The other problem renters face is that every lawyer in town who does do landlord/tenant disputes is already on retainer by the Landlord Association. It's rigged almost as well as a Mafia racket.

Laura Wilson 4 years, 8 months ago

Wow, you interviewed one of the worst landlords in town and just believed him. Maybe you should have talked to some of his former tenants to get the real story.

There are many, many decent landlords in this town, who fix problems quickly, are attentive and responsive to their tenants, and follow the law. Unfortunately the few bad ones make them all look bad and are the reason we'll have this new inspection process which is going to be a cost burden on all of us.

Learn the law, what your rights are as both landlord and tenant, and the procedures to deal with problems. Kudos to the person who actually sought legal advice and the 14/30 process rather than just not pay rent or move out without notice, both of which are violations of rental contracts.

Tandava 4 years, 8 months ago

There is a really great organization around here that helps both tenants and landlords understand their rights, what the law says, what recourse they have to problems, and so on. That organization is Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. (HCCI). Their advice is free, and often better than an attorney's. (It has been a long time since I have used them, so I hope what I am saying is still true.) It was a small failing that this article did not mention HCCI.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

So many of Lawrence ordinances are enforced by calling in a complaint and in this situation is on the back of whomever files a complaint.

I suspect that no matter what this new expanded inspection plan will be left to neighbors and/or tenants to encourage enforcement. Aka business as usual. Aka lip service.

Nonetheless it will be to the in the tenants best interest. If landlords threaten or do evict a tenant for filing a complaint one thing to keep in mind is Lawrence is flooded with vacant rental properties 24/7. In essence Lawrence has a renters market so let the cost of rent negotiation begin.

This is also in the best interest of neighborhoods. Landlord neglected properties are among the worst which will negatively impact property values.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

The issue for many landlords is the thought of bringing properties up to code after several years of neglect. The cost of this inspection program to landlords is $25.00 a year or less. The lowest cost of any inspection program probably in the state of Kansas. Several nearby communities have had this tool in place for many years.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Tenants are landlords keeping YOUR home up to code?

-- Property Maintenance Code. Article 5 and Article 6

If a landlord threatens a tenant with eviction there is a flood of vacant rentals in Lawrence,Kansas every day .... yes 24/7. (covers the following:) The Code Enforcement Division enforces the Property Maintenance Code, Environmental Code, Weed Code, Sign Code, and Zoning Code. This division also oversees the Rental Inspection Program, environmental/structural blight, grass/weed complaints, zoning and land use regulations including site plan inspections of residential and commerical properties.

Applications and Forms

--- Report a Code Violation

Adopted Codes

-- Disorderly/Nuisance House Ordinance (Chapter 14, Article 11) - For neighborhoods!

-- Environmental Code (Chapter 9, Article 6).

-- Property Maintenance Code (Chapter 5, Article 10).

-- Rental Housing Ordinance (Chapter 6, Article 13).

-- Walls, Fence and other Structures Ordinance.

-- Weeds Ordinance (Chapter 18, Article 3).

-- Zoning Enforcement (Land Development Code - Chapter 20).

Mike Myers 4 years, 8 months ago

Horvath said. “We check to make sure we’re up to code pretty regularly. I mean, they’re your properties; you take care of them.”

Good one.

Kansas_Native 4 years, 8 months ago

"Pretty regularly..." except that he has never once checked on his properties. If he did he would find notice of foreclosure taped to the he no longer even owns the properties.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Just so we know there are some landlords behind this push for stronger and more detailed inspection program.

Rental properties are long term investments for the owners who are allowing renters to finance their investment projects. Can we say win win for the property owners.

IndusRiver 4 years, 8 months ago

Nothing in regard to this subject is about the here and now neccessarily but what the damage already done is. And too many people choose to be homeless or sheltered if the only option for housing is to rent. So what if Lawrence has a hundred vacancies a thousand. So what.

