Overland Park Rental Inspection first steps toward Warrantless Home Invasion
by Allen Williams
Overland Park's rental inspection program is on schedule as work proceeds in identifying the city's property managers and other 'slum' landlords. The city's propaganda magazine Overview Spring 2017 reports: "Last Month city staff members began reaching out to landlords of single-family dwellings in an effort to verify that the dwelling is being used as a rental. " The city goes on to reassure residents that ".. this is all part of the initial launch of a new licensing and inspection program that focuses solely on exterior maintenance of residential property (opkansas.org/rentals) beginning July 1, 2017.
However what Overview magazine doesn't tell you is that the licensing program is just another means of increasing city revenues but more importantly Overland Park has paved the way to force redevelopment on the north end of the city. How's that you say?
Well for starters, how about fining you right out of your rental? What? Well check out This Indiana Town Wants to Fine a Community Out of Existence on Behalf of Private Developers. "Members of a small, low-income community in Indiana are discovering that state-level protections that make it hard for cities to seize their property may not be enough. When city leaders decide to get into bed with private developers, there are all sorts of ways for cronyism to threaten the property rights of owners. " And there's no question that Overland Park has been in bed with developers for years.
But wait, the Indiana article gets better "While eminent domain was supposed to be used solely for public works projects (roads, schools, et cetera), the infamous Kelo v. City of New London Supreme Court decision set a legal precedent allowing governments to use it to hand over property to private developers for big projects." That decision has already been put to good use. Remember the Kansas Speedway? Over 165 homes were seized to build that monstrosity. "The condemnation of homes in Wyandotte County for the Kansas Speedway development was one of the more controversial uses of eminent domain power in Kansas." But Oh, was it rewarding for Wyandotte coffers!: "County officials say the speedway and "Village West" -- the adjoining 400-acre development that includes Cabela's and Nebraska Furniture Mart -- have reinvigorated the local economy, created thousands of new jobs and poured millions of new tax dollars into local coffers." And there you have it, more money for city coffers, to hell with the people and their homes. It's a small price to pay for economic prosperity, etc.
The US Supreme Court has sanctioned the seizing of private property for others use in Kelo v New London. But property seizure for other's benefit alone is a nasty pill to swallow but fining owners into oblivion for building code violations, well that's much more palatable.
The Indiana article continues: "So property rights-minded citizens might be surprised to hear that the mayor and city officials of Charlestown, Indiana, a rural community with a population of less than 8,000, are trying to arrange to hand over hundreds of homes to a private developer. He's not using eminent domain to do so. Instead, the city stands accused of deliberately finding excuses to burden the community's residents with thousands of dollars of fines that will be waived if they sell their properties to the private developer."
Get the drift or am I going too fast for you?
Well, what a coincidence, Indiana started with exterior inspections, too: "Beginning in the summer of 2016, the city unleashed a torrent of code enforcement targeted specifically at the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. City officials began performing exterior inspections of properties in Pleasant Ridge and mailing citations to the owners. So far, this campaign has primarily targeted landlords who own multiple rental properties, rather than smaller landlords and owner-occupied houses." Don't fret, Overland Park will include other properties as soon as it's expedient.
Overland Park concocted a rental inspection scheme a number of years back that evicted renters when interior improvements weren't made not unlike Marietta, George's plan: " The City of Marietta enacted a rental-housing inspection ordinance in 2004, requiring landlords to obtain “rental licenses” for all rental properties. To obtain a license, landlords had to hire and pay City-approved “rental housing inspectors” to inspect and certify that properties were in compliance with all housing codes. Nothing in the ordinance, however, required the landlord or the City to obtain the tenant’s consent before conducting the intrusive inspection. Yet, without inspection, no rental license would be issued, and the City Manager could order the property to be vacated." The OP plan was very unpopular and the city abandoned it for the time being.
Here's how city inspection theft works. "The citations state that the owner accrues penalties of $50 per violation, per day. Multiple citations are issued per property, which means that a single property will begin accumulating hundreds of dollars in fines each day. The fines can be for things as minor as a torn screen, weeds taller than eight inches or chipped paint. In many cases, the fines begin the day the citation was issued, not the day the owner received it. So owners can easily be on the hook for thousands of dollars in fines before they even receive notice, and the fines continue to accrue until the owner is able to repair the property."
Sweet, huh? Overland Park has been fining properties for 8-inch weed height (even if there are as few as 6 weeds per 1/3- acre) since April 2000 often as a consequence of protesting city policies. And now they expand the program to 'exterior' rental inspection which will eventually include the rental Interior as in Minnesota. "Minnesotans have a new reason to remember to empty their dishwashers and keep their bathrooms clean. That’s because the city of Golden Valley is asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to grant it a warrant to inspect the rental property of Jason and Jacki Wiebesick to check that their tenants are, among other things, maintaining a clean kitchen and a tidy toilet."
Yes, people, empyting your dishwasher and maintaining a tidy toilet is tantamount to being a good citizen. The city now has the means to acquire rental property for its developer cronies with out involving eminent domain issues. Here's the real motive driving rental inspections:: "Mayor Bob Hall decided in 2014 that he wanted to get rid of the houses there and replace it with a more upscale planned community with fancier homes and retail options. But he needed to get rid of the houses (and the people within them) first. Starting in 2016, residents and property owners of Pleasant Ridge discovered Charlestown had a nasty tool to try to get rid of them. City officials started looking for any excuse to cite property owners for code violations. When you're looking at low-income neighborhoods full of working people and retirees, there are likely to be plenty."
Overland Park's north end is full of low income families, obviously another coincidence to Indiana's program. OP has been looking to force the redevelopment of Metcalf avenue on the north end for some years now and it appears that the rental inspection program may be the ticket.
You can bet the city isn't instituting their inspection program merely to provide renters with a better place to live. When you have to have a license to rent or to have a home inspection as a rental condition, you no longer live in a free country. It is a police state.