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Archive for Monday, January 7, 2013

Landlords speak out against proposed expansion of city’s rental licensing program

 A row of rental houses in the 1200 block of Ohio Street are just some  of the Lawrence homes that have been turned into rentals. The city is discussing expanding its rental registration program.

A row of rental houses in the 1200 block of Ohio Street are just some of the Lawrence homes that have been turned into rentals. The city is discussing expanding its rental registration program.

January 7, 2013

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Here’s one thing landlords in Lawrence won’t need a license to do: Vent.

About 50 landlords showed up at City Hall Monday afternoon and gave city leaders an earful about a proposal that would expand the city’s rental registration and licensing program to cover essentially every rental unit in the city.

"I think it is just going overboard," said Rob Farha, a landlord in the Oread neighborhood. "Just like everything, there are good landlords and there are bad landlords. There are tools the city has now to deal with bad landlords."

City Hall leaders hosted a public forum on Monday to outline a proposal that would expand the city’s current rental registration and licensing program to encompass all 20,000 rental units in the city.

Currently, the city only inspects a fraction of those properties because it only requires registration for rentals that are in single-family zoned neighborhoods. The proposed program would require large apartment complexes to be licensed and would also cover the large rental districts around Kansas University.

The city’s current proposal is to charge all rental units in the city a $15 per year license fee. Landlords, though, would be subject to a $50 per unit inspection fee during the year in which their units are inspected. The city is designing the system so most units will be inspected once every three years.

The city, though, is proposing an incentive system where half of the inspection fee would be waived, if a low number of violations are found at a landlord’s properties.

The city is estimating that the program will generate about $550,000 in revenue each year and will have expenses of a little more than $525,000 a year.

“We don’t want the program to be a profit center, but we do want it to pay for itself,” Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning and development services told the crowd.

A majority of city commissioners in November directed staff members to begin working on a plan to expand the city’s rental registration program. Commissioners said they were concerned the city’s current system was allowing too many renters — particularly students — to live in substandard conditions.

“I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I have to look a parent in the eye and apologize that they lost a child because an apartment wasn’t up to code,” Mayor Bob Schumm said Monday after listening to the comments. “That’s the bottom line for me.”

Schumm, though, acknowledged there are many good landlords in the city, and he understands that they are frustrated that they would be required to go through the rental and licensing process.

Several landlords told commissioners that if they are concerned about living conditions, they also should inspect owner-occupied homes for safety violations.

Other landlords said they simply wanted more information from the city.

“What are we trying to solve?” asked Matt Hoy, a Lawrence attorney representing the Lawrence Apartment Association, which includes some of the owners of the larger apartment complexes in town. “What are the issues that you think are creating problems. I don’t see that as being a paramount part of this proposal.”

City officials did provide a list of the type of violations inspectors would be looking for. They cover a wide range of possibilities. Minor violations include items such as: inoperable bathroom ventilation fans, clogged drains, broken handrails and even dirty furnace filters. Major violations include: barbecue grills on decks; improper ceiling heights; missing smoke detectors; and improperly vented furnaces or water heaters.

The meeting, though, also included a few neighborhood leaders who have been pushing for the expanded inspection program. Dan Dannenberg told the crowd that his neighborhood frequently had problems with renters leaving trash in their yards, illegally blocking sidewalks and other similar issues.

“It seems like the landlords ought to have to take some responsibility for this because they reap the rent checks,” Dannenberg said.

Staff members said Monday that they intend to present a plan to city commissioners by the end of this month. Monday’s meeting was the first public presentation staff members made of their proposal.

Among the details announced on Monday is the proposed inspection schedule for the program. The city is proposing a plan where not every unit in a large apartment would have to be inspected every three years. The proposal includes:

• Landlords with one to 10 units would have all their rental units inspected once every three years. If their properties total five or fewer minor violations they would receive a 50 percent refund on the city’s inspection fee.

• Landlords with 11 to 50 units would have the greater of 11 units or 50 percent of their units inspected once every three years. If their properties total 10 or fewer minor violations, they would receive a 50 percent refund on the city’s inspection fee.

• Landlords with 51 or more units would have 26 units or 33 percent of all their units inspected once every three year, whichever number is greater. If they have 20 violations or fewer, they would receive the 50 percent refund.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Landlords are the problem in the first place. They don't give a damn and believe their tenants should be able to do whatever the hell they want.

And some don't take care of their properties which makes properties close by take a hit on property values.

Selfish and insensitive they are!!!!

bmoody51 1 year, 11 months ago

Merrill,

You speak through the wrong end of your digestive system. For every bad landlord, there are at least 5 good landlords working to provide safe, comfortable homes for their families. Just like former announcers who speak off the cuff not knowing what they speak of, there are some landlords who bleed their properties. But those are as rare and far between as former announcers who know what they speak of.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, my personal experience renting in Lawrence for a number of years doesn't agree with your view.

In all of the time my wife and I rented, we only had one good landlord, and the rest were varying degrees of negligent and irresponsible.

