The Garden City Telegram
2/14/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Rental help — Due to local challenges, changes warrant support

Rental inspections have been a local topic of debate for years.

While governments have tackled the issue at different times, the prospect of rental home and apartment inspections materialized again in early 2012 after a local woman and her two young children died in a fire in a rented house without smoke detectors required by Kansas law.

A prominent landlord with numerous rentals in the city and county hurriedly added smoke detectors at other properties after the fatal fire at the property he owned. The sad situation was proof that city leaders must get serious about improving the system, to include the possibility of on-site inspections of all rental properties.

Not surprisingly, a number of landlords have been vocal in claiming inspections aren't necessary. Silent, however, have been those without much of a voice — and not because local government won't hear them out.

Our community has a significant number of residents with communication challenges. Many speak little or no English, and likely have marginal if any understanding of the current complaint-driven system in place to aid rental tenants.

Immigrants and low-income residents also have less opportunity to attend public meetings or other places where such issues are addressed.

Ideally, others will speak for them. One such opportunity will arrive at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce office. The Chamber has invited city officials and landlords to discuss proposed rental inspection and fee structure changes.

The meeting open to the public also is a time for local residents to learn more about current and proposed oversight of rental properties, and weigh in on the issue.

When it comes to stepped-up oversight, no one wants to unfairly burden landlords. Yet other businesses in town are subjected to periodic inspections. Aren't rental properties as important where safety is concerned? We believe they are.

Good landlords would have nothing to fear from inspections. Such programs work in many other cities, including some without the inherent challenges of a community that encourages immigrants to come here to work and live.

With that in mind, meaningful change does indeed warrant more consideration in the community.