Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rental property survey mailed

September 28, 2006

A survey questioning De Soto residents on the quality of rental properties in the city was sent to 3,000 homes this week as a first step in developing a city rental inspection program.

De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said the survey was patterned off one developed by the city of Mission. He learned of it from the Lenexa city administrator whose city adopted it from Mission.

"Why re-invent the wheel?" he said. "We did make some modifications."

City planning director Kim Buttrum said the goal was to hear from landlords and the tenants of the estimated 500 rental residences in the community.

The 12-question survey asks residents to compare rental properties to owner-occupied ones in a number of appearance categories, turnover of the residents in the neighborhood, rental properties affect on the character of neighborhoods and the city's proper role in home inspections. Respondents are also asked if they own or rent their properties or own rental units.

Guilfoyle introduced the idea of rental inspections to the De Soto City Council in July as a way to give the city a tool in combating landlords who treat rentals solely as a revenue source, doing little or no maintenance on their units.

Buttrum, De Soto Multi-Service Center coordinator Jodi Hitchcock and Johnson County Sheriff's Officer community policing deputy Mark Lieker helped the city administrator prepare his presentation to the city council. At that time, Guilfoyle received the council's blessing to name a task force to further study the proposal. It was suggested the task force include Buttrum, Hitchcock and Lieker, as well as two council members.

Candace Asbell, who with her husband, JD, owns 36 rental units in De Soto, said they kept up their rental units, most of which are single-family homes, and enforced strict policies regarding defunct vehicles and trash. She said she had talked with Guilfoyle about the program and understood the reasoning behind the proposal.

"I think it's a good idea," she said. "My concern is that they get a couple of landlords on the committee.

"I certainly volunteered. Being from here and living in town, I'm very open to it. I think it would be beneficial to have one or two landlords as the guidelines are put forward."

Responsible landlords would benefit from the program, Asbell said, because it would help maintain the property values of their homes.

It could also give landlords documented proof of their maintenance efforts, Asbell said.

"It would be a great protection for us," she said. "What does happen, unfortunately, is some people who don't pay (rent) will go around trying to destroy your reputation."

Randy Johnson, who owns the River Bend and Oak Tree apartment near the east Y as well as a duplex, said his concern was the cost. It was suggested landlords would pay a fee for the inspections conducted whenever a new tenant moved into a rental home, apartment or trailer or on a regular schedule.

"I understand their concerns in that area," he said. "Maybe something should be done about people who have unsafe or run-down rentals.

"It won't affect me other than costing me more money."

When Guilfoyle introduced the idea to the council, Councilwoman Linda Zindler, who has a background in property management, said the effort could include landlord education. The keys to avoid deadbeat or destructive tenants were proper screening and adequate deposits, she said.

Asbell agreed with that assessment and endorsed the idea of landlord education. She has had to evict less than a handful of renters in her 12 years in the business because of proper screening, she said.

Still, it was a difficult process and one renters are often more educated in than landlords, Asbell said. If the city developed a reputation of fair but strict landlords who understood the eviction process, it might detract tenants who move from town to town looking for gullible landlords, she said.

Guilfoyle told the council in July it would take the task force about a year to develop a proposal. The process would include opportunities for public input, he said.

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