Seems to me that good landlords wouldn't have any problem with this sort of program.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

This is where I disagree - a good landlord in theory won't have any problem under the assumption that they also have a good tenant, which in this town may be as equal of a stretch as a good landlord. The first tenant that removes the battery from their smoke detector because "it annoys them when their kitchen cooking sets it off" is going to cost me a fine/a record with the city of having a failed inspection. (the last three houses I have made service calls to work on involved me telling the tenant to please stop taking down/removing batteries from my smoke detectors). Secondly, while the property may be up to code from an electrical standpoint at the point of move-in, unless I babysit the tenant 24/7 I have no control to the degree to which extension cords are strung throughout the house, etc...the number of code violations that can be 'tenant created' match the number of code violations that can be landlord created.
Jafs, I'm sorry that you have had trouble with Lawrence landlords in your previous experiences. I take great pride in buying up horrid foreclosure properties riddled with OWNER-OCCUPIED code violations and fixing them into nice family dwellings. A great percentage of the rental properties I own become arguably the best houses on the block when I'm finished with them. The way I find my properties a couple years after renters have lived in them however, is often far from the way they were when keys were turned over.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, I might agree that some care is needed in order to make sure the violations aren't tenant created - but that's not a reason to oppose the whole idea, it's just a reason to make sure it's done intelligently and well.

Generally speaking, good landlords and good tenants should gravitate towards each other - I know that when we found our one good landlord, we and they were both quite happy and appreciative.

I'm glad to hear, of course, that you're a good and responsible landlord, and wish you success with your business.

Of course, that's why there are security deposits, and tenants routinely have to jump through a bunch of hoops, including credit and reference checks, right?

You could install vent fans in kitchens, which would probably reduce the smoke detector problem you mention, and not be too expensive, I would imagine. We have a smoke detector right outside our kitchen, and I never set it off while cooking, even without one.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

A good landlord would take care of the outside issues but considering they are only property investors they aren't too interested in getting their hands dirty.

flyin_squirrel 1 year, 11 months ago

Merrill is just an angry person, angry at Lawrence, angry at Squirrels, angry at potholes, angry at growth, angry at commissioners...

Some needs to buy him a lady friend...

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

The squirrels are friggin evil!

This was at South Park today

Jock Navels 1 year, 11 months ago

Excuse landlords who live on the property. Punish evildoers by having theem live a year in a Ling House. You heard me...a Ling House.

James Hardie 1 year, 11 months ago

Thank you for your considered? opinion Yoda!

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

Wow, great over generalization Merrill. For every landlord you can find that lowers your property value, I'll find you an owner occupied property having gone into foreclosure that will lead to short sale and the tanking of your market value.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 11 months ago

“We don’t want the program to be a profit center, but we do want it to pay for itself,” Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning and development services told the crowd.

I call BS... the city wants more employees. With as many new apartments being built, I would guess, unless you want to live right next to the university, it is a buyers market for renters.

cowboy 1 year, 11 months ago

City staff have completely effed up this proposed program . It is obvious they know little or nothing about the aging of a property nor do they understand that the inspection of everything and the management of the correction process is tenfold what they are estimating.

Inspection of complexes should not have to be more than a few units unless there are violations of a significant nature. Pick your random units. No need to inspect 33% of a complex.

If the unit passes it will not significantly change over the next three years.

There should be no need to inspect anything under 20 years old

Everyone knows where the problem complexes are , its no secret , the student ghetto , off 23rd south and on both sides of Iowa , the 9th street corridor , and the east lawrence area close to downtown.

If you're going to inspect student properties they should all be inspected upon move in. Give the students a month and the apartment will be duly trashed.

All this broad approach will do is add to the rent .

The process above is absolutely too complex , too frequent , and not selective adding cost and complexity where it really isn't needed.

Eugehne Normandin 1 year, 11 months ago

Why is there no need to inspect anything under 20 years old ??? Problem complexes ? what about smaller rental units are they not inclued ?

poolside 1 year, 11 months ago

Demerits for furnace filters? One of my landlords required me to change them and inspected me! So guess who would get that City fine posted on their door as the landlord passed the buck! I would laugh watching the City try and collect it too!

The motive for the idea has merit but this proposal is a crock. Try again.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

Dirty furnace filters? Seriously? Talk about government overextending their authority. A dirty furnace filter dramatically shortens the lifespan of a furnace, in turn decreasimg the profitability of a rental property. We don't need to be paying government employees to be checking my furnace filters for me. What's next? Denying home owners the right to rent out pre-1978 properties due to the threat of lead-based paint?

cowboy 1 year, 11 months ago

If they used HUD standards you would be unable to rent those properties , ruh roh

Shane Garrett 1 year, 11 months ago

Wrong, one would have to have a risk management plan for LBP.

kuguardgrl13 1 year, 11 months ago

My furnace filter wasn't clean when I moved into my apartment.

Bob Forer 1 year, 11 months ago

Good point on the air filters. And as Cowboy pointed out above, only a portion of the rental units in town are susceptible to being health and safety hazards.. The newer units shouldn't have problems with improper venting, etc. Instead of inspecting each and every unit in the city, I think it would be best to concentrate on the older units which might not be up to code.

Also, they could pass ordinances requiring a landlord to remedy certain deficiencies within x number of days after receiving notice from the tenant. If the landlord refuses, then the tenant would have the option of reporting it to the city, at which point an inspector would come out, and if not up to code, give the landlord a short period of time to rectify, followed by hefty daily fines.

Implementing a tri-yearly prophylactic inspection system simply will not prevent the problems associated with the "student ghetto" housing and other old rental units.

