Mission rental housing at 51 percent of city units; some on council suggest more aggressive inspection plan

Mission is home to a number of apartment complexes. Rental units make up more than half of the city housing stock.
Mission is home to a number of apartment complexes. Rental units make up more than half of the city housing stock.

At least two city councilors suggested that Mission could put more “teeth” in its rental inspection program during a review of the policy Wednesday night. In Mission, rental units represent 51 percent of the total housing units. That includes 2,392 multi-family units and 347 single-family rentals among the city’s 5,371 total housing units.

The Mission rental inspection program began in 2007 and has seen some success with the number of re-inspections required dropping from 48 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2013, according to Rosalind Johnson of the neighborhood services department. The city only does interior inspections of single-family rentals if a tenant requests it or if three or more significant code violations are recorded for the property in a year.

For apartment complexes, a minimum of five percent of the units must be inspected each year, but the manager chooses which apartments are inspected (different ones each year) and they are normally vacant apartments. Tenants also can request apartment inspections.

The proposal for rental inspections grew out of a 2006 task force that initially recommended mandatory inspections of all rental units. That proposal was controversial, according to the staff report, and was opposed by some landlords. “Some residents were also concerned with a perceived invasion of privacy,” the report said.

Councilor Dave Shepard Wednesday said other cities were “far more aggressive” than what Mission adopted. “I definitely think we could be more aggressive in what we do and give the staff more tools,” Shepard said. Councilor Steven Lucas agreed with Shepard’s assessment and questioned why the management could choose which apartments are inspected.

Interim city administrator Laura Smith said the city would like to make changes to the program, noting the significant portion of the housing stock that is rental. Of the single-family homes in Mission, only 12 percent are rental. Single family rentals have twice as many code enforcement cases on average than owner-occupied homes.

Roeland Park also has been discussion rental inspections at recent council meetings.