Kansas City Tenant Bill of Rights

33 Replies

Hello fellow Kansas City investors and property managers (and everyone else for that matter), I think it's important to make you aware of the Kansas City Mayor's Special Committee on Housing Policy which will be holding its second meeting on the proposed Kansas City Tenant Bill of Rights. Some of what's in the bill is fine and a lot is already law. But some of it is really bad. Most notably are prohibitions on screening for evictions or felonies unless "unless the landlord can demonstrate the rental decision was based on all information available including consideration of the frequency, recentness, and severity of a criminal record." Talk about vague!

The latest version seems to have been softened a bit (you can see it here). You can also see my longer critique here. But I would recommend coming to the next meeting at that Kansas City, MO City Hall at 414 E 12th St., 26th Floor Council Chambers on Wednesday, November 13th at 4:00. (Event page is here.)

I would also recommend getting involved with Landlord Inc. and @Michelle Winberry 's group the KC Regional Housing Alliance in general.

Of course there are bad landlords and tenants need some protection. But property owners also need reasonable laws that allow us to protect ourselves, our businesses, our employees, our contractors and our other residents. Not being able to screen for felonies (or being severely hampered in doing so) would, among other things, put other residents at serious risk in certain situations. Please join us on the 13th if you can and let the housing committee hear your opinion. You can find there work emails here (please be respectful and pithy). 

Also, I would recommend checking out @Kim Tucker 's group MAREI, which tracks these things and lobbies on our behalf for a fair and reasonable policy for both renters and property owners alike.

Originally posted by @Nic Stergion :

this is a huge deal. If KC proper falls, surrounding areas will go with it! 

That's definitely true. More and more of these laws are popping up and we need to do our best to make sure that whatever is passed is reasonable and not, well, crazy.

As a wind energy developer with a lot of experience dealing with restrictive wind-related zoning ordinances, I can tell you that industry participation is critical. County commissioners, or in this case city council members, can be easily swayed by an emotional crowd, especially if no one is there providing level-headed facts. If you were in the council's place facing that room, and no one from the industry seemed to care enough to defend itself, wouldn't the easier thing be to give in to the people getting upset with you? The answer is yes and it happens all the time in my field.

@Nic Stergion makes a good point as well. When one county makes a restrictive ruling, they make it a lot easier for the one next door to do the same. In fact they've written the road map to follow.

Echoing @Andrew Syrios ' call to action here that anyone with relevant experience should plan 2 minutes of testimony to speak next Wednesday at 4pm. 

Originally posted by @Kate Hopkins :

As a wind energy developer with a lot of experience dealing with restrictive wind-related zoning ordinances, I can tell you that industry participation is critical. County commissioners, or in this case city council members, can be easily swayed by an emotional crowd, especially if no one is there providing level-headed facts. If you were in the council's place facing that room, and no one from the industry seemed to care enough to defend itself, wouldn't the easier thing be to give in to the people getting upset with you? The answer is yes and it happens all the time in my field.

@Nic Stergion makes a good point as well. When one county makes a restrictive ruling, they make it a lot easier for the one next door to do the same. In fact they've written the road map to follow.

Echoing @Andrew Syrios' call to action here that anyone with relevant experience should plan 2 minutes of testimony to speak next Wednesday at 4pm. 

Absolutely Kate, we need to be there and make our case. Even more so since some of what they're pushing for will not just hurt us but will also hurt tenants and make housing less affordable. 

My husband and I own one property in KC MO and I'm trying to get up to speed on this.  What I've been hearing is that the bill would prohibit screening for evictions and felonies and would prohibit credit checks, and that it would require landlords to accept section 8 vouchers.  I've just read the text of the legislation and I don't find these specific provisions.  Were those struck from the bill?  What I see here in this current version looks pretty reasonable, but I'm open to discussion.  I was really alarmed initially when I heard about prohibitions on screening and a requirement to accept section 8 vouchers.  None of what I see in the current version would be a problem for us, as we've had great relationships with tenants and we take a lot of care with our property.  I do screen very carefully.  

Correction:  I had only read the Tenant's Bill of Rights legislation -- I missed the other link to ordinance 190935.  Andrew, the section you quoted is the one of the most confusing to me also. Plus this:  "nor may the landlord inquire about a rental applicant’s rental history until after a determination that the individual is otherwise qualified to be a tenant."  Except in cases where the applicant has been a homeowner for a lengthy period of time, an applicant's rental history is the most important part of my screening.  I do a screening call with potential tenants who have inquired and I don't go any further if they don't have a good rental history.  I'm really confused about how to conduct my screenings based on this text.  