I suspect that the majority of rental units in town are fairly new and are well maintained by the landlord. There is a surplus of rental units in town, and it therefore makes good business sense for a landlord to maintain his property, at least regarding the new larger complexes.

No doubt there are some true slumlords in town. I say make a concerted effort to go after them, rather than penalizing the reputable landlords, who will simply pass on the cost to their tenants, and make housing in Lawrence even less affordable.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd like to conduct inspections on all the commissioners homes. No carbon monoxide detector? Violation. Batteries removed from that pesky smoke detector that goes off when you cook? Violation. Non-GFCI outlets near water? Violation. Missing any outlet covers? Violation. Dirty furnace filter? Violation. Windows without/with torn screens? Violation. Faucets that drip? Violation. Non-PVC flue venting for your furnace? Violation effective 2014. Bathroom fart fans vented onto the attic? Violation.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

I really don't understand why people can't make the obvious distinction between owner occupied and rental properties.

If you want to put yourself at risk, that's one thing, but it's quite another to put your tenants at risk.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

I forgot that in Lawrence, Kansas renters have no choice in the matter of where they live. I sure wish they had 20,000 options.

JayCat_67 1 year, 11 months ago

Geez, why do you want to limit their options? :D

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

Can I get an exemption if I change my name to Fritzel/Compton?

hujiko 1 year, 11 months ago

Only if you apologize after being confronted for violations and agree to pay an amount of money you arbitrarily decide covers the cost.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

There needs to be inspections and patrolling because more and more these rental houses are big party houses and one can expect walking through broken glass on the sidewalks, trash all over the yards and more often cars parked in the front yards. And you never see the landlord come check their property because these places, usually just putting them under the worthless property management companies. Ever since KU has attempted to produce a football team the houses surrounding the stadium have only gotten worse. Surely we can do better.

flyin_squirrel 1 year, 11 months ago

Way to generalize. Big party houses??? What constitutes a "Big Party House"? And why do they need inspections? Most of the boarding houses are the nicest houses in the Oread, because they have been renovated. Plus boarding houses have to have sprinkler systems in them. It is the houses that have been cut up into a bunch of non-conforming apartments that really need to be checked, and are death traps.

Bob Forer 1 year, 11 months ago

"It is the houses that have been cut up into a bunch of non-conforming apartments that really need to be checked, and are death traps."

Absolutely. That is where the real problem, and the proposed plan does little to address the issue.

.

flyin_squirrel 1 year, 11 months ago

You cannot. Marcy and her marry ladies will not let you. And they will not let you rehab your property either. Catch 22, so keep flying!

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 11 months ago

Inspecting for ceiling height and clogged drains would definitely stop partying. Good thinking.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

Hopefully they would notice all the trash as well in violation of code but getting the city to enforce anything is near impossible. Love walking through broken glass that has accumulated over the years.

If they are absentee owners which most are and doing this as a business it should be expected. If it is a burden they can sell since obviously they aren't to interested in being a landlord anyway, most hiring the pathetic management companies to pretend like they are taking care of business.

grandpaD 1 year, 11 months ago

I own property in Lawrence and maintain them in good condition. I also pay a $25.00 rental inspection fee, every year, on one because it is located in a single family area. I disagree with the concept of the inspections fee. We currently have plenty of laws to control litter, noise, over crowding, and a great number of other issues. All the city needs to do is enforce what is on the books. If a problem continues in a given neighborhood the home owners in that area have an avenue to let the city know. If you don't speak up you can only blame yourselves. The proposed inspections simply adds another layer to the code and inspection department and makes it easier to enter properties to snoop. Just cause is not at play here. More government is not the cure to the ills of the rental community here in Lawrence.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

The city could start by simply going through the older neighborhoods where they see cars parked all over the place and check there to begin with. If they did they may have suspected something when the little criminals who went over to break in a east Lawrence home a month or so ago. How can they miss cars parked in the front lawns?

Stayinpositive 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe the City should inspect houses for homeowners who do not take care of their own properties. Take a drive for instance through the 1500 & 1600 blk of Harper ( Not the only neighborhood with issues but one I have driven through lately and noticed) Cars parked in yards, campers piled with junk, equipment in yards the houses look like they are falling in It looks terrible and I am sure the insides of those houses have severe neglect as well if the outsides look that bad. The City codes are a joke. They make them and no one follows or enforces them. It is very sad to see how neighborhoods are deteriorating when they are allowed to continually be run down.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah, what a shame someone is concerned watching beautiful old neighborhoods turn into slums. Guess he is old fashion and we should just move out and build new, the American way. Too bad America is made up of people like you who only care about what you get out of the system.

Stayinpositive 1 year, 11 months ago

I would love to see the older neighborhoods cleaned up, like the one I grew up in on Harper and drove through to see recently and found so run down. Broke my heart.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

Just more tax laws that I'm sure make it possible for the absentee landlords to blight neighborhoods where people live and care.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

Why don't you move to that fantasy country where civil responsibility doesn't exist and everyone is free to screw each other all they want. Surely it must exist somewhere since you are so sure it is the way to go.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

What a shame the ideas of Thomas Jefferson, someone who also designed buildings meant to last and still do, promoting the individual has been so misconstrued by your type. Thank God there are people with imagination and public spirit so most you enjoy is available to you. If we lived in your kind of world it would be all one big west Lawrence.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

This is Kansas, I don't believe in evolving. Besides west Lawrence is more like devo.

