If you are renting, your home should be guaranteed safe. Period.

Issues: Rental Inspections

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You deserve safe housing

We are asking the city of Manhattan to implement a proactive rental safety inspections program. Modeled after Lawrence, this program would require a percentage of a property owner’s units be inspected on a regular basis with tenant consent to provide accountability to and enforcement of a set of core safety codes.

 Under the current rental registration program implemented in 2017, less than 1% of rental properties have been inspected for adherence to safety codes. 

The current program relies on tenants to call code services to request an inspection. This leaves tenants vulnerable to landlord or property management intimidation and manipulation. Tenants fear repercussions for requesting inspections and often do not have the means to move out of unsafe housing. 

The city should be holding property owners accountable and requiring compliance to safety codes. Tenants should not be burdened with monitoring whether or not the rental units licensed by the city are safe for them to live in.

Lawrence Rental Inspection Ordinance

Did you know..?

A rental inspections program like we’re proposing is legal in the state of Kansas? The opposition likes to claim that its banned by state law. However, in a memo to the City Commission dated 3/26/19, Katie Jackson, Manhattan City Attorney, stated that a rental inspection program like we’re proposing complies with current Kansas law and could be implemented and enforced by the City of Manhattan.

 Highlights of Rental Inspections

1

RENTAL INSPECTIONS ARE WANTED

Rental inspections were specifically identified by a diverse, multi-sector group of 95 community stakeholders including renters, landlords, property managers and homeowners in the Community Solutions to Affordable Housing project. 

In addition, The Student Government Association at K-State unanimously passed a resolution in support of rental inspections because unsafe rental housing is an issue widely affecting students. 

2

RENTAL INSPECTIONS ARE NEEDED

According to the most recent Community Survey done by the City of Manhattan, the condition of rental housing is the second most unsatisfying item among Manhattan residents right behind ‘availability of affordable housing.’ This has not changed from the previous Community Surveys, yet nothing is done about it.

As a side note, education - alone - doesn’t work. Lawrence tried it, and to no one’s surprise it did not work. The City of Manhattan is currently relying on this, and it’s still not working. Less than 1% of rentals have inspected since 2017 under the current registration program in Manhattan.

3

RENTAL INSPECTIONS ARE FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE

It’s cost-neutral for the City - In Lawrence, the program paid for itself by the third year. 

It’s good business - Lawrence property managers have not found the program burdensome to staff time or their bottom line. Preventative maintenance is cheaper than the often-far-greater expense of deferred maintenance. In addition, it's a good investment among ‘good actors’ to push out ‘bad actors.’

It helps Manhattan grow -  Safe housing helps us attract and retain a younger, competent workforce and build our local economy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What would inspections cover?

The program we are proposing would cover only the most essential codes that are needed for the health and safety of the tenant. Adopted from the Lawrence rental inspection program, these violations are:

  1. The roof is unsound, including, but not limited to holes through the roof sheathing, large areas of missing shingles, or major leaks.

  2. There are defects affecting the structural integrity and safety of the building, including but not limited to the foundation or roof framing, exterior stairs, porches, decks, balconies, exterior ceilings, exterior walls, exterior floors, interior stairs, interior ceilings, or interior floors.

  3. There are defects affecting the structural integrity and safety of any chimney, such that it poses an imminent danger.

  4. Required handrails or guards for interior stairs, exterior stairs, porches, decks, or balconies are missing or structurally unsound.

  5. Windows are defective, including but not limited to missing window frames, sashes, or panes, such that the interior of the structure is exposed to the elements.

  6. Exterior doors are missing, will not close, or have inoperable locks.

  7. Openable windows within six feet of grade are missing locks or have inoperable locks.

  8. There exist large patches (or multiple areas) of fungus — that is most likely mold — on walls, ceilings, or floors.

  9. The dwelling unit lacks minimum kitchen, cooking facilities, refrigerator and freezer, or food preparation areas.

  10. The sanitary sewer service line is not functioning because it has backed up, collapsed, or otherwise failed.

  11. Plumbing fixtures are not safely connected to the water supply; or required plumbing traps are not properly installed.

  12. The water service line is not functioning properly because it is broken, leaking, or simply not delivering water.

  13. The water heater is not operational or is missing temperature and pressure relief valves or, if such are installed, the temperature and pressure relief valves are damaged or leaking, or have spring-loaded operating mechanisms that are sticking or obstructed.

