Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Rental inspection proposal stalls, will be revisited

March 6, 2013


City commissioners balked at the idea of creating a new rental licensing program Tuesday night but did not pull the plug on the idea.

A majority of commissioners said they thought some type of citywide rental inspection program is needed but questioned whether the city currently had the wherewithal to start a program that would inspect all 18,000 rental units in the city.

“I can tell you that 18,000 dwelling units is a huge number,” City Commissioner Mike Dever, an environmental consultant, said. “I inspect stuff for a living, and that number makes my head explode.”

But commissioners said they still want to try to create a program before the current City Commission leaves office, which will happen in early April when three of the five positions will be elected by voters at the April 2 election.

Commissioners agreed to put the issue back on their March 26 agenda, while in the meantime reaching out to several stakeholders in the apartment community and neighborhood associations.

Both landlords and neighborhood leaders were on hand Tuesday night.

“This issue is about courage, leadership and safety,” said Tom Harper, a Lawrence neighborhood advocate who asked commissioners to approve an expanded rental licensing program. “People who rent their properties will have to ensure they are safe, and that seems like a reasonable expectation.”

But members of the landlord community said the program and the proposed fees represented an overreach by government to address what is just a limited problem in the rental community.

Instead, several landlords argued the city needed to do more to increase awareness by tenants that they currently can call the city and ask for an inspection anytime they believe their property isn’t up to city code.

“We’re looking at creating an overly broad program when what we really need is and an education program,” said Brandy Sutton, an attorney who represents several landlords.

The city’s current rental licensing program only covers rental units that are in single-family zoned neighborhoods. The proposal up for discussion Tuesday would have expanded the program to every rental unit in the city and would have required units to be inspected every three years.


David Holroyd 5 years, 3 months ago

So why is the city keeping Dekosky vs. City of Lawrence under wraps? Hush, hush!

joes_donuts 5 years, 3 months ago

I will bite... What is Dekosky vs City of Lawrence?

Bladerunner 5 years, 3 months ago

“This issue is about courage, leadership and safety,” said Tom Harper, I cough (Bull$4i7!!)

Ummmm. 18,000 rental units would require adding 3 or 4 additional people to the cities payroll....This issue can be addressed using current the system that is currently in place, but by all means..."Courageously" grow local government and spend spend spend! Idiot!

joes_donuts 5 years, 3 months ago

Tom Harper needs to go back to selling "unique" houses, and stay out of the rental business. He said there are plenty of people wanting to buy rentals if landlords don't want to fix them, but he really showed his ignorance on the subject because most of those would be non-conforming if this law goes thru.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

If the idea of inspecting 18,000 units makes Mr. Dever's head explode, he isn't qualified to be a city commissioner.

How can he possibly deal with all of the issues in Lawrence, a town of about 90,000 people?

The only way that I could possibly support the idea of just "educating" tenants about their rights would be if there were clear and strong protections for them from landlord retaliation if they do complain, but I'm sure that attorneys for landlords, etc. would oppose those.

Regular inspections of all rental units is the best way to go, in my view. In addition, instead of just shutting down the rentals if landlords don't comply, I'd like to see the city fix the problems and charge the landlords for that.

City health and safety requirements are extraordinarily basic - any landlord who can't comply with them shouldn't be in that business.

Catalano 5 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, Dever didn't have a problem "wrapping his head around" a cool $25M+ for RCP earlier in the evening.

workinghard 5 years, 3 months ago

Yes, tenants can report a landlord and get an inspection. There's just one problem. The case only remains open as long as that tenant lives there. If the landlord says the repairs cannot be made while someone is living there and lets the tenant out of the lease and gives them their deposit and unused rent back and the tenant moves, the case is closed. The landlord no longer is in violation and he is free to rent it out the next day. Close this loophole and many problem apartments will be brought up to code.

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