KiferGhost 1 year, 11 months ago

It is interesting while the city is handing more money to the big developers they aren't funding the police and inspection units properly so what use to be city business of enforcing the laws is actually done. What a shame, surely Lawrence could do better but it lacks imagination. Laus proves that.

paisley 1 year, 11 months ago

I have a rental property that shines pretty bright compared to the next three houses north of it that are owner occupied. South of that same property, after skipping two owner occupied homes...gee, guess what...there are three more run down buildings. Seriously...maple trees growing in the gutters, trash cans all over the front and back yards, piles of wood that have been there for 10 years or more, weeds 6" tall and the easement behind the houses are loaded with overgrown trees and shrubs and who knows what animals have taken up residence. And the city wants to "inspect" my rental????? Just more Lawrence politics. It takes a lot more than a can of paint to take care of things.

MarcoPogo 1 year, 11 months ago

Yeah, what is the deal with that palace? It's been under construction since at least the early 80s.

Bob Forer 1 year, 11 months ago

The privacy and property rights of the tenant would require advance notice before an inspection. We're not inspecting restaurants here; we're talking about peoples' homes. If the tenant is given advance notice, we can assume the landlord will know as well.

What is to keep the landlord from going in before the inspection and fixing things? He then gets a pass for three years and ignores the property.

Bad plan. There has to be a better method of ensuring the public health and safety. I am sure there are a handful of the so-called progressive college towns in America which have come up with more sensible plans than this one.

kernal 1 year, 11 months ago

The Kansas Landlord Tenant Act has required 24 hour advanced notice of entry to a rental unit for approximately three decades. A written notice posted on the door of the unit has been the acceptable method of notification. A landlord might check with the LLA, or an attorney, and see if an electronic notification is now considered sufficient. notice. There are exemptions to the 24 hour notice would be in cases of emergency, such as gas leaks, broken pipes, etc.

walkingausten 1 year, 11 months ago

I live in a rental house in a single-family neighborhood. My house has been inspected twice in the past five years. Of all the many violations the inspector requested to be fixed, only one has been repaired. All of the violations in the first inspection five years ago were cited again in the inspection last year. What is the point of an expanded inspection system if there is no aegis of power to force code and safety violations to be repaired? How will the new system actually make my landlord add grounded outlets and smoke detectors to the house?

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

That's a good point.

I believe that currently the city can shut down the rental, but that's their only recourse.

Seems to me that requiring the fixes, and having somebody do them and charge the landlord if they don't do them, would be a better system, as far as actually ensuring the standards are met.

Smoke detectors are really easy to put in - I can't imagine why your landlord hasn't done that (on the other hand, they're pretty cheap and you could do it yourself easily). Grounded outlets, though, may be a real drag to implement, and expensive.

I have yet to live in a house in which all of the outlets are properly grounded.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

If the costs of the inspections are passed on to the landlord, he will just pass that cost on to the renter. If repairs are mandated, those costs will also be passed on to the renter. And should there come a time when the program becomes too much of a burden and the landlord gets out of the rental business altogether, the reduction in available rental units will drive up the costs for renters via simple supply and demand.

I'm not necessarily against a program such as this. But if the intent is to protect renters, and especially those most at risk of losing their housing should prices go up just a little bit, this seems counterproductive. It's another one of those good ideas on paper that will turn into a boondoggle in reality. Another expensive government bureaucracy.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Only if he can get people to pay that much more, which isn't guaranteed.

Also, we could stop them from doing that with legislation, if we wanted to.

Again, there's a natural limit on rental prices, which generally equates to what people can afford.

I share your concern for lower income folks, but think we could protect both their access and the quality of their homes as well.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

It isn't guaranteed that they can pay anything at all. That's the point. People can and do lose their housing because they can't afford it. What you are doing is putting more people at risk of falling into that category. Unless you want to legislate, which has problems of it's own. I understand you've lived in areas where rents were controlled. So have I. What I saw wasn't encouraging. Add to that a very expensive government bureaucracy with the costs passed on to all in the community, and you have fewer benefits and more problems than you started with.

I've known some people in town who are, to put it politely, living on the fringes of society. I was speaking with a person not long ago who said their place had heating problems, no stove, but they were OK with that because they were only paying $250 per month. Now here's the deal, force that landlord to make significant repairs and that unit might have to go for double the price. This person living on the fringes, will they change their lifestyle, stop using drugs, get a better job so they can afford the new rent? Or will that person slip into homeless, with all those costs passed on to the rest of us? As much as we don't want to admit it, there is a market for just that type of housing. There are sellers and buyers willing to engage in just that type of transaction. Not you. Not me. But they are out there. People willing to live in slum like conditions in exchange for very low rents and landlords willing to provide that. I may think that's a sad state of affairs. You may also. But it is real.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

You present a real problem.

What's your idea for a solution?

I tend to think that the government, without the need for profits, is the better place to provide low income housing, and make sure it's adequate.

Again, you miss the point - that landlord can only double the rent if they can find somebody willing to pay that much for that apartment.

