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Editorial: Rental standards

Monday, April 26, 2010

When someone agrees to rent an apartment or a house, he or she should have some expectation that the place will be habitable. For most renters in Cape Girardeau, problems that arise are handled by conscientious landlords. But in other cases, landlords are unresponsive to complaints about running water, broken windows and malfunctioning furnaces or hot-water heaters. To address these issues, Cape Girardeau officials are working on an ordinance providing for licensing of landlords and regular inspections of rental property. Many other towns already have such requirements.

Some landlords worry that new minimum property standards would cost too much to comply with. And some worry that they will become fully responsible for damage caused by renters. City officials say they want to take into account the balance between a landlord's and a renter's responsibilities.

Requiring landlords to meet minimum property standards sounds like a reasonable way to deal with the many complaints renters lodge. Meetings with landlords and renters over the next few weeks should help everyone better understand what the city wants to do. The city council could consider the proposed ordinance by the end of May, with a possible effective date of July 1.

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I have been in the residential rental business for 17 years. It would be nice if evidence was presented to show how serious this problem really is.

Rental leases are private contracts between consenting adults. More government interference in private matters will:

1. Force conscientious landlords who want to avoid government interference out of the business. This will cause a shortage of rental units.

2. Stress the local city budget.

3. Open up the permitting process to graft. Waiting on permits will delay business and economic activity.

4. Increase the cost of business, and subsequently cause rents on low income people to go up.

Cape Girardeau has the current staff and law to condemn properties that are uninhabitable. If a landlord were not responding to my problem, I would take a few pictures of the problem, notify the landlord with a registered letter, and stop paying the rent. Adults who enter contracts need to understand this.

We need to avoid nanny state solutions at every opportunity.


Larry Bill, Independent Conservative Candidate for Congress, 8th District, Missouri

Visit: http://larrybill.com/why-i-m-running/

-- Posted by nolimitsonthought on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 9:25 AM

Maybe that is the correct approach - have training sessions for landlords and renters both to understand what is "best business practice" and what the rights of each are if either defaults on the contract. The problem arises not from not having rules, but from not understanding the recourse available to either party. Educate, don't legislate!

-- Posted by EvlMcgyver on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 12:52 PM

Nolimits - I'm sure your are a good landlord that balances your and your tenants needs giving fair value for their rent. There are also bad tenants that you will deal with. Adults do sign contracts for services provided by the landlord. Unfortunately, the issues stem from the landlord not following the contract in giving the tenant a reasonable place to live with basic services. Whether fair or not, most bad stories are about landlords who have more income to have legal counsel than most tenants and have protection under contract, when needed. Although the government is involved, there are standards needed for consumer/tenant protection.

-- Posted by SEMO72a on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 1:04 PM

I am willing to look at other solutions. I just don't think additional government interference will help.

The city of Cape may already be doing this (and it may not be working):

1. Coordinate with East Missouri Action Agency (HUD) about complaints brought to the city's attention by HUD tenants. Once notified,then EMAA could step up for the tenant according to contract terms.

2. Tenants who are having problems could invite city building/fire inspectors on to their premises to evaluate if condemnation proceedings are necessary. The city could also notify landlords of pending voluntary inspections initiated by tenants to the city.

3. Literature about Missouri tenant-landlord law could be distributed by city hall.

The program is also described by this article:



Larry Bill

-- Posted by nolimitsonthought on Mon, Apr 26, 2010, at 1:49 PM

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