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City wants further review of proposed rental registration and inspection program

September 10, 2013

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A plan to conduct safety inspections of thousands of rental units across Lawrence is still moving forward at City Hall, but not before the plan gets a more detailed inspection of its own.

A majority of city commissioners on Tuesday said they still were interested in creating a new rental registration and licensing program for all 18,000 rental units in the city, but first they directed staff members to further review the proposed ordinance and perhaps trim the list of possible violations a landlord could be cited for.

“I’m looking forward to trying to improve the housing stock in town,” Mayor Mike Dever said. “I feel like these inspections, though, really need to be about life safety issues.”

The list of violations landlords could be cited for includes a host of major life safety violations but also more minor issues such as dirty furnace filters, broken light switch covers and poorly fitted doors.

The proposed ordinance drew nearly an hour’s worth of public comment, including from landlords who raised concerns ranging from costs to civil rights issues.

“We’re going to see rent increases as a result of this,” said Brandy Sutton, a Lawrence attorney who has represented local landlords. “There is no doubt in my mind that we’re going to see that.”

Some city commissioners pushed back on the cost issue, though.

“This is a business,” City Commissioner Bob Schumm said of the rental industry. “People have to put money into their businesses. Just letting it turn into a piece of trash isn’t right.”

As for civil rights issues, an attorney for the city conceded tenants could face some legal liability if city inspectors saw “within plain sight” during an inspection items that clearly were illegal. But city officials also pointed out that the ordinance requires tenants to consent to the inspections. If tenants don’t consent to an inspection, the city would have to receive an administrative warrant to enter the property.

Several neighborhood leaders did urge commissioners to approve the new registration and inspection program, which would require all rental properties in town to register with the city and would inspect a sampling of properties every three to six years, depending on whether the apartment has a history of violations.

Commissioners agreed to further discuss the proposed ordinance at their Oct. 15 meeting.

In other business, commissioners:

• Unanimously approved zoning for a new commercial development near the future site of the interchange at Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The development — slated for the northeast corner of the intersection — includes 17 acres of commercial zoning. Concept plans show it could house up to a 60,000 square-foot store with several smaller businesses surrounding it. The development group, however, has not yet signed any tenants for the project.

• Approved $4.5 million in bonds and $43.9 million in temporary notes to finance a variety of previously approved projects, including the library expansion and the Rock Chalk Park recreation center. The city received an interest rate of 2.76 percent on the bonds and 0.2 percent on the short-term notes.

• Agreed to install a four-way stop at the intersection of Seventh and Alabama streets, after residents of the neighborhood and users of the nearby nursery school complained of excessive speed by motorists in the area.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Neighborhood Nuisance House

http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement (CODE ENFORCEMENT covers the following)

The Code Enforcement Division enforces the Property Maintenance Code and the Rental Inspection Program.

Also zoning and land use regulations including site plan inspections of residential and commerical properties. http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Suspect a Code Violation?

Adopted Codes http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

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

http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Being able to support allegations is quite important.

--- Perhaps neighbors can team up.

--- Create a paper trail by calling the LPD frequently if necessary - file a complaint.

--- Keep a records as to how often the LPD and/or code enforcement have been notified. email is a good recording device.

--- Keep a record as to how many times the property owner and/or property manager have been notified.

--- Take pictures

--- Stay persistent!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Tenants are landlords keeping YOUR home up to code?

Property Maintenance Code http://www.lawrenceks.org/city_code/sys ... pter09.pdf

Article 5 Article 6

Tenants occupy 58% of residential in Lawrence,Kansas which dictates tenants as major stakeholders.

In fact Tenants out number landlords by a significant margin and so do taxpayers who are NOT land lords.Therefore combined we can be quite influential in Lawrence,Kansas. http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Which is more detrimental to neighborhood property values? A couch on the porch or a neglected rental property?

The Code Enforcement Division enforces the Property Maintenance Code, and currently oversees the Rental Inspection Program. http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Tenants not getting results from the landlord?

--- Keep a record as to how many times the property owner and/or property manager have been notified. Be quite detailed in concerns.

--- Take pictures

--- Stay persistent!

--- become a regular agenda item for a hearing with the city commission

Contact Code Enforcement - http://www.lawrenceks.org/pds/code_enforcement

Should a landlord threaten eviction as result of taking legal action Lawrence,Kansas is loaded with vacant rental properties 24/7 of every type imaginable. In reality Lawrence,Kansas is a renters market = renters negotiate for the best possible monthly rate. Some of the slumlords have owned properties for decades long before super duper inflation of real estate pricing hit the market which says there is room for negotiation.

