City Councilwoman Nauser looks to change nuisance law

Thursday, August 5, 2010 | 6:25 p.m. CDT; updated 10:20 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 6, 2010

COLUMBIA — Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser wants to add more teeth to the city's policy about the number of unrelated people living in one house.

City law states only three to four unrelated people can live in one residence, depending on the property's zoning. She wants to make breaking this law a nuisance violation, which would make it easier to enforce because nuisance activities have a stiff penalty.


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"We've tried all the things in our toolbox, and we haven't been able to solve the problem yet," she said.

Leigh Britt, Office of Neighborhood Services manager, wrote a report to the Columbia City Council on how to reduce violations among renters.

Her report suggests adding this violation to the city's list of nuisance activities, which include gambling, noise violations and other crimes. If a property has repeat nuisance violations, the city can deem it a "chronic nuisance" and close it for a year.

"If a property is closed for a year, it is going to put a significant financial burden on a property owner, so it's going to be incentive for them to make sure there are no zoning violations," Britt said.

Nauser said college students don't know the zoning law and break it unintentionally. She hopes if the city educates tenants about occupancy limits, fewer people will break the law, which would lead to a lighter workload for the city's three rental property inspectors.

Britt also hopes to educate more renters about the law.

"We don't want to give people a free pass when they violate the law, but we need to make sure they know what the city zoning law is," she said.

The report also suggests that the city always inspect properties when they change hands. Britt said this would be an opportunity for her office to let new owners know about the city's rental laws. Nauser said she expects these changes to come before the council in a month or two.

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Carlos Sanchez August 5, 2010 | 7:19 p.m.

Wonders if Nauser has real estate friends with too many vacancies that need to be filled? Good question huh? Good way to do it in that case is to make it look like the fault of City Council for passing the ordinance.

(Report Comment)
sherry Current August 5, 2010 | 7:49 p.m.

Vote out Laura Nauser.
More people have to help the poor or the workers to have a home.
This is America !
Stop fines! Stop taking our freedom away no more laws!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 6, 2010 | 10:09 a.m.

Bad, unfair, unreasonable laws need to be changed, not given more teeth to further punish the populace.
Flat mates/roommates/cohabitants have a unique relationship, beyond blood or marriage. They are "related" in a different sense of the word. "Friend" can be a designated relationship. Co-worker or Classmate could be deemed as a relationship.
Heck, does Nauser want every college student looking for affordable housing to register as domestic partners? Do single moms, who wish to share a house, need to do the same?
Let's be reasonable.
What constitutes a real nuisance, Nauser?
For instance, the number of adults living in a home could be deemed crowded based on the number of bedrooms. Let's say, for puritan's sake, one bunk bed per bedroom. Therefore, a 3 bedroom residence could handle 6 "unrelated," but quite cozy inhabitants.
So, why not look at the number of bedrooms to determine the nuisance Nauser, instead of an unreasonable, antiquated zoning rule?
And, by the way. This was the very first time in 40+ of my voting years where I voted Republican in the primaries. Please don't disappoint me. I'm already disappointed when I voted to help make an historical event during our most recent Presidential election.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 6, 2010 | 10:18 a.m.

Ray, one has to wonder what is worse from this ordinance's point of view, four unrelated people living in a house in a zoning district where three residents are the max allowed, or a multi-generational family of say a dozen with multiple drivers and vehicles? Is it really the number of people, the relatedness (think I made a new word), or their activities at that property regardless of the number of residents?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 6, 2010 | 10:39 a.m.

Of course it's activities and our response or degree of tolerance which constitutes that which is truly deemed a nuisance.
In this case, I tried to go right to some kind of compromise with a "Republican Regulator" who apparently is trying to score some brownie points with her own special interest group. I suspect that if she's serious about her political career, she'll need the support of Dem schlubs like me in future elections.
And yea. If I was renting a three bedroom home, I'd much rather have a dozen bicycle riding Franciscan Monks as tenants than 3 or 4 junkies. But then again, those Franciscan Monks can get pretty wild after a few glasses of vino. Heck, I've even seen this video called "Nuns Gone Wild." Might as well just open up a cat house.

(Report Comment)
Andrew Hansen August 6, 2010 | 11:50 a.m.

@Ray : I don't think they were really Nuns.

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez August 6, 2010 | 2:14 p.m.

In my years of voting this is the very first year I voted all Libertarian.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 6, 2010 | 2:22 p.m.

Great news, but were you an informed voter on all the primary candidates?

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez August 6, 2010 | 3:03 p.m.

Ya I read up on some of them. I do agree though that the Libertarians need to come out of the closet more on all issues.

(Report Comment)
Mike Parnell August 6, 2010 | 4:04 p.m.

So just exactly how would one enforce the "related" status? What if there are more people in the house than the Gestapo thinks is okay but there are enough relationships in existence to meet the guidelines of 3 or 4 (which is it?)? A is related to B and C. D is related to E and F. ONG - 6 people in a house! I know of a person that has a 5 bedroom house and there have been times when 5 totally unrelated people have lived there at the same time. No problems with the house appearance and no illegal activities.

Why don't we focus on the gang, drug and violence issue in this community that is becoming worse by the day.

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones August 7, 2010 | 2:59 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
John Schultz August 7, 2010 | 3:48 p.m.

Ah, the return of "Dale Jones." Can the chicken diatribes of people enjoying their own property be far behind?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 11, 2010 | 7:45 p.m.

I haven't written off Nauser totally, but I am wondering if this teethy nuisance enforcement will extend to properties owned by individuals, government/quasi-government, CHA, nonprofit agencies and churches.
Or are we just looking to hurt people looking for an afordable place to live and entrepreneurs who own multiple duplexes and rental properties?

(Report Comment)

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