KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, City Council passed the KC Tenants Bill of Rights Thursday with a 12-1 vote at its weekly meeting.
It is a first-of-its kind package that supporters say will level the playing field between renters and landlords.
The council's Special Committee on Housing Policy unanimously passed the item last week, moving it to a full council vote.
“Our entire community should be proud of our KC Tenants Rights package and what it will mean for the nearly half of all Kansas Citians who rent their homes," Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a statement from his office.
The proposal would open a tenant center and create a tenant phone hotline. The tenant center will be staffed by people who can help resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.
The proposal also includes:
- Making discrimination illegal based on rental history;
- Requiring landlords to give tenants a utilities estimate;
- Placing limits on how easily landlords can enter a property without proper notification and consent.
"It means that half of this community will be seen as human beings again, or as they should have always been," Tiana Caldwell with KC Tenants said.
Councilwoman Heather Hall was the lone dissenting vote.
The grassroots group KC Tenants has been working for months on the package, which had strong support from Lucas.
"Since becoming mayor, my office has worked with KC Tenants on this package, which demands safe, quality and affordable housing for Kansas Citians — and I’m tremendously proud of the result," Lucas said. "This process is an outstanding example of how legislating should always be done: through crafting smart and deliberate policy, providing ample opportunity for community input, and compromising to bring both tenants and landlords to the table.”
KC Tenants said the bill will give renters more of a voice and prevent evictions from devastating lives.
"We are finding our place and bringing ourselves to the table; we're pulling up a chair," KC Tenants leader Jenay Manley said. "We are enjoying the conversation. So, it's for the people, because it's made by the people and we're in here having conversations with one another. We're not just having a small conversation. We're interacting with one another and then deciding what to do for everyone as a collective."
It's a deeply personal issue for Lucas.
“Growing up, my family experienced bouts of homelessness, and I know how it feels to have a hole in your window for weeks in the dead of winter, with seemingly no recourse,” Lucas said. “These policies will change how we do business here in Kansas City, and will be a national blueprint for empowering tenants in communities across the country.”
The original policy calls for the creation of a Division of the Tenant Advocate in City Hall.
The office would receive $1.6 million from the city’s general fund to provide legal support for tenants and education on tenant rights, as well as investigate tenant claims.
It could revoke landlord permits if they violate these terms.
The original proposal wanted to limit landlords from viewing a tenant's income and establish legal counsel for tenants, however KC Tenants had to concede those two issues. They plan to start up those conversations again.
KC Tenants hopes to open the center in June and establish from where funding will come.