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CITY HALL UNFAIRLY TARGETS: College students and gay couples

Trashing the Constitution over a minor problem

By Stanley Diaz
President, Columbia Apartment Association

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/12/13 (Op Ed) --   Columbia's new Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance unfairly targets renters, college students, and gay couples.   It also removes a tenant's right to privacy as granted by the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution

Controversy over the ordinance -- Columbia City Code Section 22.184(c) -- has prompted the Columbia City Council to take it up again.

The Columbia City Council passed the Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance in February.   It requires only renters -- not homeowners -- to fill out an occupancy disclosure form.    It mandates that no more than three unrelated adults live in a dwelling zoned R-1, or residential single family.

And according to homeowner associations who spoke in favor of the ordinance at the City Council hearing, over-occupancy is a problem almost entirely confined to college students.  

The ordinance fails to define "unrelated" or what constitutes a related family, thereby discriminating against gay and lesbian couples.   Are two gay couples sharing a unit two "families" or are they four unrelated adults? 

Despite the new ordinance, over-occupancy -- too many people living in a rental unit -- has been against the law in Columbia for many years.   In 2012 -- before this new law was passed -- the City prosecuted 14 cases of over-occupancy, a mere handful of complaints. 

Are two gay couples sharing a unit two "families" or are they four unrelated adults?  

The Constitutional problems with Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance are equally troubling. 

Owners and managers of all 25,000 rental units in CoMo must sign a disclosure document that allows "any police officer or city inspector investigating any code violation" to see "all lease, rental payment, tenant information."   "Tenant information" means a Social Security number, birth date, employment information, income, and credit bureau reports that detail debts, collections, and other private matters. 

Note the law says "ANY code violation", not just over-occupancy, can prompt the hand over of confidential materials to inspectors or police.   Local media has been misreporting the handover requirement, claiming it only applies to occupancy violations.  
 
The distinction is important.  I doubt a single building in town does not have at least one code violation.   A cracked switchplate cover, too many leaves in the gutter, a vine or tree too close to the building, missing smoke detector batteries, peeling paint, and so forth are all code violations.

The Columbia Apartment Association does not condone over-occupancy violators.  They should be investigated and prosecuted when necessary. 

But this disclosure ordinance is a violation of the Constitution and Federal laws governing credit report privacy.  It insults renters, and discriminates against gay and lesbian couples. 

Ask yourself:   is it right that 50,000 or more renters be subjected to this kind of treatment because of just over a dozen complaints in a year?  
 
If you care about your rights, call the City of Columbia at 573-874-7222 or email your Council members at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   

Tell them to rescind the Occupancy Disclosure Ordinance. 


 

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