Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Divided city commission approves rental licensing and inspection program

March 26, 2014


After years of debate, Lawrence will have a rental licensing and inspection program that will cover essentially every rental unit in the city, but it won't begin as soon as once expected.

A divided, and sometimes quarrelsome, City Commission approved the new program on a 3-2 vote, but agreed that inspections of multi-family rental units won't begin until July 2015. That's six months later than inspections had been proposed to begin.

"We need to do this program, but if we don't get it right in the very beginning, we are going to shoot ourselves in the foot for the long-term," City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer said.

Farmer and commissioners Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm voted for the new program. Mayor Mike Dever and Commissioner Mike Amyx voted against the plan.

The program will:

• Require essentially every landlord in the city to pay an annual license fee to the city, ranging from $14 to $17 per dwelling unit.

• Landlords will have 10 percent of their rental units subject to a city inspection every three years. If the units of landlords score highly enough, they will qualify for an incentive to be inspected every six years. Landlords will pay a $50 fee for each unit inspected.

• Inspectors will be checking for a variety of violations related to health and safety code violations.

Commissioners heard more than an hour's worth of public comment on the proposed program, both for and against the ordinance. But landlords showed up in large numbers to express displeasure with the proposal, saying city commissioners weren't doing a good enough job running the current inspection program that only inspects rentals in single-family zoned neighborhoods.

Commissioners were split on the issue, and even the three who voted for the proposal were divided. Schumm criticized Farmer's proposal to push back the start date of the ordinance for six months, calling it "professional procrastination." Farmer said he was offended by the remark.

Dever said he voted against the proposal, in part, because he thought city staff had done a poor job of collecting data on the current inspection program, and hesaid he had lost trust in staff's ability to communicate on the issue.

But ultimately, the supporters of the program got what they've been seeking for more than five years: a system to make it less likely that renters will live in substandard conditions.

"This absolutely is the responsible thing to do," said Candice Davis, an Oread resident and longtime supporter of the program.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

I believe it is good that our tax dollars are creating new job positions within city government. It is good use of our tax dollars….. thank you. Let's keep all of this project management and enforcement under the roof of city hall. Keep the doors to information open 24/7.

Thank you city commission for Rental Registration.

Derek Eastland 3 years, 11 months ago

Richard, please explain how it is that our tax dollars are funding this Rental Registration ordinance? Last I checked, the ordinance was funded through fees imposed on the landlords only.

But in the general sense, why do you feel it's a good thing to create jobs via taxation? Essentially what you are saying is that you support stealing money from everyone, so that a few people can have jobs. That sir, is morally inept.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Retaining maximum market values for neighboring live in homeowners is at stake without the rental registration. This is a huge issue. Ratty looking rentals nearby threaten owner occupied resident market values.

Live in neighboring homeowners deserve enforcement of the codes instead of being ignored as a means to protect their investment and market value.

However we as taxpayers must step up to help staff do their jobs as always. It's part of the deal.

--- Report a Code Violation

Enforces the following codes

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

-- Environmental Code (Chapter 9, Article 6)

-- Property Maintenance Code (Chapter 5, Article 10)

-- Walls, Fence and other Structures Ordinance

-- Weeds Ordinance (Chapter 18, Article 3)

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

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Being able to support allegations is quite important.

--- Neighbors team up. A variety of names is important.

--- Keep records as to how often and which code enforcement mechanisms have been requested.

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

--- Take pictures – the big one as if preparing a power point for city commissioners. Send pictures to Code Enforcement and the LJW. Keep a folder.

Good information for local homeowners:

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago 12/auditor_performance_audit_rental_housign_program.pdf

The above has been available to the public for quite some time for the asking through planning.

I've had this data for probably close to 18 months.

William Weissbeck 3 years, 11 months ago

Lots of luck on this one. Towns in Indiana tried this, but the GOP controlled legislature passed legislation this year that exempted buildings of 5 or more units that were "professionally managed." As Deep Throat said, "follow the money." The inspections were long overdue. Not that there are many bad landlords, but there were in the 70's some frame homes that had some adventurous outside stairs and more than just a few various critter "guests."

Clark Coan 3 years, 11 months ago

I've lived in several slum apartments in Lawrence in the late 1970s and in the 1990s. This will help bring apartments up to health and safety standards and provide decent housing for virtually all of Lawrence residents, not just homeowners. This is way past overdue. I found this:

"The human right to adequate housing is the right of every woman, man, youth and child to acquire and sustain a secure home and community in which to live in peace and dignity. The right to housing is codified as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (article 25(1))

Derek Eastland 3 years, 11 months ago

Clark, I'm curious as to why you lived in several slum apartments over the years? I have to assume that its because you couldn't afford the cost of adequate housing. Because surely someone with the means to afford adequate housing wouldn't choose to live in substandard housing.

We have to understand the reason adequate housing costs more to rent is because it costs the landlord more to keep the property updated and in a safe condition.

So this ordinance will force the "slum lords" of Lawrence to update their property to adequate housing. It stands to reason that their rental rates will increase in order to cover the costs of updating their property.

Where does that leave the low income citizens of Lawrence? Either homeless or forced to move to another town where housing is within their price range. How would you have felt if this ordinance passed in the 1970's and your rent was increased as a result?

I believe all this ordinance is going to do is force the poor people out of Lawrence.

Brian Zachary 3 years, 11 months ago

Once again, we clamor for Big Brother to come and save us from ourselves. Sure it's going to cost more and more money to live, but finally we the new carpet smell that everyone has a right too. The cost of living in Lawrence is already too high to have the commission tack on even more expense. Who do you think is going to pay for these inspections? The landlord? That is laughable. The costs incurred will, like ALL consumer goods, be handed down to the consumer. I have lived in some dumps in my lifetime, but they were livable and better than the alternative. But after some hard work and dedication, I moved to nicer places. Sure I had to pay more, but that was MY choice. What people need to understand that their dollar is their power. If you don't like your hamburger, don't go back to that restaurant. Don't like the place you live? Move and don't give that landlord anymore of your money. It's quite simple really. Watch your own back and take care of yourself. Quit relying on Big Brother to do it for you.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Retaining maximum market values for neighboring live in homeowners is at stake without the rental registration. This is a huge issue. Ratty looking rentals nearby threaten owner occupied resident market values.

Live in neighboring homeowners deserve enforcement of the codes instead of being ignored as a means to protect their investment and market value.

And there are plenty of new living quarters students and others can move into. Lots of complexes with empty bedrooms. Boycott the dumps. Some of these slumlords have owned their properties for many many many years so when they sell a sweet smell of profit will be in the air and in their bank accounts. At $250 - $500 per bedroom no owner is losing money.

Not only that a number of former Lawrence residents moved to the KCMO metro because living is substantially more affordable and wages are more attractive.

There are options available.

Derek Eastland 3 years, 11 months ago

Richard, if you notice a property in your neighborhood that is not compliant with city codes and is affecting the market value of your property, all you need to do is report that to the city. If the city fails to follow up on it, then take it up with the city. Why do we need an ordinance that is going to steal money out of the pocket of good landlords so that the city can enforce existing codes it has previously failed to enforce (due to the abundance of "ratty looking rentals")?

I agree, there are other options available for people to live. But there is a reason people aren't choosing to take those other options and its likely because they can't afford it. So what do you propose happens to the people that can't afford to move to another place? Or can't afford for their rent to increase due to costly repairs required by the city?

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