In an effort to combat neglected rental properties across the city, Overland Park officials are proposing a new rental licensing and inspection program.
With deteriorating rental properties within the city drawing crime and racking up code violations, the city is hopeful the plan could make the city safer and more attractive.
The proposed program was unveiled to the public Thursday evening during an informal open house at Matt Ross Community Center.
More than 100 people stopped by the meeting to learn the details and voice concerns with city staff.
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For many homeowners who attended the meeting, the program has been needed for a long time.
“You can tell which properties in our neighborhood are the rentals because they’re unkempt,” said Lee Rowe, an Overland Park resident who lives north of Interstate 435. “The look of a rental property can affect home values, so I think improving exterior maintenance will make a big difference. We don’t want rundown properties in the city, so I hope this program succeeds.”
Debbie Vurdick, who owns six rental homes in north Overland Park, agrees.
“Sometimes you can just tell right away which properties are rental in a neighborhood and it shouldn’t be that way,” she said. “Homeowners in those neighborhoods are getting hurt. When my husband and I purchase a home, we fix it up the way we’d want it to be if we lived there because that’s important to us.”
She thinks the city’s proposed program could improve the image of the rental industry in Overland Park.
Plus, it could discourage bad rental operators from coming to the city and attract good ones, she said.
Her husband, however, feels differently about the program.
“People rent in Overland Park because they can’t afford to buy homes here,” he said. “These fees will cause rent to rise and we’re already losing the middle class. We want to be able to keep rent down while still maintain our property.”
If the plan is passed by the city council next year, landlords may be charged $60 per building for bi-annual exterior inspections and licenses. Apartments would be charged $200 per complex.
The exterior inspection will focus on everything from yard maintenance to peeling paint. No interior inspections will be done.
The total cost of the program would be $330,000.
Some landlords worry the program is too intrusive.
“My concern is that the city seems to be justifying this new project with a whole lot of statistics and not much else,” said Craig Morey, who owns several rental homes in north Overland Park. “It’s just another layer of bureaucracy.”
Shawn Hartley, who owns duplexes in the city, thinks the city should spend its money elsewhere.
“It’s a waste of money,” he said. “They should just spend $300,000 thousand dollars on painting the whole city instead. If they really want to see improved maintenance on rental properties, they should offer incentives, like forgivable loans. That would be more productive.”
The hot and cold response from the public was not surprising to Jack Messer, Overland Park’s director of planning and development services.
“This is a very important topic to people, whether they own rental property or simply live next door to one,” he said. “Hopefully this is a project that will result in fewer complaints about maintenance and help improve perceptions of rental properties in the city.”
The proposed rental licensing and inspection program, and the feedback from the open house, will be reviewed by the city’s Community Development Committee on Jan. 6. It will determine whether to pass the program along to the city council for approval or whether to kill it.
If passed, the new program would be implemented within three years.
In 2016, all the rental properties in the city would be identified and each property owner would be required to go through an initial registration process.
Licensing and inspections would begin in 2017.
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