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City commission to consider approval of expanded rental licensing program Tuesday

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As my trucker buddies and NASCAR friends say, those fellows down at Lawrence City Hall have the “pedal to the metal” these days.

Every City Commission is different in how it goes about its business as the April City Commission elections approach. Some go into a mode where they tackle very few significant issues in the final weeks. Others take the approach that they want to get as much done as possible so the next commission can have a clean slate.

This commission run by Mayor Bob Schumm falls into the latter category. He’s pressing hard to get several issues decided — think the $25 million recreation center, a possible $55 million decision on a new sewer plant and now a major expansion of the city’s rental licensing program.

Commissioners are being asked to approve a new rental licensing and registration ordinance at their Tuesday evening meeting. I’ll bring you a more detailed report, probably on Monday, but until then mark your calendars and here’s a glimpse at the proposal:

• As previously reported, the program would require registration and inspection of all rental properties in the city. Currently, the city’s program only covers rental properties that are in single-family zoned neighborhoods. That means large areas of town — like the Oread neighborhood — don’t have rental inspections, even though they house large numbers of renters.

• Rental units would be inspected once every three years. The city, however, is proposing a system where larger complexes wouldn’t be required to have every unit inspected, but rather a sampling of units could be inspected. For apartment complexes that have 51 units or more, 26 units or 33 percent — whichever is greater — would be inspected once every three years. Apartment complexes with 11 to 50 units would have 11 units or 50 percent — whichever is greater — inspected every three years.

• The inspections would check for several items related to the city’s health and safety code. Importantly, though, the inspection could also be used to issue a citation related to the city’s occupancy code. No more than four unrelated people are supposed to live in an apartment in the city, or no more than three unrelated people in single-family zoned rentals. The code also covers a range of other issues: BBQ grills on decks; leaky roofs; wobbly hand rails; improper egress; and dirty furnace filters, among other things.

• Every apartment in the city would pay a $15 annual license fee. Apartments also would pay a $50 inspection fee in the year that they are due for an inspection. The city is offering a partial rebate on that fee: If a complex averages fewer than five minor violations per unit, the facility would pay a $25 inspection fee the next time it is scheduled to be inspected.

• The city previously has estimated it will cost about $370,000 to expand the rental licensing and inspection program. The proposed fees are designed to allow the program to break even. The city anticipates it will need to hire five new code enforcement officers and two new administrative assistants to staff the program.

• The rental licensing process requires landlords who live more than 40 miles from the city to appoint a resident agent who can be contacted about problems at the landlord’s Lawrence apartments.

• If approved, the city would start hiring new staff members in the second and third quarters of this year, and would start the expanded inspection program in the fourth quarter.

The commission already has expressed some preliminary support for the program. But it will be worth watching because the idea has brought some strong responses from the landlord community. And while this City Commission is working to get this project finalized before the elections, it also is worth remembering that anything can be changed by the new commission to be elected in April. Ask Manhattan about that. Manhattan implemented an expanded rental inspection program, only to see it be discontinued after a new group of commissioners took office.

Lawrence city commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.

Comments

swampyankee 1 year, 1 month ago

Sounds like the apartment complex owners would be less accountable

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Boston_Corbett 1 year, 1 month ago

It is so amazing to listen to the various landords on these boards (especially the bad ones) transfer responsibility to the tenants and others. It also doesn't wash. I cant wait to see all the Oread landlords show up in hoards about this issue.

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none2 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't agree with the rental inspections in the first place, but if they do have to have them, then the fat cats who own the multi-unit apartments should also be forced to have their units inspect.

I'm surprised they don't go completely overboard and make every dwelling (rented or owned) get inspected. I've been in owner occupied residence where there are plenty of unsafe conditions.

