A long-sought legislative priority of Kansas City officials aimed at dealing with abandoned properties has been signed into law by Gov. Eric Greitens.
The bill, signed Tuesday evening, requires limited liability companies that lease property in Kansas City or Independence or own vacant properties to file paperwork disclosing the name and address of at least one person with control over the property.
Kansas City neighborhood leaders have been pushing for the legislation for three years.
“We’ve put in a lot of miles” between Kansas City and Jefferson City testifying to lawmakers, said John Wood, director of Kansas City’s neighborhood and housing services.
“It’s a problem that needed to be solved,” said state Rep. Jack Bondon, a Belton Republican who attached the LLC provision to a larger bill in the House. “This will make it much easier for city officials to track down people who own these properties, people who don’t care about their neighbors and need to take personal responsibility for the property they own.”
The new law, Wood said, will give the city teeth to enforce long-standing requirements on property owners to provide valid local contact information. Now the state courts’ authority would enforce that new law.
“Now we have a stick,” Wood said.
Kansas City began 2017 with some 14,000 unresolved cases of nuisance properties, Wood said, and 3,300 of them — more than 20 percent — involved LLC owners.
The city already requires LLCs to provide affidavits giving the city a local person’s number and address who is responsible for the property, “but a majority of them don’t do it,” Wood said.
“We’ll go through the process of (serving notices of violations), but if it is a shadow operation or the owner is out of town, there’s nothing we can do.”
The consequences have been hard on neighborhoods, he said.
In many cases, the LLCs operate under a variety of similar names with an elusive trail of unreachable contacts.
One example the city shared with lawmakers involved some connected LLCs in California identified by names that combine Raineth with different roman numerals.
Jackson County records show that the Raineth variations own more than 400 properties in Kansas City.
“We took pictures,” Wood said. “A lot of them had holes in the roofs and fallen trees.”
Dilapidated and nuisance properties drain the values of neighboring properties, discourage other owners from making improvements and discourage new investors from moving in.
“If you live next door to one of these properties,” Wood said, “it doesn’t bode well for your property.”
Sen. John Rizzo, a Kansas City Democrat who worked with Bondon on the legislation, said finding ways to combat blight is a major priority for his constituents.
“Blight fosters crime and just kills neighborhoods,” he said. “This is a simple tool that may not seem like that big of a deal but allows municipalities to really deal with those properties in neighborhoods that are being destroyed by blight.”
Independence shared its need as well for stronger enforcement against blighted properties.
“This is a tool to fight blight in our neighborhoods and meet the expectations of our city,” said Independence Mayor Eileen Weir.
Greitens did not respond to a request for comment.