Lawrence approves rental inspection program

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After nearly five years of debate, the Lawrence City Commission approved a program to license and inspect nearly every rental unit in the city.

The commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday to begin the program but delayed the start of inspections of multi-family rental units until July 2015, six months later than had originally been proposed.

“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.

The program will require nearly every landlord to pay the city an annual licensing fee that ranges from $14 to $17 per dwelling. Ten percent of each landlord’s rental units will be inspected every three years, although the landlords with good records could qualify for an incentive to be inspected every six years. Landlords will pay a $50 fee for each unit inspected, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1jHIUz2 ).

Under the program, city inspectors will look for violations, all related to health and safety, which could lead to a rental license being denied. Lesser infractions, such as a yard being in poor condition, would be subject to ordinary fines if they aren’t addressed.

Several landlords attended the meeting to oppose the program, arguing that the city already isn’t able to properly run its current inspection program for single-family zoned neighborhoods. And Mayor Mike Dever said he voted against the proposal, partly because he agreed that the city staff already has trouble collecting data on the current inspection program.

Supporters of the proposal said it would help prevent renters from living in substandard conditions, particularly in a city where many students at the University of Kansas live in rental homes.

“This absolutely is the responsible thing to do,” said Candice Davis, a longtime supporter of the program.

The program would cover about 20,000 rental units per year, with the city using a sampling method that would result in about 5,300 inspections per year. The program is expected to cost about $420,000 annually, funded by registration and inspection fees paid by landlords.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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