Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

Survey shows residents favor rental inspection

December 7, 2006

A large majority of those responding to a survey from the city of De Soto would welcome greater city regulation of rental units in the city.

Last month, city planning director Kim Buttrum mailed more than 2,000 surveys to those addresses on the city utility bill list. The survey was copied from one De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle learned had been used by the city of Lenexa.

What should be the city's role in regulation?¢ 56 percent said much stronger¢ 25 percent said somewhat stronger¢ 15 percent said the city should keep its current role¢ 3 percent had no response

The city received 450 completed surveys back.

"Usually, with something like this you get about a 10 percent response," Buttrum said. "This was an excellent response. This has been the best response to a survey we have had. That tells us our residents are very interested in this issue, either for or against it."

The survey asked whether the responder owned or rented a home and whether the person owned rental property (90 percent of those responding said they were homeowners while 8 percent identified themselves as renters). It also asked a series of questions on the appearance and effect of rental properties in the responder's neighborhood.

In addition, residents were encouraged to make comment, and Buttrum said many of them did.

But the nut of the survey was a question concerning the city's role in regulation of rental property. Fifty-six percent of those responding said they would like to see the city strongly strengthen its rental regulation role while another 25 percent said they would welcome the city taking a "somewhat" stronger role.

The same 56 percent said the city should start a rental program that periodically inspected the interior and exterior of rental units for safety and maintenance. Fourteen percent supported internal and external inspections for safety and 12 percent supported a program limited to external safety inspections.

The 33 landlords responding were far less supportive of rental inspections. Sixty-three percent of landlords said no city program was needed. But those landlords favoring inspections tended to favor the more stringent option of interior and exterior safety and maintenance inspection.

Comments from landlords varied from advice for the city to stay out of their businesses or concentrate on sternly enforcing existing codes to suggestions that inspections be performed every five years, not every time a renter moved.

Landlords expressed concern the program would add to their costs and make De Soto too expensive for low-income renters, leading to vacant buildings.

Guilfoyle won blessing to continue studying a rental inspection program after he shared survey results with the De Soto City Council showing 81 percent of residents supported such a program.

The task force of Guilfoyle, Buttrum, city codes inspector Steve Chick, De Soto Multi-Service Center director Jodi Hitchcock and a representative of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office is now seeking applicants from landlords and renters to serve on an expanded committee studying the issue, Guilfoyle said.

"Our attitude was we want people's constructive opinion debating the issues before and while we're putting it together rather than reacting at the end of the process," he said. "We think the end result is going to benefit from both the landlords' and tenants' perspective."

The new members should be named to the committee in January, Guilfoyle said. The committee will then look at rental inspection programs in other cities, hoping to use their experiences to avoid problems, he said.

The goal was to have a recommendation for the council in the early summer, Guilfoyle said. That deadline would coincide with preliminary consideration of the 2008 budget.

Those interested in serving on the committee should contact Buttrum at City Hall, 32904 W. 84th St., or call her at 583-1182, extension 115.

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