Landlords discuss background checks, evictions

Friday, December 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — About 50 people crammed into a conference room Thursday evening to talk business: the business of being a landlord. Discussion focused on evictions, reducing crime and ways the city could help them.

Columbia Police Officer Tim Thomason said background checks would weed out criminals. Thomason runs the Crime Free Multihousing Program, which educates landlords on crime prevention.

Thomason said checking Missouri, an online database of Missouri court cases that some landlords frequently use to screen tenants, wasn’t enough. He recommended background checks that incorporate information from federal, state and city cases; those background checks are best done through a company that provides the service, he said.

Steve Scott, an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law, said landlords should include a clause in the lease that prohibits criminal activity. When the conversation turned to evictions, Scott said there are several tenants he has seen in court for evictions more than once, which he called "frequent fliers."

Mark Stevenson, who owns Real Estate Management Inc., suggested communication among landlords could end that problem.

“There’s no reason to pass trouble down the street to each other,” Stevenson said. Landlord Amir Ziv suggested creating an online database of tenants to allow landlords to communicate about the good and the bad.

When asked what the city could do better with rental oversight, landlord Bob Gerau was quick with an idea: send letters about code violations to tenants as well as landlords.

Michael Jones, another landlord, agreed.

“I don’t want to be the only one getting a letter that my tenant’s got a tire in the front yard,” Jones said. “They should be getting a letter, too.”

Neighborhood Response Coordinator Bill Cantin said he would look into making this change as the city moves code enforcement into the new Office of Neighborhood Services. Some of the current staff from the Office of Protective Inspections, Public Communications, Volunteer Services and Environmental Health will move into the new office Jan. 4, 2010.

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Mike Martin December 4, 2009 | 8:17 a.m.

Actually, the number of attendees was counted and was close to 80 -- standing room only, with about 1/2 landlords, many of the largest and longest-running in the area. Many people attended from the county; councilmen Wade, Sturtz, and Thornhill were there.

Phil Steinhaus with the Columbia Housing Authority spoke on myths and realities about public housing (turns out Section 8 vouchers are not linked to crime here, as many have thought) and dozens of people around the room spoke as well.

Excellent discussion with many voices, and the start of a long-term public awareness campaign about why crime and criminals are bad for the rental professional.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 4, 2009 | 12:34 p.m.

I wanted to attend as an average/less then average, common resident of Columbia, however it was explained that this was a closed meeting and not open to the general public.
Good luck to the landlords looking to generate some positive cash flow on their properties. There's no doubt that they certainly do provide a much needed service.
Personally, I know at least 7 varying degrees of friends and acquaintances who find Columbia's housing market attractive for landlord/renter enterprises.
-I also hope minutes of the meeting will be shared.-
("Phil Steinhaus with the Columbia Housing Authority spoke on myths and realities about public housing (turns out Section 8 vouchers are not linked to crime here, as many have thought)...")
Those with owner occupied homes will be most concerned with the biggest crime associated with Section 8ers and other renters and rental properties. That is the decrease of home property values and difficulty in selling homes when it comes time to do so.
I wonder what makes Columbia so different from the Section 8 scenario and public housing trends experienced in other parts of Missouri and across the country?
Perhaps those crime-ridden cesspools can learn something from our pristine city.

(Report Comment)

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