Currently, my experience is that the rental market is overbuilt, with quality lower than it should be, and rents higher than they should be. If we did something that went towards balancing that out, that's fine with me.

Of course, we'd have to do it intelligently.

But I have no problem in theory with maximum rent/sq. ft, or other similar ideas, like controlled increases each year (or when leases end), or with making landlords prove the need for increases, etc.

In fact, how about first making sure they're informed about their responsibilities by making them take and pass a test about those before they're licensed (most of the landlords I had seemed to be unaware of those)?

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

To be sure, we see the world in a very different way. I'm thinking of anything the government does in an inexpensive, efficient manner and can think of none. That's not to say that government doesn't need to do things. Just that if cost efficiency is what you're looking for, you're looking in the wrong place. I guess I would view it as a necessary evil. If you're looking at government to find solutions, they're going to be expensive solutions. They're going to be inefficient solutions.

So you want government to provide for low cost housing? Low cost to whom? For the occupier, yes. But at a very high cost to those who will actually be paying the real costs. You and me the taxpayer.

How about landlords take a test? Maybe. Maybe potential parents should take a test as well. I owned a restaurant in California where I was required to take a food handlers test after taking a required course. Much of the course dealt with spotting parasites in sushi. The fact that we didn't serve sushi didn't seem to matter. Blockbuster Videos had to take the course because they sold microwavable popcorn. But that's just how government bureaucracy works. It was a good idea run amuck. It was a good idea in theory until a bunch of bureaucrats actually had to implement the program. Then it became just another government boondoggle.

I passed the costs down to my customers, lost some customers because they didn't want to pay the higher costs, let go one employee because with slower sales, I didn't need that much labor, he became homeless because he couldn't afford housing, got on welfare and into public housing at significant costs to taxpayers, etc. So we took a productive person and made him unemployed and homeless because the government decided to enact a well intentioned but fatally flawed program. That, Jafs, is what government bureaucracies do best. Well intentioned, high cost, low efficient, fatally flawed.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

I see nothing in your post that would help solve the problem you presented.

Also, you could have chosen not to pass those costs, or all of them, to customers, and it might have worked out better for everybody - you can't blame the government for your decisions in that regard.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Sure I can blame the government. They mandated certain behaviors that resulted in certain natural consequences. And as I stated, their mandates were well intentioned, yet silly in practice. I suppose I could have eaten the costs myself, but then I could blame my own poverty on the government. So it's either his poverty or my own, but somebody just became more poor and it was the government that made it so.

Solve the problem, solve what problem? As I stated earlier, there is a willing market for slum like conditions. Landlords willing to sell and tenants willing to buy. I see no greater need to outlaw the sales of this type than I see the need to outlaw those same purchases. Limit both, or neither. But if you're going to outlaw landlords from renting slum like dwellings, then outlaw living on the fringes of society. Outlaw poverty. If you're going to force landlords to conform to certain rules and regulations, then force tenants to conform to certain rules and regulations. If one must conform, so too should the other. Or neither.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Your choice wasn't determined by their regulations.

If you chose to act in such a way as to lose some customers, and thus lay off some employees, that's your choice, and you're responsible for it. I'm a bit shocked that you, who so often claim the need for personal responsibility, wouldn't heed your own advice on the matter.

Ok - you don't see a problem that some folks make so little money that they're willing to live in substandard conditions, and that landlords are willing to provide those. I suppose that's not too surprising, since your general approach is to simply deny problems, and if that doesn't work, you just say there aren't any solutions. I have to say I'm glad I don't see the world in that way.

Many of the activities involved in "living on the fringes" are already illegal, and tenants have rules and regulations they have to abide by, so I don't know what you mean there.

By the way, I think that government regulation is sometimes unintelligent and excessive, and if you were arguing that it should and could be made better, I'd agree completely. Of course, other times there are significant gaps in regulations that should be closed as well.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

There is a big difference between choosing something and having someone, in this case the government, force you to choose between two bad options. Suppose the government raises my taxes to 99%. Sure, I have a choice, pay or don't. One makes me poor while the other makes me a criminal. Saying It's my choice is disingenuous. If I choose not to be a criminal doesn't lessen my claim that it's the government that made me poor.

People make all sorts of choices for themselves that I wouldn't make. Some of those choices, such as drug use, is illegal. Some, such as alcohol is not. But others decide that they would rather simply live on the fringes because going to work at minimum wage, dealing with a boss, dressing appropriately for work, being on time, all those sorts of things is just not worth it. Yet many of these same people choose not to get the skills necessary so they could get beyond that minimum wage job. That is a poor choice, in my opinion. But it is a choice.

I recall working at McDonald's on 23rd. Street while attending K.U. If you worked there for a short period of time, show up on time, work as expected, you got a raise. Work a couple of more months, another raise and a promotion to asst. mgr. I also said I worked in social services for several years. So which was more valuable in the long run, my degree in that field or my work experience that eventually led to owning a restaurant? The answer is both. I have no problem suggesting someone work at minimum wage. It could lead to better things down the road. I have no problem saying someone should go to college, get a degree and follow that path. Both are legitimate. Both will take you as far as you let it.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Since they didn't do that, your example is meaningless.

The government didn't make you pass all the costs of the course onto your customers, you chose to do that. Unless it was incredibly expensive, you probably could have kept prices the same, possibly kept customers and employees that way.

