Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2014

City explains, defends proposed rental licensing program at public forum

March 13, 2014


A proposed, citywide rental licensing and inspection program is still not universally loved, but it is one step closer to winning Lawrence City Commission approval.

City commissioners explained, and at times defended, the proposed program to a crowd of about 55 residents at a public forum at Lawrence High School.

Several landlords expressed concerns that the proposal was an overreach by government, and that the city simply should do a better job of educating tenants about the city's existing safe housing laws.

"If we think people feel helpless, why don't we educate them about their own rights?" said Jo Barnes, a Lawrence landlord. "We should enable them to be their own advocates. This proposal is just duplication and government red tape."

But a majority of city commissioners indicated they support the proposal, and a vote on the plan is scheduled for the City Commission's March 25 meeting.

One key detail of the proposal does appear likely to change at that meeting. City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer said he plans to back away from his suggestion that the city run two separate inspection programs — one for rentals in single-family zoned neighborhoods and one for rentals in multifamily zoned neighborhoods. Instead, he is proposing one program with identical rules and incentives for both types of properties.

But other than that, commissioners weren't proposing changes to the program. Farmer said the program is a necessity, even though he believes the majority of Lawrence landlords provide good, safe housing.

"The reality is that governments for years have regulated the many for the actions of the few," Farmer said.

He said the inspection program is particularly needed for low-income renters because they are often to afraid to call in a complaint against their landlords because they don't have any confidence that the system is going to work for them.

The public forum did draw some supporters of the proposed program. Candice Davis, an Oread neighborhood resident who has been a longtime supporter of a rental licensing program, said she's hearing good support out in neighborhoods.

"I'm happy that it appears this commission wants to look out for the common good," Davis said. "That is what this will do."

As proposed, the program has many details. They include:

• A landlord would have only about 10 percent of his or her rentals inspected at any one time.

• Inspectors will use a checklist of 27 life and safety code issues as they inspect rentals.

• If a landlord doesn't have any apartments with more than five violations, the landlord's properties won't be reinspected for another six years. If a landlord has a unit with more than five violations, the city will inspect again in three years.

• The program will cost about $500,000 a year to operate, and will be paid for through registration and inspection fees paid for by landlords.

Commissioners will next discuss the item at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on March 25 at City Hall.


Matthew Herbert 4 years ago

Perhaps a question of semantics, but nonetheless one the city commission will want to address with legal verbage: many landlords, myself included, who own multiple properties place these properties within LLC's - sometimes a landlord with 10 properties may have just as many LLC's as a way of protecting the assets of one property from another. When the city's agreement states that they have the right to inspect 10% of properties, will that be per individual or PER rental company. As in, would an inspection isolate an individual LLC and the benefits of a positive inspection affect only the properties within that LLC or would a positive inspection benefit ALL of my properties, regardless of their LLC separations?

Alan Baker 4 years ago

Farmer says "this program is particularly needed for low-income renters" so why is a Section 8 housing excluded from the program?

Melinda Henderson 4 years ago

Not all low-income renters participate in the Section 8 housing program.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Code Enforcement -

The Code Enforcement Division enforces the Property Maintenance Code, Environmental Code, Weed Code, Sign Code, and Zoning Code. This division also oversees the Rental Inspection Program, environmental/structural blight, grass/weed complaints, zoning and land use regulations including site plan inspections of residential and commerical properties.

--- Applications and Forms

--- Rental License Application

--- Consent for Inspection

--- Report a Code Violation

--- Adopted Codes

--- Property Maintenance Code (Chapter 9, Article 6)

--- Rental Housing Ordinance (Chapter 6, Article 13)

--- Sign Ordinance (Chapter 5, Article 18)

--- Snow and Ice Removal (Chapter 16, Article 1)

--- Walls, Fence and other Structures Ordinance (Chapter 16, Article 6)

--- Weeds Ordinance (Chapter 18, Article 3)

--- Zoning Enforcement (Land Development Code - Chapter 20)

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Safety and Code Compliance Rental Registration

The "Check a Home or Rental Property for Safety and Code Compliance" (PDF, 318 KB ) pamphlet is intended to serve as an informal guide to the City Code on housing and environmental issues. We hope all citizens, whether tenant, homeowner, or landlord, find it helpful.

This booklet is not an adopted, legal instrument. Refer to the City Code for precise definitions and descriptions of requirements. As the City of Lawrence continues to grow, it is our goal that the City maintain its appearance and integrity of which it is so proud.

We must all work together to accomplish this. Here are some key points to be aware of:

--- General condition of your property;

--- General behavior with regard to noise, trash, vehicles, number of occupants; and

--- Awareness of neighborhood organizations.

These are only a few of the many things which contribute to a well-maintained and respectable property and neighborhood. Each of these is described in greater detail in this pamphlet.

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

Update on Rental Registration: The following schedule is provided by the City in order to process Commissioner Farmer’s proposal to consider a Draft 4 to Ordinance 8840, which would expand the rental licensing and inspection program to all rented units in the city.

Week of March 3, 2014 – complete case-study inspections using revised checklist.

March 13, 2014 – conduct a community meeting to review proposal and take public input at Lawrence High School cafeteria, 6:00 p.m.

March 20, 2014 – Post to the City Commission agenda a memo summarizing the community meeting and inspections.

March 25, 2014 – City Commission considers options at their regular meeting.

Read updates here:

Contact your commissioners here:

Tom Hilger 4 years ago

I'm not commenting on this article because I can't read it because I need to answer a question. Just yesterday I answered 7 of your stupid questions and was told that I would NOT have to answer more for 7 days. Come on people what's the deal?

James Howlette 4 years ago

Just hit buttons until it goes away.

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