Kansas_Native 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure that we should be looking to Paul Horvath as the authority or representative of landlords/property managers here in Lawrence. As someone who has had the majority of his properties taken back by the bank in foreclosure and currently owes back taxes on the few remaining properties he has. I used to live on a block with two of his properties--historic homes that he let fall in to such a state of disrepair that they were taken back by the bank, sold at bottom dollar and required to be gutted and rehabbed. He never mowed the lawn, he didn't shovel snow, and had animals living in the soffits of the house. The bathrooms had mold, the floor joists were eaten by termites. This isn't unique to just one of his properties. Ask around town and everyone has their Horvath nightmare to share...I'd suggest the ljworld find a better rep for landlords in the future. I now own a couple of properties and am certainly not up in arms about an inspection every three years. I'd welcome the city to ensure that I'm providing clean, safe, and code-abiding homes to my tenants--as every tenant deserves. I can attest that it should not be hard to provide excellent housing, maintaining properties to excellent standards and still profit--it simply requires foresight to save a bit of that profit for maintanence and repairs. Slightly lower profit, but everyone wins. In the case of Horvath's model it seems everyone loses, his tenants, the neighborhood, the city, and eventually even citi bank lenders and himself.

justforfun 4 years, 8 months ago


Wonder why you didn't mention that heating and air conditioning personal were at your apt each time you called to try and fix a/c issue? They always reported it was working as it should. (never was operating above 80 degrees of top floor apt) Wonder why you didn't mention that contractor blew a foot of insulation in the attic to try and help matters?

Caitlin Doornbos & Nicole Wentling — Lawrence Journal-World- I would suggest that just because Jenna writes for daily Kansan you dont take everything at face value.

Matt Schwartz 4 years, 8 months ago

They were probably more worried about the unexpected renovation noise and rent hike.

smileydog 4 years, 8 months ago

I worked for a greedy landlord that had spoiled rotten tenants, a match made in hell. The landlord was cheap and the tenants were trust fund KU students. The Landlord used the cheapest flat white paint money could buy so if you were to touch the walls the oil from your hands would magically leave a black mark on the wall, so the apartments always would have to be repainted. The tenants were just as bad though. If there was a drip coming from the faucet it was worth a 4 am phone call, however, if the hot water heater was leaking into the living room it would take a couple of weeks before the tenant would report it. Since the tenants were trust fund brats, they would always threaten to sue for things like the drippy faucet but a leaking hot water tank wasn't a big deal. I never did understand the mentality of either. The landlord was female and used to make derogatory sexual harrassment remarks but it was okay and legal since I am a guy. No such thing as reverse dicrimination. Fun times but luckily I quit right before tenant turnover.

acg 4 years, 8 months ago

Let me tell you the first rule of tenant/landlord relations in Lawrence. Stay Away From FMI Properties!! As someone who worked for, and quit working for, Doug E Fresh, I know from first hand experience that you will be completely used and abused as a tenant there. I had to ask permission with a requisition form for parts to fix appliances (and it was generally turned down), all of his properties that aren't on Mass (or Saddlebrook at 6th) are pieces of crap. Highpointe is nasty. The ones on 19th are infested!! Anything on campus is disgusting and he refused to let me replace carpets or linoleums. And that skank at his office told me once "if you're doing your job, when they move out they should get back little to none of their deposit" when she didn't like the way I let residents have their deposits back when they moved. Seriously, parents don't let your kids rent from that slumlord.

As for Paul Horvath I also worked for him for a week. When I saw how bad he was in debt and how he was robbing Peter to pay Paul I was dumbfounded that anyone could run a business like this. Then when it turns out he couldn't even pay ME, I knew it was time to hit the bricks there.

IndusRiver 4 years, 8 months ago

When HUD allows housing authorities to become MTW agencies -- moving to work -- it removes a lot of oversight which then leads to a housing authority writing its own policies/rules. Money pours down like rain, but abuse and neglect creep in. The city of Lawrence, every year, pays out a six-digit figure to the city that they are not even legally bouenough testimonials on this thread as to what it's like to try and take the trash out in their little world.

IndusRiver 4 years, 8 months ago

Correction: the landlord pays the city...

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