With the clock running down on the Missouri General Assembly’s 2015 session, the Senate has the chance to do something positive for Kansas City this week.
It should find the time to debate and pass House Bill 864, a measure that would give Kansas City better tools to track down and demand compliance from out-of-town landlords whose negligence creates blight in neighborhoods.
This legislation is badly needed. As Rep. Sheila Solon, a Blue Springs Republican who sponsored the bill, noted during debate in the House, Kansas City has about 7,000 vacant buildings. Its codes department has open cases on about 2,000 limited liability corporations whose operators mostly live out of town and are difficult to locate.
“The reasons you would need to find the owner is if there is trash, debris and tall grass that attracts feral cats and rats,” Solon said.
Many of the vacant structures are used for criminal activities, she added. “Police can’t serve warrants if they don’t have an accurate address for who they need to serve.”
Decrepit abandoned properties cost the city millions of dollars each year in maintenance and demolition expenses.
A 2001 law requires limited liability corporations that purchase property in Kansas City to file an affidavit with the name of at least one person responsible for the property.
The law is flagrantly violated, however. Of 3,100 limited liability businesses that own property in Kansas City, only 91 affidavits are on file. And property owners rarely update the affidavit if ownership changes.
Solon’s bill would require a new affidavit to be filed within 30 days of a change in management control or responsibility for the property. If a limited liability corporation refused to comply, the city or aggrieved neighbors could petition the circuit court to order the new affidavit.
The changes seem minor, but codes officials and police would find it easier to crack down on property owners who are creating nuisances in neighborhoods and causing tenants to live in substandard conditions.
Solon’s bill passed the House with only three votes in opposition. The Senate now holds its fate.
Many agendas are commanding attention this week as the legislatures heads for its 6 p.m. Friday adjournment date. But House Bill 864 would make an immediate, positive difference for Kansas City neighborhoods. The Senate should get it done this year.