City of Lawrence

Planning & Development Services




David L. Corliss, City Manager



Planning and Development Services Staff



January 9, 2014



Rental Expansion




At the December 17, 2013 City Commission meeting, the Commission directed staff to draft an ordinance to expand the current licensing and inspection program that would include the code authority of Draft 1 and many of the other elements of Draft 2.  The following is provided for the Commission’s consideration:


1.  Ordinance 8840 (Draft 3)

2.  Draft Revised Administrative Regulations, including the following appendices to the regulations:

a.    Draft Rental License Application

b.    Draft Rental License

c.    Draft Inspection Form/Checklist Reflecting Ordinance 8840 Draft 3

d.    Draft Consent for Inspection Form

e.    Draft educational information


The following further explains the attachments noted above:


Ordinance 8840 (Draft 3)

  1. This ordinance reflects direction to inspect against the International Property Maintenance Code and Land Development Code.
  2. It maintains the following elements from Draft 2:


    1. Revising the recitals/purpose of the program.
    2. Requiring that inspectors be certified to perform their duties.
    3. Proposing a new definition for “Qualified Vacant Unit” and setting a policy to inspect such units as a priority of the inspection process.
    4. Incorporating the license application, inspection checklist, and consent form as attachments to the Administrative Regulations that the governing body promulgates.
    5. Adding a requirement for staff to present specific evidence when alleging fraud or misrepresentation of a license application.
    6. Re-inserting the 15-unit cap on the number of units to inspect owned by a licensee.
    7. Requiring at least 72 hours of notice to enter with consent or with the granting of an administrative search warrant.
    8. Providing authorization for staff to accept alternative means of satisfying the code requirements where it may be technically difficult to otherwise to comply.
    9. Clarifying responsibility for adhering to occupancy limits.
    10. Clarifying elements of the appeal and revocation process.
    11. Establishing an educational element, new since the Draft 2 version, requiring the city’s contact information to be provided to tenants so that tenants are educated on when and who to call if the property is not being adequately maintained.


Administrative Regulations

  1. The Administrative Regulations have been revised to reflect the proposed ordinance changes included in Draft 3 and to incorporate the appendices as required of the ordinance.



  1. Application – A draft application is provided that captures owner and property information in order to issue the license.  Per previous City Commission direction related to the RS-based program, the application requires a landlord to acknowledge the occupancy limits and inform their tenants of such.  Staff provides a form as part of the application process for landlords’ use to complete this aspect of the program.  The form has been revised to account for the congregate living use, which varies with site plan approval.
  2. Rental License – This is the document that will be provided to the licensee.
  3. Inspection Form/Checklist – The inspection checklist is useful in several ways: it provides notice to landlords and tenants of the list of possible code violations, it aids the inspectors in identifying potential code violations, and it serves as the official notice of violation to the landlord or tenant if a violation exists. The checklist associated with Ordinance 8840 Draft 3 has been revised to cover a few more of the code standards of the Property Maintenance Code and to clarify when certain standards would be minor and major.
  4. Consent form – A draft consent form is provided to reflect the city’s request of tenants to provide written consent to allow entry to complete any inspections.  This form will be requested as each inspection of a unit is scheduled.
  5. Educational Notice – The Commission directed staff to establish a consistent method for informing tenants of their opportunity to contact the city if minimum housing standards are not met.  While a placard affixed in a conspicuous way inside the unit was discussed, staff believes that this effort can be implemented through means that do not cause intrusion into the unit’s interior.  Staff proposes that a mailing from the city occur each September to every dwelling unit that includes a link to web-based information related to the rental licensing program, including contact information if a tenant wishes to request an inspection. The substance of the web-based information is included in Appendix E of the Administrative Regulations.


Other Issues

At the December 17, 2013 City Commission meeting, information was requested on the issues below.


  1. Measuring performance – from staff’s perspective, the program is successful if the housing stock in Lawrence is being maintained to minimum levels.  With this in mind, the following will be considered useful data by which to gauge the program’s efficacy:
    1. Number of units licensed per year.
    2. Number of initial unit inspections per year.
    3. Number of follow-up inspections per year.
    4. Number of violations found in total and average number of violations per unit.
    5. Total number of major violations found.
    6. Total number of minor violations found.
    7. Number of violations corrected.
    8. Number of violations not corrected and therefore needed to be litigated.
    9. Number of tenant and/or neighbor complaints received outside of required program inspections.
    10. Number (or percentage) of required program dwelling unit inspections for which inspection consent was not voluntarily obtained.
  2. Written policies and procedures – Ordinance 8840 and the Administrative Regulations contain the primary substance of the program – license and inspection schedules, notice requirements, fees, etc.; however, a manual that outlines more detailed policies and procedures will need to be created subsequent to adoption to address the myriad of implementation details and to help train inspection and administrative staff.  This is a document that will need to be flexible as staff and the landlords fine tune the practices over time.
  3. Reporting to the Commission and public – Staff intends to submit regular reports to the Commission on the program outcomes, including an annual report on the budget aspect of the program to maintain the program in a way where fees pay for the service rendered.
  4. Staffing and cost of program – It has been reported in previous memos that Staff calculates that three new inspectors and two administrative assistants will be required to implement the program expansion at a total cost of the program of approximately $385,000, though expenses for the five new personnel will be approximately $335,000.  In the 2014 budget, $385,000 was approved in order to reflect the total cost of the program, though Staff believes the actual expenditures for the first year will not exceed $335,000.  The substantive changes in the program since calculating the staffing levels and costs of the program include revising the sample size from individual properties to owners, creating a tiered system for the licensing fee, lowering the threshold for a unit to reach the incentive, and extending the inspection cycle for the incentive from 5 to 6 years.  While these changes do lower the assumed projected income for the program, the reduction will not be fully known until all units are licensed and a few years of inspections occur. Staff recommends adopting the ordinance with the proposed fee schedule and including the budget implications of the program in the periodic reports to the commission.


Action Requested

Approve Ordinance No. 8840, if appropriate.