@Lesa C. - As I read it, if you read the entire section of 190935 you referenced, it is not nearly as bad as it sounds.  Here's the whole section:

"The following discriminatory housing practices shall be unlawful:

...

(11) To refuse to negotiate for the rental of a dwelling based on an individual’s rental history, unless the landlord can demonstrate that the rental decision was based on all information available, including consideration of the frequency and recentness of favorable and adverse rental history.  Further, the rental history under consideration will not include lawsuits where no judgment for the landlord was entered; nor may the landlord inquire about a rental applicant’s rental history until after a determination that the individual is otherwise qualified to be a tenant."

I think the key here is the phrase "refuse to negotiate."  Under this law, you would have to figure out if a tenant is qualified using criteria other than rental history.  Then, once you find the tenant qualified, you can look at their rental history and then you can enter a negotiation phase with them.  So, if they otherwise qualify as a tenant, but they have a poor rental history, you are ostensibly allowed to offer to rent it to them at 4 X the originally offered rent.  

The same "refuse to negotiate" language is used with respect to the criminal history provision.  You can consider criminal history, you just can't refuse to negotiate with a tenant over it.  

Need to stress here that this is not intended as legal advice.  I am an out-of-state attorney, not licensed in Missouri or Kansas, and anyone reading this should consult their own attorney for advice as to how the regulations would apply specifically to them.  

Overall, the regulations are pretty onerous and I hope they get watered-down.


Originally posted by @Lesa C. :

Correction:  I had only read the Tenant's Bill of Rights legislation -- I missed the other link to ordinance 190935.  Andrew, the section you quoted is the one of the most confusing to me also. Plus this:  "nor may the landlord inquire about a rental applicant’s rental history until after a determination that the individual is otherwise qualified to be a tenant."  Except in cases where the applicant has been a homeowner for a lengthy period of time, an applicant's rental history is the most important part of my screening.  I do a screening call with potential tenants who have inquired and I don't go any further if they don't have a good rental history.  I'm really confused about how to conduct my screenings based on this text.  

Honestly, it would appear to me to be a violation of Fair Housing since Fair Housing requires you to treat everyone the same. So you have to have consistent rules. But now you have to take everything into account and what, make exceptions? 

It's so vaguely and badly written it's hard to tell. The lady who was testifying about the bill last week didn't even seem to really understand it. It may be rather innocuous and like a "ban the box" thing applied to housing. But that wouldn't make sense because of Fair Housing's demands to list your requirements and treat everyone the same. We already can't tell someone not to apply. We can only say something like, "we don't accept evictions unless they are at least seven years old" or something like that. The law is a complete mess.

Originally posted by @Olga Marquez :

@Andrew Syrios and everyone else... please make sure you fill out the questionnaire. They are almost at 500 in feedback. Please visit the FB groups For more info. Use #kcunited to find more info on Fb, Twitter and IG.

Absolutely! Here's the link to the survey by the way: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeeBzbg7peTu9FXAxVf5RkYHn4jYRCV8frn73j8SirOaNWFFA/viewform?fbclid=IwAR3Z1SrGibY_fzQ6br2nmQay7z6KQ96Ze-JO0C8fHvRXpZa6ZK2_2oCLVfM

@Andrew Syrios

Statement from People’s Action. National group supporting Tenant’s Bill, and both created by Tara. This sounds like Marxism. This is happening on a National level already.

“For us, this is the major intervention that takes housing off the market and decommodifies it,” she says. The Homes Guarantee proposes taxing the appreciation of privately owned homes, while the 12 million new social housing units would put a massive number of new units off the speculation market entirely. The aim is to shift the paradigm—from homes as wealth stores to basic necessities.

Originally posted by @Olga Marquez :

@Andrew Syrios

Statement from People’s Action. National group supporting Tenant’s Bill, and both created by Tara. This sounds like Marxism. This is happening on a National level already.

“For us, this is the major intervention that takes housing off the market and decommodifies it,” she says. The Homes Guarantee proposes taxing the appreciation of privately owned homes, while the 12 million new social housing units would put a massive number of new units off the speculation market entirely. The aim is to shift the paradigm—from homes as wealth stores to basic necessities.

 

Yup, repackaged Marxism. Honestly, how many times does communism need to fail (usually with massive amounts of bloodshed before the inevitable collapse) before this idea can just be permanently discarded???

