Kansas City’s Rental House Inspections: The Pros and Cons
I want to talk to you this morning about a recent ordinance that was passed by Kansas City voters last week. This new ordinance is a rental house inspection ordinance which requires the city to inspect rental properties. This ordinance also allows tenants the ability to contact city officials about problems with their rental properties. This particular ordinance is very controversial as most are. With two sides and different perspectives. With it’s pros and it’s cons it is now official, made possible by Kansas City voters. We are going to take a moment to review the ordnance from various perspectives and from our experience of working both with tenants and landlords who are dealing with unhealthy living conditions. As a mold remediation company, we are normally providing the customer resolutions to dealing with health concerns related to toxic mold. However, it is common for us to see and recommend other maintenance items that need to be addressed in the property that can lead to unsafe living conditions.
From the Tenant’s Perspective:
This is good news. If you are living in an unsafe property and your landlord fails to resolve it, you have the ability to take action at no expense to you. Tenant’s living conditions are now a priority for the city. The cons is that tenants will probably see an increase in rents, deposits or application fees due to the Landlord’s increased costs. Tenants should also expect a delay in occupying new properties as now the property will have to be inspected by the city. The city has decided to hire 12 inspectors by the end of the year to meet all of the demands to inspect and respond to complaint calls. I would caution you that this means it will probably take several years for the city to get the program up and running smoothly. In summary, tenants should understand that things are going to take longer and be more expensive.
From our experience, we get calls all the time from individuals who have rented a property or moved into a new property that they purchased or are renting an apartment and all of a sudden they’re having significant health and respiratory problems. Majority of the time we see people ignore it and the mold exposure is minimized. Then later down the road we find out that they end up having significant health issues that was connected back to the mold exposure.
From the Landlord’s Perspective:
This means things get more complicated. The city is going to require a $20 inspection fee for every rental unit. The rental house inspection is to insure that the unit is in working order and provides healthy living conditions. So this means more red tape for all landlords with properties in Kansas City, MO limits. This ordinance provides accountability to slumlords but ends up penalizing our good landlords in the search for the bad.
We see many times landlords, apartment complexes and especially flip properties will take shortcuts in order to just fill the occupancy or get the deal done quickly and inexpensively. The most common, ineffective method we see used to handle mold toxicity is bleach. Well, bleach doesn’t kill mold as we have discussed in previous articles. All bleached does is remove the color of mold. This myth will probably take more than 50 years to correct. The other common practice we see is that moldy walls are painted over, most often with heavy duty products like Kilz, which remove both odor and color. What people don’t realize is that both of these methods are only short term and both of them prolong the mold problem and make it worse. Many times we have been contracted by apartment complexes and landlords due to tenant’s being sick from these substandard practices being used. Once we are brought in to situation many times it is after everything has blown up and it is now a legal issue. These situations are never fun, for the landlord or the tenant. We see this scenario play out far too often. I’m not sure that this ordinance is going to bring much improvement to these practices but we hope that landlords start taking the health and safety of the tenants more seriously.
Another common and serious health concern in both rental properties and flip properties is the common practice by contractors and landlords to improperly remove mold and create a more dangerous environment, by spreading the mold toxins throughout the property. Many never even consider following any type of EPA recommended protocols or anything of that nature. And in the moment when you talked to most of them, they will feel as though that they have done a good job because they removed the mold and they’ve cleaned. In their mind, the mold is gone, they’ve rebuilt and everything looks good. Therefore, the problem must be resolved. We wish it was that simple. Mold remediation is not a fun process. And the thing that we have to understand that what makes mold dangerous is that the mold molecules are sp small that is so difficult to see or detect when you’re breathing in mold spores. There are tons of articles and stories on our website of the damaged caused by improperly removing mold. Most often with mold spores ending up in the ventilation system and circulating throughout the home, making the mold issue much worse.
Summary of Our Perspective:
Only time will tell, is our thought on this ordinance. Will it really create solutions or will it be another ineffective government program that requires lots of money and produces little results? There is no way to know for sure. There is a need to bring greater accountability to landlords, however we are concerned that this ordinance may only be a futile attempt that potentially drives away good property investors that don’t want to mess with the hassle of additional red tape. Landlords will be taking hard looks into their Kansas City investment properties. Some might even consider selling during this hot market and thereby reduce the number of rental properties available in the city! Landlords need to be proactive and not hope to “slide things by”. Tenants also need to understand that this is not going to be a quick solution and in the end it may affect you more than you realize. In my opinion, the program’s success is going to be solely determined by how well the city executes it. As a former Kansas City citizen, I hope that tax payers dollars will not be wasted in another over regulated, under funded, and poorly managed city program.