Also, you could have kept prices the same, and decreased portion sizes, which is the sneaky way restaurants do that.

But either way, it's your choice and your responsibility.

Payroll taxes are increasing this year, back to about 6%, which means we'll all have a little less take home pay - how we deal with that is our choice/responsibility.

It's always interesting to me when those who make a big deal about others taking responsibility don't apply that to themselves equally. Folks who make the "bad decisions" you comment on have their reasons for doing that, just as you had yours.

I certainly think that making sure restaurant owners and managers are aware of, and complying with health code and safety requirements, is a valid use of government. It's exactly what I want it to do - if you've seen the reports on health inspections in the paper, you know how many local restaurants aren't complying, and have "critical violations", defined as ones which can affect public health.

Here's my latest idea - require them to take a test (at taxpayer expense) - if they pass, fine. If not, they have to take a course and re-take the test, this time at their own expense. Then, they must post the results of their test (or tests) prominently in the front of their restaurant. Additionally, they must post the date and number of critical violations of their latest health inspection there as well.

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

This is actually illegal under federal law

http://www.kscoplaw.com/outlines/s&sforcode.html

"In summary, we hold that administrative searches of the kind at issue here are significant intrusions upon the interests protected by the Fourth Amendment, that such searches when authorized and conducted without a warrant procedure lack the traditional safeguards which the Fourth Amendment guarantees to the individual, and that the reasons put forth in Frank v. State of Maryland and in other cases for upholding these warrantless searches are insufficient to justify so substantial a weakening of the Fourth Amendment's protections." Camera v. Municipal Court of City and County of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523, 534, 87 S.Ct. 1727 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967). Followed in Board of County Commissioners of Johnson County v. Grant, 264 Kan. 58, 954 P.2d 695 (1998). See also See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541, 87 S.Ct. 1737, 18 L.Ed.2d 943 (1967). Reasonably apparent authority to consent is sufficient, even if mistakenly relied on. e.g., Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 188-89, 110 S.Ct. 2793, 111 L.Ed.2d 148 (1990); United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 94 S.Ct. 988, 39 L.Ed.2d 242 (1974); Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 740, 89 S.Ct. 1420, 22 L.Ed.2d 684 (1969); State v. Ratley, 16 Kan. App. 2d 589 (1992). But third parties lacking any apparent right to grant access (such as landlords and hotel personnel) cannot give valid consent to search another's property. Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 81 S.Ct. 776, 5 L.Ed.2d 828 (1961); Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 84 S.Ct. 889, 11 L.Ed.2d 856 (1964). The person granting consent my have commons authority over the property. Common authority does not rest upon the law of property but rather on mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control. The theory is based upon defendant assuming the risk of a third party consenting. State v. Ratley, 16 Kan. App. 2d 589 (1992)

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

And refusing consent is not probable cause. Sorry for the long post I just wanted to back up the statement I made.

clovis_sangrail 1 year, 11 months ago

That just keeps them from snatching your bong and giving it to the cops. It does not preclude an administrative inspection of the premises themselves.

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

I actually think there should be more done to inform interested parties on any major policy change or that the general public be informed through publication in a major media outlet as like required with some civil court cases. But actually the Kansas Open Meetings act only requires notice of meetings must be provided to those requesting notice. There is no KOMA duty to provide notice unless it has been requested. And even more screwed up KOMA only requires that public bodies provide the time, place and date when it holds meetings. It does not require that a public body decide, ahead of time, if a specific topic will be discussed and then provide interested persons with notice of that decision.

And I personally think this does absolutely nothing to support open government. KOMA is about as effective as a bandaid would be if your arm just got ripped off.

http://ag.ks.gov/legal-services/open-govt/koma-faq

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

Well lets just throw a theory out there. All 3 commissioners are up for reelection this year, the filing deadline is January 22nd at noon. So what if a unknown candidate with zero business interest within this town enters the election. But here is the difference the individual is basicly a proxy of the residents of Lawrence. They start a website that they ask residents to choose how they vote on issues and/or utilize social media for live voting and follow what the citizens want as a democracy even if the commissioner personally disagrees with the common vote?

tanaumaga 1 year, 11 months ago

You still find stuff to complain about even when the students are gone. What's wrong, nobody to spy on?

msezdsit 1 year, 11 months ago

If the city made an effort, they could do a better job of weeding out the bad landlords and deal with them without essentially punishing the people who take care of their properties and the neighborhood around them. The repeat offenders are not that hard to pick out. I could name four or five right now and I could name four or five responsible landlords that don't need the city breathing down their back.

Hadley_says 1 year, 11 months ago

You sure can tell who the landlords are on this topic.

Michael Capra 1 year, 11 months ago

CEK are so high priced wont insur any of my rentasl with them

JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

What is Matt Hoy trying to argue? That must have been a head scratching moment for the entire city council.

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

With 18640 Comments on this site quite honestly I believe the interwebz may be his home

Stop_the_Madness 1 year, 11 months ago

Not much renovation in Lawrence. Bad investment

geekin_topekan 1 year, 11 months ago

The issues at hand is not about money, it's about empowerment. Landlords want tenants to remain powerless when it comes to safety, comfort and health in their homes.

