Memorandum

City of Lawrence

Planning & Development Services

 

TO:

Scott McCullough, Planning & Development Services Director

 

FROM:

Brian Jimenez, Code Enforcement Manager

 

CC:

Margene Swarts, Assistant Director Development Services

 

Date:

July 10, 2008

 

RE:

Rental Registration in Single Family Zoned Districts

 

 

This memorandum is intended to provide additional information regarding the history of the rental inspection program for single family zoned rental properties. 

 

Success of the Program  

 

The rental inspection program for rental units located in single family zoned districts was adopted in May 2001 and became effective on February 1, 2002.  There are currently 1,857 single family rental structures licensed. This number fluctuates monthly as the occupancy status of these units change often. 

 

The rental inspection program can be viewed as having two main purposes. First, and most importantly, the licensing and inspection of single family dwelling units ensures that landlords are providing the minimum property maintenance standards thus creating safer dwelling units for their tenants.  The program is a public safety service that has demonstrated success in obtaining minimum property maintenance code compliance. Secondly, by conducting these inspections, single family neighborhoods are more likely to maintain their livability and integrity which benefits all properties within these neighborhoods.

 

Since the implementation of the ordinance, staff has cited over 6,900 housing code and property maintenance violations.  Examples include citing violations for smoke detectors, GFCI receptacles, lack of ventilation for mechanical rooms, lack of paint, rotted wood, loose gutters, etc.  It is estimated that 95% of all properties initially inspected are cited for code violation(s).  The compliance rate for these properties after the initial inspection is close to 100%.  Occasionally a complaint is required to be filed with the Municipal Court as a result of a landlord failing to make the necessary repairs.

 

The ordinance requires an inspection once every three years.  There are many properties that remain code complaint upon the next required inspection; however, there are an equivalent number of properties that inspection staff cite with additional violations upon the next required inspection.  By inspecting every three years the City is ensuring that rental properties maintain a level of maintenance that greatly assists in the prevention of rental units becoming dilapidated and will assist with the demolition by neglect issue. 

 

Expansion

 

Expansion of the program to all rental properties that are 50 years old would greatly enhance the safety of those tenants occupying these structures.  Past inspection history has shown that older rental properties generally have code violations that are more severe in nature.   Four of the last five rental units that were ordered vacated due to unsafe living conditions were properties over 50 years in age and were located in multi-family zoned districts.  The other property was vacated due to the living conditions created by the tenant.  

 

A major concern is the number of sleeping rooms located in the basements of these older structures that are not meeting the egress requirements thus creating an immediate life safety issue.  Staff knows, based on tenant-initiated complaints in the Oread neighborhood, that non-code compliant basement apartments/bedrooms exist without proper egress. 

 

Additionally, the vast majority of 50 year old rental properties have been used as rental properties for many years.  Our experiences with these properties reinforces our belief that overall there is less maintenance completed for these properties over time than with single family rental properties.  It is our experience that the revolving door of tenants in these units creates a situation where landlords can easily ignore repair requests.