When they met Tuesday, Leavenworth city commissioners discussed the possibility of a licensing and inspection program for rental properties.

When they met Tuesday, Leavenworth city commissioners discussed the possibility of a licensing and inspection program for rental properties.

Mayor Mark Preisinger stressed that commissioners were not taking any action Tuesday.

“This is going to be a long process,” he said.

City Planner Julie Hurley said exploring a possible rental inspection program was a goal set this year by commissioners.

She said more than 50 percent of residential properties in the city are rental units. She said city staff believe about 6,100 addresses in the city are likely rental properties.

She said the city is contacted regarding complaints about rental units. She said the city contracts with the Welcome Central organization to manage a landlord-tenant mediation program.

In 2009, the city initiated a rental registration program which required a one-time registration of rental properties. Hurley said inspections were not required for this program.

She said city staff have identified 13 other cities in Kansas that have enacted rental inspection programs.

“We looked at all 13 programs,” she said.

She said a common thread of the programs is a requirement for rental licenses. She said this allows cities to keep track of rental properties.

“You’re getting updated contact information,” she said.

She presented commissioners with information about the rental inspection programs established by the cities of Merriam and Hutchinson.

Hurley noted that in 2016, the state government enacted a law that prohibits periodic interior inspections of residential rental properties. She said the law does allow occupants to request inspections by cities.

Commissioner Mike Griswold said a rental inspection program may help protect the health, welfare and safety of tenants.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jermaine Wilson said he is in favor of such a program.

Wilson said he does not want to put a burden on landlords.

“But there are some landlords that just don’t care,” he said.

Preisinger said most landlords run a decent business, but there are issues with some landlords.

He said this is probably true in every city.

“I definitely want to talk about this,” he said.

Preisinger said he wants something to protect tenants, but he does not want to do anything that will handcuff the legitimate business of landlords.

Commissioner Larry Dedeke questioned what type of inspections commissioners were talking about.

Griswold said he was talking about external inspections and not internal.

Preisinger said city staff members already do external inspections of properties. Preisinger said he believes code enforcement officers look at properties as people make complaints.

Dedeke said it was questionable whether he would support a new rental inspection program. But if he does support one, the program must look only at specific items.

He listed his recommended requirements – doors that can be secured, operational sanitary sewer service, hot and cold running water, no black mold, windows that work and an operating furnace.

Dedeke said charging rental inspection fees and requiring interior repairs will increase the price of rental units.

“The landlord is not going to suffer the loss,” he said. “He’s going to pass it on.”

Commissioner Nancy Bauder said she does not believe the city needs to inspect properties before someone moves in. She suggested focusing on cases in which a tenant cannot get something fixed.

Bauder said she does not want to charge a lot of fees for a rental inspection program.

Preisinger suggested the city may want to enact something “with teeth” to deal with landlords who are habitual offenders.

City Manager Paul Kramer asked commissioners where they stood on an annual licensing program for rental properties.

Dedeke suggested this already is addressed through the existing rental registration program.

Kramer said the existing program requires a one-time registration, and much of the contact information obtained through this program is out of date.

Bauder said she is OK with requiring updated information each year, but the city does not necessarily need to charge a fee for this program.

Sandra Van Hoose, who works with Welcome Central, addressed commissioners.

“We feel there is a need for more regulation of some kind,” she said.

Several people who own or manage rental properties also addressed commissioners.

Chris Urban is involved in a local landlord association, which he said can work with the commission on a solution.

“I think we can work together on it and make it work,” he said.

Dedeke said he would not have a problem renting from the landlords and property managers who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“The ones we need to be talking to are the ones who are not here,” he said.

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