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 Case.net, 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.