  14. Gas-fired furnaces, water heaters, solid fuel-burning appliances, or gas-fired or electric clothes dryers are not properly vented or safely installed, or lack safety controls.

  15. Combustion “makeup” air and minimum clearance requirements are not satisfied for gas furnaces or water heaters; or minimum clearance requirements are not satisfied for solid fuel-burning appliances.

  16. Heating facilities are not operable, safe, or capable of maintaining temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit in habitable rooms.

  17. Due to improper fusing, improper wiring or installation, deterioration, or damage, the electrical system constitutes a hazard to occupants, the dwelling unit, or structure.

  18. The electrical wiring is exposed, frayed, or otherwise unsafe as defined by the city code.

  19. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacle outlets are not provided in every bathroom and at kitchen countertops, and at least one grounded type or GGFCI protected receptacle outlet is not provided in any laundry area.

  20. Receptacle outlets are missing appropriate faceplate covers.

  21. Any exterior electrical panel is missing required ports or covers.

  22. Required emergency escape/rescue windows are missing, fail to meet the minimum requirements for clear opening, height, or width, exceed the maximum finished sill distance above the floor, or are inoperable from the inside without the use of keys or tools.

  23. Required smoke detectors for the dwelling unit are missing or inoperable.

  24. Any structure containing three or more dwelling units that fails to provide, in each dwelling unit, one portable fire extinguisher, with a minimum rating of 1A 10BC that is less than one year old or that has been serviced within the past year.

  25. Any accessory structure, including but not limited to garages, carports, or sheds, is deteriorated or leaning to such an extent that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

  26. The dwelling unit does not comply with the occupancy requirements established by the city.

  27. The use of the property does not comply with the requirements established by the city.

How many units will be inspected?

We are asking that only a portion of units be inspected on a regular basis. We are not asking for 100% of rentals to be inspected.

How often will inspections happen?

Lawrence does their inspection cycle every three years. If a landlord is passing inspections with flying colors (i.e. no more than 5 violations), they will be re-inspected in 6 years. We are asking to do the same thing.

How much would the program cost?

The inspection program is intended to be cost neutral to the city. This means no additional taxes are levied on anyone. However, as a part of operating a business, rental owners will pay fees. These scale depending on how many units they have. The fee structure in Lawrence is below, and will need to be adjusted to Manhattan.

Annual Fees

  • 1-50 units: $17.00/unit

  • 51-100 units: $16.00/unit or $850.00, whichever is more

  • 101-150 units: $15.00/unit or $1,600.00, whichever is more

  • 151 or more units: $14.00/unit or $2,250.00, whichever is more.

Inspection Fees

  • $50.00 per inspection

  • $50.00 per re-inspection upon failing

Will this drive up the price of rentals?

Despite what the opposite side says, no. There is no evidence that this will drive up the cost of living in Manhattan. In fact, looking at Census data for the cost of housing in Lawrence demonstrates that this program has no impact on rental prices. Likewise, Kansas City, Kansas, one of the poorest counties in the state, has not seen an adverse impact from their program either.

Likewise, let’s look at the math for the annual fees in Lawrence. At the most, landlords are paying $17.00/unit. This comes out to be $1.42/month per unit. That cost is negligible, at the least.

Can the program be voluntary?

No. Other businesses are regularly inspected to ensure the health and safety of its customers. Rentals should not be the exception to this. The argument that tenants just have to call code services is fallacious, and puts the tenant in a vulnerable place for retaliation. Would you call the health department every time you ventured out to eat?

Where can I find what city commission candidates support inspections?

The following candidates have expressed their support for an inspection program:

  • Linda Morse

  • Maureen Sheahan

  • Sarah Siders

  • Mary Renee Shirk

Where can I find why candidates are opposing the program?

Check out this Manhattan Mercury article here.

Tired of the slumlords running this town? Fight back.

Manhattan is a renters’ city — half of our town rents their home. Because renters are so transient here, it was hard for renters to stay organized and fight for what is rightfully ours. Slumlords know this, and have exploited it for years. Manhattan used to have a rental inspection program, until the landlords organized and got it repealed. But we outnumber them! We can change the culture of renting in Manhattan when we stand together.

Join us at our weekly meetings

We meet every Wednesday at First United Methodist Church. We have partnered with Common Table to share the Fellowship Hall on Wednesday nights. Common Table provides a free community meal at 6pm, with our meetings starting at 7pm. We work together and organize ourselves during our meetings, so come prepared to work.