‘Hours of sacrifice’: Kansas City Council approves ‘Tenant Bill of Rights’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sweeping measure, adding new protections for renters across the city, was approved Thursday by city council members.

The “Tenant Bill of Rights” has proven to be the definition of a grassroots movement. After the council signed off on the measure, the crowd that had gathered at the council meeting erupted in applause and chants.

The concept for the ordinance was initially proposed and drafted by a citizens activist group, KC Tenants.

The measure has drawn a lot of fire from property owners and landlords, who believe it limits their ability to screen and evict renters.

Tenants and the mayor insist that’s untrue.

They said that the deal is fair and serves to enhance existing legislation by still allowing landlords to conduct background and personal history checks. However, it ensures tenants cannot be immediately dismissed for housing consideration due to past evictions or criminal history.

KC Tenants members said a lot of work still needs to be done, but members are proud of what’s now been accomplished.

“Hours of sacrifice and having my kids in meetings, going in and out and knowing they know why we’re doing this, letting them see it — that means something to me to know my kids knowing we can make something better for ourselves by standing up for ourselves,” KC Tenants member and renter Jenay Manley said.

The “Tenant Bill of Rights” calls for creating a hotline and rental housing assistance unit, which could help renters report safety concerns.

But the ordinance passed by council does eliminate components advocates wanted, like stipulations on a landlord’s ability to ask about their sources of income and a tenant’s right to counsel.

The city is now tasked with finding funding to implement the changes in the ordinance.

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