Landlords and Neighborhood Leaders Discuss Rental Property Regulations

Kansas City, MO – Landlords in Kansas City Missouri may soon have to register officially with the city, and pay fees to support new program that will monitor conditions on rental properties. The city council voted unanimously on Thursday to instruct the city manager to begin designing the registration program. Neighborhood leaders throughout the city, but particularly those in poorer communities, have long argued that some landlords maintain houses in poor or even dangerous conditions, contributing to urban blight. But landlord's say their properties being singled out by the new program, when regular homeowners and tenants also contribute to the problem.

KCUR's Sylvia Maria Gross talked to a representative of the landlords association about the plan, but first paid a visit to St. Matthew's Church in Ruskin Heights, where Communities Creating Opportunities member Shirley Dobbins has been concerned about rental properties for a long time.

At the Public Safety and Neighborhoods Committee meetings over the past three weeks, tenants also said that they sometimes are afraid to complain to landlords about conditions. Health Department director Rex Archer said substandard housing can compromise public health.

6th District Councilman John Sharp, who's now on the committee which will draft the new regulations, said neighborhoods would not improve if they only focus on rental properties.

Samuel Alpert represents landlords as Executive Director of the Heartland Apartment Association and served on a task force assigned to study the problem 2 years ago. He's surprised that the new city council has proceeded as quickly as it has.

The city manager's plan for regulating rental properties is due back to the city council in two months, and will need to be voted into effect. About a half dozen cities in the area have similar programs - Kansas City Kansas developed the first locally in 1996, and Lenexa, North Kansas City and Overland Park have all recently looked at landlord licensing.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast .