Residents pack in for heated meeting as Tenants Bill of Rights moves to full council

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Emotions ran high Monday night at a packed public hearing on a proposed "Tenants Bill of Rights" in Kansas City.

Many came out to argue passionately for new laws to protect the rights of renters in the city, but landlords insist an ordinance like this would backfire and force property owners to sell their rental units.

"I need a Tenant Bill of Rights that guarantees I can stay healthy," one advocate at Monday's meeting said.

Supporters fighting for the Tenant Bill of Rights went before the city's housing committee in a standing room-only crowd at the Mohart Center.

"This is totally about basic human dignity," said Tara Raghuveer with KC Tenants. "We don't feel like we're asking for anything radical or crazy. We are asking for enforcement of a bunch existing rights and are asking for protection that we think of as just basic protection."

Organizers for KC Tenants are fighting for new city restrictions that would make it illegal for landlords to reject a rental application for things like a previous arrest or conviction, a source of income that comes from subsidies like the Section 8 housing program, or a previous eviction from another rental.

"And then that scar of an eviction stays on your record forever, and I can't rent another decent place after that," Raghuveer said.

But many landlords and business owners packed into Monday's meeting as well, calling the Tenants Bill of Rights an example of government overreach that would make life impossible for property managers.

"So if we're not able to screen for drug dealing, then we've got properties across the street that are shooting the windows out," Marla Fitzgerald said. "Bullets don't know where they're going."

"The ones that take Section 8 sometimes will spend a full day a year in seminars just to keep up with the updates on the Section 8 regulations," Robert Wise said.

Ultimately, the housing committee voted in favor of recommending the Tenants Bill of Rights to the full city council a week from Thursday.

It was a move that left many landlords vowing to sell off their apartment properties.

"This is a business breaker for us," one landlord said. "We will not do business under these laws."

This is not the final word on the issue. The full city council will decide the fate of the Tenants Bill of Rights at its meeting on Dec. 12.

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