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Matthew Herbert 1 year, 1 month ago

with passage of this ordinance, tenants should be very prepared to have landlords 'in their business' to a far greater extreme. I am hoping to see a complete list of what qualifies as "among other things" but under the status quo, I can comfortably rent a house out to a tenant and then give them their privacy. Under this ordinance, if I am to be held financially accountable for a tenant placing a grill on their deck, a tenant removing their own smoke detectors (happens ALL the time), a tenant removing their own furnace filters (I have NO idea why this would be done, but I've seen it happen now twice THIS YEAR on furnaces I went to service) etc... then I have no choice but to come over and check these things out routinely. If tenants are comfortable with me doing routine walk-throughs, comfortable with me raising rents to make up for the $25 fee + $50 inspection fee, then I'm okay with this ordinance.

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irvan moore 1 year, 1 month ago

the solution of inspecting rental property in single family neighborhoods didn't address the main pronlem which is the apartments and multi unit housing

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cletus26 1 year, 1 month ago

Well i be.. this might make them slumlords get in gear and clean up their properties

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Number_1_Grandma 1 year, 1 month ago

On rental registration question.

The city CANNOT enforce the ordinance as it reads right now; with the number of rentals and the number of inspectors...AGAIN, this is not enforceable!

When are the commission going to understand that they don't have the staff to enforce something, don't regulate it?!

If commissioners are going to "bite this latest registration off" then they should be made to "chew it" and enforce the damned thing!!!!

The public is going to hold you to this commissioners! Don't do this....

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mdlund0 1 year, 1 month ago

How about if we wait until after the election to decide some of these things. Is there anything on the list that absolutely cannot wait? I thought not.

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Boston_Corbett 1 year, 1 month ago

Long, long, long, long overdue. We are fortunate that we have not had deaths in the fire-traps in the Oread neighborhood.

Many landlords are good, but there are a significant number of slum-lords and slum-housing out there, especially in the Oread neighborhood.

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kuguardgrl13 1 year, 1 month ago

Have any of you homeowners been in a Lawrence apartment lately? Even the "good" complex apartments have their problems. Your gas lines don't leak because you have a maintenance person who isn't well-trained. You don't leave your furnace for years without testing it only to find it red tagged by Black Hills because it's filthy. The pipes under your sink don't break when you bump them with something. Your shower doesn't back up with years of other people's hair. You don't move into a new house only to find it dirty and have broken appliances. When you shovel your driveway after it snows, you don't have your car blocked in. Most apartments in this town are not worth the $800 a month on average. If I have to pay the fees, so be it. At least then my apartment might not be substandard. And I hope the City Commission requires inspection of the actual units that people live in. The show units are a lie.

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 1 month ago

This commission run by Mayor Bob Schumm falls into the latter category. He’s pressing hard to get several issues decided

**— think the $25 million recreation center,=+$

**a possible $55 million decision on a new sewer plant=+$$

**and now a major expansion of the city’s rental licensing program.=+$

---a million here, a million there, and soon you're talking about real money! there's supposedly '94 tax dollars, use them for real needs, needs not wants like the rec center white elephant that'll cost the city to operate/lose money.

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richfree 1 year, 1 month ago

Here we go again. Another way of adding to the tax base, this time under the guise of protecting the poor, defenseless tenants from the mean, nasty, evil, money-hungry slumlords. Aren't there enough ordinances on the books now to do away with the crappy rental places ? Additional fees paid to the City will be passed on to the tenants anyhow. Just another backdoor way of raising taxes .

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Lot of communities in Kansas have a program in place. JOCO is one such program.

Lawrence has nearly 21,000 rental units. No reason why this program cannot support itself on $25-$35 per unit. This is a quite generous bargain compared to other nearby communities.

58% of Lawrence residential is rental. Looks like developers cannot ever get enough.

At the rate the City Commission and Planning Commissioners approve these monster rental projects Lawrence should be 75% rental in the near future. The market will be so much MORE heavily over saturated rental rates will going at $50 per month and no damage deposit required.

It's a renters market as we speak. Renters sharpen your negotiation skills YOU don't have to live anywhere the choices are many.

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tao7 1 year, 1 month ago

Maybe this will spur all those slumlords to fix there places up! This town is so full of crappy rental places that charge more than they should.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 1 month ago

More government fees and regulations. Will anyone ever shrink the government or remove laws and fees from the books?

This is a train-wreck coming and the renters are the ones who will be stuck with the fees being added to their rent.

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