In Kansas (yes, Toto, we’re talking about Kansas, not Lakewood, Washington – for now), cities like those in Lawrence, Mission, Topeka, Kansas City (where rental inspection programs have been in place for 20 years) – any city anywhere in Kansas – cannot, by recently enacted law in that state, anymore “require periodic interior inspections unless the owner or occupant consents.”
They should have dubbed it ‘Dorothy’s Law’.
Despite the protests of rental inspection proponents that “public health and safety needs of the community” were imperiled by the proposed law; irrespective of how much work, time and expense cities had invested over many years; though some legislators claimed rental inspections were “the only way” – the only way – “to get a handle on some of the unscrupulous absentee landlords”, the majority of lawmakers in the Kansas Statehouse ruled that “protection of the Fourth Amendment rights of property owners and tenants to be free from unwarranted searches by government officials,” trumped all other considerations.
“Consent of a rental unit’s occupant before an interior inspection is conducted,” is now the law of the land.
A parallel advisory legal opinion by Florida’s Attorney General reached the same conclusion.
“A municipal code inspector is without authority to enter onto any private, commercial or residential property to assure compliance with or to enforce the various technical codes of the municipality or to conduct any administrative inspections or searches without the consent of the owner or the operator or occupant of such premises or without a duly issued search or administrative inspection warrant.”
It is unknown, at this time, whether the apartment Dorothy (“Wizard of Oz”) went to live eventually in the Emerald City’s palace is also exempt from the prying eyes of city inspectors, but all of Kansas is.
For those not living in Kansas, suggest make plans to be off to see the wizard, lawmaker, whomever for whom the Fourth Amendment matters.
David Wilson says
Another out of town story that has nothing to do with Lakewood. Waste of time.
Betsy Tainer says
Sorry for the delayed response Mr. Anderson. Thank you very much for your dedication to this issue.
I’ve been out of town most of the last 2 months working hard with/for a dear friend of mine who has been pushed out of the rental market in this area. She’s faced near 10% annual increase in her rent near Wright Park for each of the last 5 years. The next increase would take her modest 1890s 2 bedroom apartment to $1,300++ per month. A sum she was unwilling to pay, understanding that every subsequent year would most likely see more.
She and another friend of ours went in together to buy a wreck of a house in the outskirts of Pierce County. The problem is that the house had previously been used as an office, it had no kitchen, no bath. It was very nearly falling down, seriously. It needed a whole house replumbing, rewiring… a complete overhaul. I was busy helping to make sure that my friend was safe and warm.
Silly Mr. Wilson, along with others imagine that they don’t pay property tax. They imagine that their landlord banks their rents and winters in Mexico. The struggle to find the resources to make tenant improvements while offering a desirable unit are real. It’s true, there are many private landlords who simply aren’t up to the task and shouldn’t be in business. The truth is, that if they don’t take care of their properties, especially under our weather conditions, they won’t be in business long and they’ll walk away crying about what a disaster rental ownership and management was for them.
I have a friend who lives in St. Louis Missouri where such a rental housing inspection program exists. His landlord is a slumlord. He gets around having the unit inspected by keeping the utilities and garbage services in his name and claiming occupancy while picking up the rent in cash each month.
This program will do NOTHING for the legitimate, responsible landlords other then an additional expense, which don’t forget, is not only the registration fee, but also the inspection and reinspection fee along with the very real inconvenience of having the city inspector scribe your todo list and put a deadline on it with threat of fine and withdrawn occupancy permit. It will only serve to drive up the cost of rentals in Lakewood. I have yet to meet a person with a badge and a clipboard who will fail to note deficiencies. It just won’t happen. And help us all if their deadlines fall anywhere near 4/30 or 10/31… when the property taxes are due. Or, in my case February or August when the insurance is due. Or, when I just signed a contract to install a new roof somewhere else, or when the truck broke down AGAIN in the middle of a vacancy and remodel. You see, the time period when some unexpected ‘necessary’ improvement is very small. I’m not alone here. I know I’m not.
In walks President Trump with his tax reforms. Yes, they play here. I haven’t seen every item of it yet… but seriously, with near/around 40% of all residential housing being rental housing, it’s not a bar you want to play move much without some study on the impact. The one single biggest incentive to investing in residential real estate IS the tax breaks. Take those away and they could very well ‘create’ a rental housing shortage which WOULD throw the ‘affordable housing’ folks into a major hissy fit. In their mind the correct response to that is housing vouchers, rent control, and/or your tax dollars/burden providing housing, ALOT of housing to ALOT of people…. which would only serve to exacerbate the already existing problems.