Hit them where it hurts. Give tenants some rights of empowerment. Withholding rent if critical violations are not dealt with in a timely manner. Make a public data base like the restaurant inspections where tenants/landlord disputes arise and their outcome.

As written today, the tenant has no recourse other than to move out. They have the right to be homeless and that's about all.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Not well said. Becoming homeless is the end result of a long history of poor decisions that has little to do with any particular landlord.

This community has a glut of available rental units ranging from slum like conditions with very low rents to high end units and everything in between. If you find yourself in the position where you don't like your current rental unit, moving is the easiest option. But if your only option is homelessness, that is the result of many poor decisions that had nothing to do with the landlord. If you find yourself in that position, a good long look in the mirror is needed, not another blame game.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, that's a bit too dogmatic for me.

First, if you have a lease, you're obligated to stay until the end of it, unless you want to incur some serious financial penalties by moving out early.

Next, tenants who use the existing complaint based system may very well find difficulty getting a good reference from that landlord, which is one reason that system is a bad one.

Finally, I think that empowering tenants a bit more in some of the ways mentioned would be a good thing.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't believe you're correct there. A lease assumes certain things. You must be living in a safe environment. If the unit is unsafe, you may move out at anytime without braking the lease, therefore there would be no financial penalties.

From my experience, the only place I ever needed any sort of reference was when I live in a rent controlled city. The reason for that was that it was just about impossible for a landlord to evict a tenant once they moved in. Here, if you have the money to pay the rent, there are many willing landlords wanting to take that money.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Rentals have to meet very basic safety requirements, that's true.

But, there may be a number of other problems with your housing situation that don't conform to those.

And, of course, if the landlord demands you pay extra rent for leaving early, you have to know they're in the wrong, not do it, and very possibly go to court if sued.

We generally had to provide references when renting, although sometimes less, since we had been homeowners, which landlords seemed to like a bit.

But, I would think that most students or lower income folks who rent have to provide them.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

I assume most students would be getting something like a co-signer, probably a parent. But they're not the ones most likely to be moving into housing of the sort we're speaking of.

Low income people might indeed have a problem with references. Of course, as I said earlier, homelessness is usually the result of many bad choices a person has made in their lives. The same is often true for adults who find themselves in low income situations, though to a lesser degree. They may find it difficult to provide good references, but that's because of previous bad experiences. If I fire a poor employee, you can't expect me to give him a good reference nor should he expect one from me. If that has consequences, well, it should have consequences.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Why do you miss the point? Is it on purpose?

The current system is "complaint driven", which means that tenants have to complain to the city to get them to come out and deal with problems. A tenant who does exactly what they're supposed to do isn't a "bad" tenant, analogous to a "poor employee". They are in fact following the rules and regulations of the situation. And yet, they can easily be punished for doing that by landlords.

That's a big part of why those kinds of systems aren't very good, in my view.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

If the tenant has a complaint, I would think that asking the landlord to deal with that would be the first option. If he doesn't then a complaint to the city could happen. What happens next is pure conjecture. But setting up some huge government bureaucracy with landlords taking tests and inspectors coming around all the time just isn't a solution to me. Or the government adding to a failed policy of providing low cost housing, low cost for whom? It's adding a problem disguised as a solution.

jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Your comments are strangely meandering.

First, you say that tenants who operate according to the rules/regulations are analogous to bad employees, then you drop that and move along to another idea.

Your attempt to paint all government activities as huge bureaucracies isn't particularly convincing to me, either.

Or the idea that low cost housing is a failed policy.

Having been a tenant, I can state without any sort of uncertainty that the policy requiring tenant complaints discourages them, even from good tenants like myself and my wife. The fear of not getting a good reference and being able to rent a place is a deterrent.

And, given my experiences with landlords, who are often passive aggressive, it's a realistic and reasonable one.

Not sure why requiring landlords to take a test showing understanding of the relevant laws is such a problem - sounds like a good idea to me.

Since you don't think anything's really solvable anyway, what do you get out of our conversations? You'll never convince me that your view, which I find complacent, denial-driven and cynical, is a better one than mine.

Many things can and should be improved, in my view, and it's worth figuring out how to do that.

BlueWaffle 1 year, 11 months ago

So your telling me after enforcing a 14/30 against a previous landlord its going to be a cake walk to find a place. The realistic nature is a rental history check will most likely not take into consideration the landlord but the tenant. And I have been in that place, I lived on the street for over 6 months in downtown Kansas City Missouri right after my 18th Birthday and I did take a long hard look in the mirror and made changes to how I lived my life, how I treated others, how I treated myself. For my own personal situation years back I only had myself to blame and I was the only one who could get myself out of that rut.

Obadiah 1 year, 11 months ago

I was told by a city commissioner that the city already has the tools for code enforcement. He then went on to explain that licensing is not about code enforcement but about the city expanding its influence on the people of Lawrence. The rationale is that we have to be watched in order to be kept safe. The City of Lawrence is big business with expansion plans.

After all, when someone is born in Lawrence, its at the city owned Lawrence Memorial Hospital. We drink water, have trash, sanitation & transportation sevices, enjoy recreation, play golf, and drive on streets provided by the City of Lawrence. Internet service will be next, along with licensing and when we die, we will be buried in a cemetery owned by the City of Lawrence.