@Andrew Syrios

The worst part is that the People’s Action Org is named the same as the People’s Action Party in Singapore, a leftist fascist group founded on Traditional Leninist views. Unbelievable that people are drinking this kool aid.

Originally posted by @Olga Marquez :

@Andrew Syrios

The worst part is that the People’s Action Org is named the same as the People’s Action Party in Singapore, a leftist fascist group founded on Traditional Leninist views. Unbelievable that people are drinking this kool aid.

 Well at least they're not hiding it...

Originally posted by @Michelle Lutz :

Looking forward to showing up tomorrow and making landlord voices heard. This won’t happen without a fight. Save me a spot up front @Andrew Syrios :-)

Will do Michelle!

That being said, I think it's important to stress again and again that this bill is bad for tenants too, maybe even more than it is for landlords. One of the biggest complaints I've heard from tenants is that the landlord will "let anyone in here." Basically, they expect us to do proper screening to keep their home safe and nice. Now, they want us not to be able to do something (or at least severely restrict it) that I see as not only a financial obligation on our part, but a responsibility we have to our tenants. The bill is bad for everyone.

@Andrew Syrios One thing to look into is having the landlord associations work in conjunction with the apartment building lobby, and the realtor lobby. Im on my local realtor boards public policy committee, and amazingly here in the DC area we have been very successful in stopping a lot of these nonsense things that are popping up around the country. But we work closely with the other lobbying groups, which I think has really helped the causes we fight for, by making our voices united.

Originally posted by @Russell Brazil :

@Andrew Syrios One thing to look into is having the landlord associations work in conjunction with the apartment building lobby, and the realtor lobby. Im on my local realtor boards public policy committee, and amazingly here in the DC area we have been very successful in stopping a lot of these nonsense things that are popping up around the country. But we work closely with the other lobbying groups, which I think has really helped the causes we fight for, by making our voices united.

 Thank you Russell, that's a good idea and we'll definitely look into trying to put something like that together.

Here is the latest post from their FB page:

"I do believe the Tenants Bill of Rights is legally ironclad," said Mayor Quinton Lucas at a press conference with KC Tenants on Wednesday.

The second Housing Committee meeting to deliberate the proposal has been rescheduled to December 2. During the time the meeting would have taken place, the Mayor and KC Tenants held a joint press conference to present next steps and respond to misinformation about the proposal.

Over 100 KC Tenants leaders joined the Mayor, as did Ryana Parks-Shaw, Councilwoman 5th District and Councilman Brandon Ellington.

Today, we're on the front page of The Kansas City Star, in a well-reported piece that lays out the facts, and tells our leaders' stories with dignity.

WATCH the full presser: http://bit.ly/2pvfH9i

READ the KC Star article: http://bit.ly/2KrDj5S

JOIN US at the next Housing Committee meeting: KC Tenants Bill of Rights in Housing Committee #2

We're not asking for anything radical. We're fighting for our basic rights. And we're ready to win.

Originally posted by @Nic Stergion :

Here is the latest post from their FB page:

"I do believe the Tenants Bill of Rights is legally ironclad," said Mayor Quinton Lucas at a press conference with KC Tenants on Wednesday.

The second Housing Committee meeting to deliberate the proposal has been rescheduled to December 2. During the time the meeting would have taken place, the Mayor and KC Tenants held a joint press conference to present next steps and respond to misinformation about the proposal.

Over 100 KC Tenants leaders joined the Mayor, as did Ryana Parks-Shaw, Councilwoman 5th District and Councilman Brandon Ellington.

Today, we're on the front page of The Kansas City Star, in a well-reported piece that lays out the facts, and tells our leaders' stories with dignity.

WATCH the full presser: http://bit.ly/2pvfH9i

RE... the KC Star article: http://bit.ly/2KrDj5S

JO... US at the next Housing Committee meeting: KC Tenants Bill of Rights in Housing Committee #2

We're not asking for anything radical. We're fighting for our basic rights. And we're ready to win.

The bill might mean very little. It's so vague, especially in the most egregious parts (i.e. prohibiting tenant screening) that it could mean anything. That makes me think it's kind of a foot in the door sort of thing. At the same time, if they actually prohibiting tenant screening, it would result in such a disaster it would be a sight to behold. Unfortunately, many a real estate investor would go under and many a tenant would be robbed or assaulted amidst the train wreck.

Originally posted by @Koki Agata :

Thank you for this post! I am currently out of the country and hard to follow up, so these posts help greatly! Thanks for all the information.

I would follow the Facebook page from Landlord, Inc. for updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/3118187224859652/

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