A proposed rental licensing and inspection program has resumed its march toward decision day at Lawrence City Hall.
City officials have set March 13 as the date for a public meeting to discuss yet another version of a rental inspection program that would cover every rental unit in the city. City Hall leaders also have indicated that March 25 is when city commissioners likely will vote on the proposal.
The proposed licensing and inspection program hit a snag last month when City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer said he wanted more time to work on a compromise version of the program. The March 13 meeting, which will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lawrence High cafeteria, will give the public a chance to review and ask questions about the new proposal.
“I think we have what will be a very good compromise,” Farmer said.
Farmer said his proposal will include a new list of possible violations that focus more squarely on life and safety issues. For example, trash in a yard may not qualify as a violation under the city’s rental licensing program, even though it is a violation of the city’s code. But Farmer said he would propose that inspectors could still cite the yard issue as a violation, and could fine the property owner.
The key difference between Farmer’s proposal and previous versions of the inspection program is that the yard violation couldn’t be used to deny a landlord a rental license.
A rental license will become a critical part of the Lawrence rental business because a city-issued license will be required before a unit could be occupied.
“I want the inspection list simple enough that landlords can hand it to their inspection staffs, and they’ll know everything that needs to be fixed in order to receive a license,” Farmer said. “The big beef has been that the list has been too long and too complicated.”
Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning, said several other key components of the licensing program would remain the same under Farmer’s proposal. They include:
• Landlords would have their units subject to inspection no more than every three years. The time period could grow to six years if the properties perform well on the inspections.
• Not every single unit owned by a landlord would be inspected. Instead, the city is proposing to inspect a sample of units. Generally, the city will inspect 10 percent of the units owned by a landlord.
Farmer has shaped up to be a key vote in the rental licensing issue. Commissioners Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm have expressed support for the program. Commissioner Mike Amyx and Mayor Mike Dever have said the proposed program has grown too broad.
The city plans to release a full draft of Farmer’s proposal before the March 13 meeting, likely on Thursday.