The City of Lawrence is stealing our rights in the name of protecting us or as a cover for controlling us. You could compare it to a parent telling a young child that the medicine might taste horrible, but it's for the child's good. We are regulated, restricted, socially engineered, and constantly watched. Our lives are being limited and directed in ways that benefit government but put individuals at a disadvantage.

gr 1 year, 11 months ago

If this is about safety, then don't charge the landlords. Why isn't this a "charge everyone for the benefit of the few" like many other socialist programs in Lawrence? Some bozo could say everyone could rent a house, blah, blah, blah.... (pool, empT, etc.)

If landlords are smart, they would pass on the fees to the tenants. Advertise rent at one price, and then on the contract put plus taxes and fees. Just like utility companies do. When inspection fees go up, it's tacked onto the rent. Tell the tenants if they don't like the extra fees, pay attention and vote next time!

FlintlockRifle 1 year, 11 months ago

Dang Blue, that was great, made ole Flints day, thanks-----

JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

Just another good reason to not purchase rental property in Lawrence. I think I'll look to Eudora and Ottawa. Lawrence can stick it.

Obadiah 1 year, 11 months ago

It isn't about safety. It's about power and control. Government has shifted much of its attention away from defending and protecting toward monitoring to control ordinary citizens.

Camry12 1 year, 11 months ago

Good ones and bad ones, they promise you stuff and come over at first but a few calls they write you off and let you suffer! It was all nice at first but now it is attitude and can not get nothing done. But they sure as hell want there money, but don't want to fix what needs to be done. Hmmmmmm, I wonder if I can get it done myself and then give the landlord the bill because that is the only way I know it will get done right!

Old_Oread_Phart 1 year, 11 months ago

With all the bitc*ing about Lawrence you do Wilbur, why do you continue to live where you do?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Can't blame the neighbors or City Hall.

Many of the landlords are the problem in the first place. Many don't give a damn and believe their tenants should be able to do whatever the hell they want. And some don't take care of their properties which makes properties close by take a hit on property values. Of course there are exceptions we know this.

Too many are selfish and insensitive they are!!!! Once again we know there are exceptions to the above comments. If only it was apparent they are the majority.

Face it there are a lot of slumlords in this town .... we know that.Then again rowdy tenants are also to blame. Bad manners is just rude.

Why do tenants believe they don't have to give a damn about their neighbors?

Why do land lords support this rowdy invasive behavior by not evicting them?

Landlords have no room to complain. Enforcement is almost impossible due to lack of staffing. However I do not believe that a fee will change the attitudes of landlords or tenants.

I say this ordinance should be passed,place an admin fee on every rental unit in the city and the city should hire at least 4 additional staff people to make it work. The admin fee will be passed on to the renters we do understand this.

I speculate the fee is not the problem. Fear of enforcement is what bothers the landlords. Of course it is the lack of landlord responsibility by the many that brings on this new ordinance. Can't blame the neighbors or City Hall.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

"Camry12

"Good ones and bad ones, they promise you stuff and come over at first but a few calls they write you off and let you suffer! It was all nice at first but now it is attitude and can not get nothing done. But they sure as hell want there money, but don't want to fix what needs to be done. Hmmmmmm, I wonder if I can get it done myself and then give the landlord the bill because that is the only way I know it will get done right!"

If has not been done always contact Neighborhood Resources as a first step.

cantbelievemyeyes 1 year, 11 months ago

So, what are the qualifications and training of these inspectors?? Can I, as a tenant, refuse to let them invade my privacy and not let them into my apartment? How will I know they know what they are doing? Are they electricians, plumbers, carpenters and certified HVAC technicians? I don't want to let strangers into my home, especially as a young single female. I pay for my privacy and do not want strangers rumaging through my things!

George_Braziller 1 year, 11 months ago

Inspectors don't just show up unannounced, they, just like the landlord are required to give you advance notice they are coming. You can even schedule it so you are there when they do the inspection and have four body guars with you if really think it's that big of a deal.

The closest thing to "rummaging" would be opening the doors under your bathroom and kitchen sink to make sure the drains or pipes aren't leaking.

The rest is just minor thinks like making sure you don't die from carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly vented water heaters and furnaces, get electrocuted from bad wiring, have a smoke detector and fire extinguisher, have running hot and cold water, etc. Yeah, really scary stuff.

George_Braziller 1 year, 11 months ago

Being licensed and required to know the codes forward and back isn't enough? What kind of credentials are you wanting?

George_Braziller 1 year, 11 months ago

The house next to mine was divided into apartments in the '40s and has never been inspected except once last May. One tenant finally was fed up with the leaking roof, leaking shower, sparking light fixtures and switches and called the city for an inspection.

The city found multiple violations, gave him ten days to either repair them or show a plan for when, how, and who would do the work. Landlord evicted the tenant who reported it by not renewing the month-to-month lease claiming he needed total access to the apartment for the repairs.

Nearly nine months later nothing has been done. The previous owner maintained the property the current one doesn't even mow the grass.

There are some good landlords but by not enforcing requirements for all of them means that crappy ones like this get a free pass.

nl12345 1 year, 11 months ago

Hi, George. I would like to clear up your confusion about the status of the house next to yours. If you would like to have a conversation about what has/has not been done, I suggest that you speak to us directly rather than in an open forum.

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