The KC Tenants Bill of Rights has been pushed back until early December to allow further discussion between landlords and tenants.
KC Tenants is an organization working to “ensure that everyone in Kansas City has a safe, healthy, accessible, and truly affordable home.”
The organization has outlined a People’s Housing Platform that lists ten specific problems facing tenants in Kansas City: affordability, eviction, access, health, abusive and unaccountable landlords, speculation and vacancy, demolition, homelessness, gentrification and displacement, and racial inequity.
KC Tenants drafted a Tenant Bill of Rights package that includes a resolution and an ordinance and are asking council to pass the two together and fully fund them to ensure implementation and enforcement.
At a press conference last week, Mayor Lucas said he fully believes these pieces of legislation are iron clad to withstand any legal challenges.
“My office, the city attorney’s office, Republican former judges, all types of folks have looked at the quality and legality of this legislation and signed off on its legality,” he said. “You can see in the resolution that it cites to state or federal law in almost every provision. What we are really trying to do is say this is a model and template for a number of things that already exist.”
The resolution aims to enforce existing tenant rights and lists additional protections including the right to organize, protection from retaliation, not passing permit fees to tenants, limits on security deposits, written tenant consent and notification before landlord entry, disclosure about past issues in the unit and a utilities estimate, and the right to receive a Tenant Bill of Rights document before the start of each tenancy.
The resolution includes establishing an adequately-funded Division of Housing and Community Development under the Department of Neighborhoods and Housing Services.
The ordinance would establish a Rental Housing Assistance Unit within a new Division of Housing and Community Development to educate tenants of their rights and resources, operate a Rental Housing Hotline, establish a Rental Housing Center, and publish a regularly-updated Tenant Bill of Rights Document enumerating legal protections.
The Division would work with the Health Department to ensure freedom from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, mental or physical disability, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, gender expression, ethnic background, being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, source of income, arrest and conviction history, or rental history.
Landlords are concerned that they will no longer be able to look at criminal or rental history when considering tenant applications, but Mayor Lucas said this is not the case.
“It is just another step that gives people an opportunity. It doesn’t eliminate contract law, it doesn’t eliminate landlord-tenant law in our state; it doesn’t trump any of those steps,” he said. “What we are saying, and if you understand discrimination, is that you can’t just use bars to eliminate entire classes of people. All we are saying is that you don’t get to ban a whole class of people. What it says is give everybody a chance. What we are asking for, very simply, is a chance.”
The Tenants Bill of Rights will be heard Monday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.