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Archive for Sunday, December 8, 2013

Editorial: Inspection bumps

Privacy concerns are important, but they shouldn’t be a major roadblock to a new rental inspection program.

December 8, 2013

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It’s not a bad thing that Lawrence city commissioners are taking the time to address various concerns with an expanded rental inspection program. This is a significant change, and now is the time to try to anticipate problems and write the ordinance in a way to avoid those issues.

The concerns that prompted the latest setback to the proposed ordinance focused on the privacy rights of tenants who occupy the units being inspected. The people voicing this concern are right that apartment inspections shouldn’t be used as an opportunity for officials to conduct essentially an illegal search for evidence that could be used against a tenant. The point of the inspections is to examine the physical dwelling, not the belongings of the renter.

It seems that most of the privacy concerns could be addressed by a good notification system for the inspections. In fact, such a system already exists for the current inspection program and would logically be expanded to cover the broader program.

A staff memo that accompanied last week’s City Commission agenda should allay many of the renters’ fears. In it, the city planning staff indicates that inspectors focus on maintenance and safety issues. To their knowledge, since the current rental inspection program went into effect in 2001, no renter has been charged with any infraction in municipal or district courts on the basis of alleged illegal activity reported by a city inspector. That’s not to say that inspectors wouldn’t report that they’d found a bomb or a dead body at a property, but such reports obviously would be very rare.

The memo also noted that the city gives, and would continue to give, landlords several days notice for all inspections so tenants would have ample time to prepare for the visit. It might be worthwhile for the city to be specific in how tenants are notified that an inspection is going to take place. Is a phone or text message good enough? Should that notice be left to the landlord or come directly from the city? Most landlords can be trusted to properly notify their tenants, but getting the information to the tenants in a timely fashion is a key part of addressing the privacy issue.

The goal of the inspection and registration program is to ensure that rental property in Lawrence is safe and well-maintained. The way inspections currently are conducted seems to indicate that goal can be accomplished without undue invasion of tenants’ privacy so applying the same standards to the expanded inspection program should address those concerns.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 months, 1 week ago

My speculation based on what has come out in the city hall package of info associated with the agenda item. Form letters indicate an organized effort for which I speculate came with an explanation as to why said tenants should submit these form letters. All for public viewing.

Also one of the attorney's does represent the owners of the rental properties associated with the form letters to the best of my knowledge.

If tenants are concerned of their rights all one had to do was contact city hall for verification of guidelines. City Hall is quite helpful in this regard. City Hall inspection staff cannot barge into a resident

Large parties making noise violates the privacy of neighboring residential which makes said residential a "nuisance" suspect. Disorderly/Nuisance House Ordinance (Chapter 14, Article 11). Also for public viewing.

--- Report a Code Violation http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Enforces the following codes

-- Disorderly/Nuisance House Ordinance (Chapter 14, Article 11) -- Environmental Code (Chapter 9, Article 6) -- Property Maintenance Code (Chapter 5, Article 10) -- Walls, Fence and other Structures Ordinance -- Weeds Ordinance (Chapter 18, Article 3) -- Zoning Enforcement (Land Development Code - Chapter 20) http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Being able to support allegations is quite important.

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Kendall Simmons 4 months, 1 week ago

Out of curiosity, is there "any paper trail on the books detailing" that "some landlords have been providing misinformation so I've heard"?

Or "any paper trail on the books detailing" that "the city provides quite sufficient notice perhaps 2-3 weeks or more"? (Did you truly not read the article? That said "the memo also noted that the city gives, and would continue to give, landlords several days notice for all inspections so tenants would have ample time to prepare for the visit"??? )

And what on earth do you think the proposed city inspection program has to do with "large parties making noise"??? My gosh. You can't seriously be arguing that the proposed city inspection program is going to deal with THAT problem.

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Richard Heckler 4 months, 1 week ago

Hey city hall people don't have the right to barge in without notice and never have had that privilege. Does anyone believe the legal mind of Dave Corliss would be so naive? Or the legal minds of the city legal staff? Get real.

Some landlords have been providing misinformation so I've heard. After 12 years of an existing ordinance is there any paper trail on the books detailing an inspection without notice? Of city hall entering without notice? or without a search warrant after probable cause has been established?

The city provides quite sufficient notice perhaps 2-3 weeks or more?

Rights of tenants and rental property owners in question? What about the rights of neighboring live in homeowners seeking to maintain their value of their property?

Are large parties making noise not an invasion of privacy to neighbors live in owners or not?

When listening to tenants about a variety of landlords one could theoretically establish plenty of reasons for an inspection program.

Are all landlords slum lords? Of course not.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 months, 1 week ago

I am a renter who rents under the HUD program and I have my apartment inspected once a year when my lease runs out. This is necessary to get continued assistance. I am given a written notice a month in advance and consider this a very small thing to do in order to keep a roof over my head.

My thing is that if I have access to a nice place to live I should appreciate that and take care of it. I do live there and I want it to be nice for my benefit also since I am the one who looks at it every day.

I sometimes think it would be easier if I owner my home since then no one would inspect it and it wouldn't really matter what it looked like. That, however, is emotion mind speaking and should be recognized as what it is. A childish delusion that once we grow up we don't have to obey rules. Nope. At that point we are supposed to have learned why it is important to obey rules (and laws.)

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Shane Garrett 4 months, 1 week ago

Had my rental inspected over three months ago. I have as yet to hear back from the person or office that did the inspection. The renter replied to what the inspector said. But if an office is going to collect money then a timely report should follow.

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