Those who care for properties have no reason to fear the rental registration program.

bmoody51 1 year, 3 months ago

As a landlord, I have no problem with inspections which deal solely with life-safety issues. It is in the best interest of the landlord to assure their property is safe. I do, however, have major issues with the inclusion of "minor" infractions, most of which address blight. Most landlords I know work hard to assure their property is kept in good order, both mechanically and aesthetically. To assume a rental unit is a source of blight to a neighborhood is the same as racial profiling. Owner occupied homes have the same potential as rental units, maybe even more, of being blighted. And the city already has ordinances to deal with that. Enforce what is on the books, rather than creating more bureaucracy and paperwork for landlords. Enforce it equally and I do not believe anybody will have a legitimate complaint about blight issues.

tanaumaga 1 year, 3 months ago

That's great about 7th and Alabama...part of the problem was the parents at Little Red School house parking too close to the corners of the street , blocking the view from the east/west lane on seventh....but there is a lot of walking traffic headed to Pinckney from that street too....the signs will be a welcome addition to that neighborhood.

Orwell 1 year, 3 months ago

No "traffic calming circle"? Some locations have all the luck.

LogicMan 1 year, 3 months ago

Cracked/missing switch covers are life-safety items. They are the sole thing between you and a live electrical terminal on the switch.

Update the list with great care!

bmoody51 1 year, 3 months ago

Right....and you can drown in less than an inch of water. So we should make bathtubs a major infraction. Use some common sense in what needs to be addressed, Are the flues for the water heater and furnace working properly? Are there GFCI outlets in bath and kitchen areas? Are fire extinguishers available? Now, those ARE life safety issues.

jafs 1 year, 3 months ago

Since it costs very little to replace cracked/missing switch covers, and it is a safety issue, I wonder why you would oppose including that.

bmoody51 1 year, 3 months ago

It is only the beginning. My argument is that almost anything can be argued to be life safety. A torn screen can allow a mosquito in the house, which bites the tenant and gives the tenant West Nile Fever. What I am saying is use some common sense about what is a true issue and what is a blight issue.

bmoody51 1 year, 3 months ago

Common sense is the key phrase. What is truly an issue? In the words of Joe Jackson: "Everything gives you cancer. There's no cure; there's no answer."

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Not all landlords are slumlords ..... a known factor.

Some rental properties also become sources of disturbances to the neighborhoods and too many landlords refuse to step up and work with the neighbors both live in owners and tenants.

No reason why landlords cannot write into contracts addressing verified neighborhood disturbances of sorts. When theses problems come up the tenant is out.

Working with the neighbors could likely resolve a lot of issues. That's where these suggestions could be helpful.

Being able to support allegations is quite important.

--- Perhaps neighbors can team up.

--- Create a paper trail by calling the LPD frequently if necessary - file a complaint.

--- Keep a records as to how often the LPD and/or code enforcement have been notified. email is a good recording device.

--- Keep a record as to how many times the property owner and/or property manager have been notified.

--- Take pictures

--- Stay persistent!

workinghard 1 year, 3 months ago

Merrill is making it very obvious he is for strict control over rental units but totally against banning couches as a safety hazard. Does that make sense? Let's try this scenario. Tenants see a free couch and snag it for their porch. They and their friends lounge around on it, maybe a stranger camps out on it for a night. Then they go inside and sleep on their beds. Next thing you know, the rental unit is infested with bed bugs. They complain to the city and the landlord is stuck with a bill for several thousand dollars for an infestation caused by the tenants themselves. Does that seem fair? How do rental units get bed bugs? Obviously from the tenants. I solved the whole porch couch problem years ago. Mine comes complete with porch furniture, wicker and wood.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Certain landlords bring on MORE regulations as a result of their negligent behavior and total disregard for neighbors. It's that simple.

Couches a safety hazard? Lordy get those rascals out of living rooms pronto!!!

LogicMan 1 year, 3 months ago

"Couches a safety hazard?"

Do some reading about WVU's tradition. Not that they are in our conference, we'll be seeing it regularly during football season. Our students might start imitating their's.

