Archive for Friday, September 27, 2013

Editorial: Rental rules

A new rental inspection and registration program should focus on serious issues related to health and safety.

September 27, 2013


Developing a rental registration law that serves both tenants and landlords poses some challenges, and Lawrence city commissioners are smart to take the time to get this ordinance right.

Commissioners put off action earlier this month on a proposed ordinance to create a new rental registration and licensing program that would cover all of the city’s 18,000 rental units. Although they said they still were serious about creating such a program, commissioners wanted the city staff to review and probably trim the list of violations for which a landlord could be cited.

The focus of the ordinance should be on significant safety issues, not on minor upkeep of properties. As presented on Sept. 9, the ordinance would allow landlords to be cited for issues such as dirty furnace filters, broken light switch plates and poorly fitted doors. Taking care of such routine maintenance certainly is the mark of a conscientious landlord, but commissioners are right that those issues don’t rise to the level of fine-able city violations.

Commissioners have heard considerable comment from both landlords, who are concerned about their livelihoods, and from neighborhood leaders, who are concerned about deteriorating properties down the street. They haven’t heard as much from tenants, but the safety of people who rent housing in Lawrence should be the top concern. Thousands of Kansas University students come to Lawrence every year in search of rented housing. Making sure the units they rent pose no health or safety hazards should be a high priority for city officials.

Some landlords and other residents have argued that the free market should be allowed to deal with this issue, that renters should be able to rent whatever housing they want — or can afford — regardless of its condition. It’s also been said that the new rental ordinance likely will cause rents to increase in Lawrence. On the contrary, the city shouldn’t allow rental properties that pose health and safety dangers. Rents may go up, but it seems likely that the competition created by Lawrence’s overbuilt rental market will act to mitigate any increases.

City commissioners are doing their best to balance the concerns of landlords with those of neighbors and tenants. They are right, however, to move forward on an ordinance to crack down on serious health and safety issues in local rental housing.


jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

I'd say broken switch plates are in fact a safety issue.

Poorly fitted doors and dirty filters not so much.

bmoody51 4 years, 8 months ago

Please explain how a cracked switch plate is a life safety issue. I can understand a missing plate being such, but not a cracked plate. I suppose one could justify nearly anything as a life safety issue with a little reaching: A torn screen allows a mosquito to enter which bites the tenant and the tenant gets West Nile Fever. The editorial is "spot on". There are already ordinances on the books which deal with blight issues. Every landlord I know wants their property to be safe for the tenants. But I wonder how many owner occupied homes would pass the proposed ordinance and regulations?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

If simply cracked, it's probably not.

But, if it's broken such that someone can get a shock when turning on the light, then it is. Hard to understand such arguments about very minor inexpensive fixes, in my view.

You must only know really good landlords then, and they're a minority in Lawrence, in my experience.

Owner occupied homes aren't analogous to rentals - I have the right to put myself in dangerous situations, but not others. Business owners have a relationship with their customers that doesn't exist in private lives.

For example, I don't have to follow food safety requirements at home, but restaurants do.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

"But I wonder how many owner occupied homes would pass the proposed ordinance and regulations?"

These are not for rent for profit. Renters being led into a rental have no idea whether or not their lives are at risk.

Do the slumlords of the industry disclose to tenants that this place being offered has many faults and you rent at your own risk. Because I simply don't give a damn about this property so take it or leave it"

According to city records there are more than 20,000 rental units in Lawrence thus making up about 58% of Lawrence residential.

"Rents may go up, but it seems likely that the competition created by Lawrence’s overbuilt rental market will act to mitigate any increases." THIS CONSTITUTES a renters market therefore let the negotiations begin.

Renters take control. Is a local slum worth $300-$500 a bedroom? The utility bills in a slum can be outrageous and air polluting. Perhaps $50 a bedroom all bills paid.

An overbuilt market should create a ton of negotiation exercises throughout the Lawrence community. There are tons of vacancies throughout Lawrence,Kansas 24/7.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

City Commission is not scheduled to consider anything related to rental expansion on their October 1 agenda. October 1 is a deadline the Commission gave themselves for submitting their comments/suggested changes to the draft ordinance/program.

A revised ordinance is on the Commission’s October 15 agenda.

When can the largest group of stakeholders aka all taxpaying homeowners view the revised ordinance? And it is this group of stakeholders that bear the brunt of this quite profitable industry when an irresponsible property owner is in the equation.

Will it be a "watered down" revision on October 15? The cost for rental registration has been suggested at $25.00 per unit. Neighboring communities ask a whole lot more than $25.00.

How many of the decision making body own residential rental property? Should these elected officials recuse themselves?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Is a property owner or property manager neglecting to deal with a neighborhood nuisance house? Several Tools are available.

Adopted Codes

-- 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)

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Being able to support "Nuisance House" allegations is 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!

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