Maggie Morrissey 1 year, 3 months ago

I live on a street of townhomes. Half are owner occupied and half rentals. You can absolutely tell by a glance which is which. My feeling/opinion is the landlord(s) make sure it’s clean and nice for renting purposes and then never look at it again until it’s time to rent again. Lawn mowing months are the worst! Protect your assets, drive by occasionally. Just because rent is paid in a timely manner doesn't mean your property, your investment, is being kept up.

workinghard 1 year, 3 months ago

I wonder if any neighborhood kids knocked on their door and asked if they wanted their lawn mowed to make some money. Seriously, how many tenants are going to go out and buy a lawnmower? If mowing is not covered in the lease, the landlord should be responsible. I hired an enterprising young man this summer to mow my rental after he knocked on their door.

George_Braziller 1 year, 3 months ago

“We’re going to see rent increases as a result of this,” said Brandy Sutton, a Lawrence attorney who has represented local landlords. “There is no doubt in my mind that we’re going to see that.”

I'm not seeing how addressing health and safety issues resulting from an inspection translates into a rent increase. The cost of repairs on a rental property would be considered a business expense on the landlord's taxes.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

It's called scare people into NOT making the bad slumlords provide clean and safe homes to their tenants.

Obviously I say...... some landlords must believe that tenants should be thankful said landlord is allowing tenants to pay rent and live in a neglected resident.

The cost of the rental registration and inspection program and as has been mentioned any cost of doing business gets written off on taxes.

Perhaps some landlords fear that maintaining their property will result in higher property taxes if the value increases.

George_Braziller 1 year, 3 months ago

Or fear of having their name show up on a list of cited properties. I rented an apartment for a year from a well-known landlord who likes to project a civic-minded persona. I moved partly because the roach problem was so bad I couldn't take it anymore and partly because he was creepy as hell. I know two women who walked into their apartments at not their regular time and found him in their bedroom looking through the dresser drawers.

jafs 1 year, 3 months ago

That's really creepy - I hope they reported him to the police and took appropriate action.

He's breaking the law, and not just landlord-tenant law.

George_Braziller 1 year, 3 months ago

They could have reported it but didn't because there was no way to prove it. No other witnesses so all he would have had to do is say the allegation wasn't true and cite the law that he wasn't allowed to enter the apartment without consent or prior notice.

jafs 1 year, 3 months ago

Yes, but they still have to pay those costs, right?

Then they can get a tax deduction for them. Maybe some great landlord will only raise rents to actually cover their real costs, and consider the tax deductions as well.

In other words, subtract the tax gains from the cost and only charge tenants the real surplus amount.

But, I won't hold my breath to find out :-)

I don't believe you get tax "credits", meaning that the entire amount of the maintenance costs don't get paid - it's just that you don't pay taxes on that money when spent in that manner.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

"Do some reading about WVU's tradition. Not that they are in our conference, we'll be seeing it regularly during football season. Our students might start imitating their's."

I would suggest that their activity is a bit much and demands too much from law enforcement and the fire department.

countryguyks 1 year, 3 months ago

Tenants/Renters BEWARE !

This new law is not only coming after Landlords, but more than that its's coming after you as a Renter!

One of the main reason's the City wants this passed is so they can have access to your personal residence and have the abailty to go thru every room in your house/ apt etc !

These inspectors will be looking for any signs of drug activety, dealing or what ever else the goverment has on it's personal agenda ! Keep in mind alot of these inspections may take place when you are NOT EVEN at HOME ! They will be taking pictures of what ever they want !

A retired Lawrence Ks Police Officer has even stated the main reason the City Goverment wants these inspections is to look for Drug activety or anything else the goverment has on it's personal Agenda!

Do you want the Goverment going thru your home taking pictures and what ever and you might not even be there ???

This is a Violation of every Renter's rights !~ Having a Goverment Agency coming into your personal living space and taking pic's and reporting you to other goverment agency's to pursue charges against you !

Just think if these goverment inspectors suspect you might be using drugs they weill Report you to the Lawrence Police Dept !

Of if you have children and they don't think your living space is clean enough to raise children they will Report you to the Social Service Dept, and have them pay you a call in person and potentially take your childrend away from you !

What the City of Lawrence is trying to do is take away all your rights to privacy!

It would be a Cold Day in He(( before I would ever let ANY goverment inspector into my home/apatment with out a search warrant! But that is what the Lawrence Goverment is wanting to do!!!!

Search with no Reason !!

Stand up for your Rights and tell Lawrence Goverment NO !

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