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REALTORS® Upset About New Law In Ferguson

March 23, 2006 Ferguson, Politics/Policy, St. Louis County 16 Comments

As an active licensed Broker-Salesperson in the state of Missouri I am a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, Missouri Association of REALTORS® and the St. Louis Association of REALTORS®. As a result I get lots of email from each of these organizations. It should be noted the real estate profession is one of the most organized and well funded lobbying groups. And seldom do I agree with the position they take on issues.

Here is an email I received from the St. Louis Association:


This is an important issue that affects the property rights and civil rights of landlords and tenants.

The City of Ferguson recently passed bill 6731 which, in addition to other things, with regard to rental property requires:

· Property owner to obtain a license to rent property.

· Owner to run police check on themselves and submit this with the application.

· Some owners hire an ASHI inspector to inspect the property and certify that it is in compliance with all of the City of Ferguson’s codes

· Owner to hire a property manager that resides within 25 miles of your rental property and furnish the name and all contact info to the city.

· Owner to sign an affidavit affirming that none of their tenants are registered sex offenders in any of the 50 states nor SHOULD they be! First off, this is next to impossible to determine, second this puts an incredible amount of liability on the property owner. It should be noted by the way, while the city does not require any such affidavit if you are an owner occupant.

Even if you don’t own property in Ferguson or have clients that do, please still take the time to respond to this. While this is the worst example we have seen thus far of a municipality violating peoples rights we have been seeing more and more similar ordinances from other municipalities so if we don’t stop it now it may be just a short time
before laws like this spread.

The St. Louis Association of Realtors has authorized the funding for a lawsuit to fight this law. We need your help though, please email or call the City Manager for the City of Ferguson and tell him you think this ordinance should be repealed immediately. His phone number and link to email is below as well as a sample email message you can paste into your email.

If you would like to view the entire ordinance click on this link:


City Manager, Arthur Krieger Akrieger@FergusonCity.com or phone (314) 521-7721.

Sample message:

Dear City Manager Krieger:

I am one of the 10,000+ members of the St. Louis Association of
REALTORS® and as a champion of private property rights I take great
exception to bill 6731 which was recently passed by your council. I
feel this, among other things, violates the property rights as well as
civil rights of landlords and tenants and would urge you to repeal this
piece of legislation.

Our association does believe in and support property maintenance and
occupancy codes & permits (both of which your city already has on the
books) provided these laws are applied to all property, not just tenant
occupied property and provided the occupancy permits are only upon
change in occupancy. Bill 6731 singles out a class of property owner
and class or occupant and applies laws to them different then
owner-occupied property and this is what we object to.

So I read through the entire bill and it seems balanced to me. Many of the requirements come into play only if the property owner has properties with violations or nuisance complaints. Absentee landlords are a problem in many areas and it seems like Ferguson is serious about the problem. Too many people see those late night infomercials about getting rich in real estate, buy a property all the way across town and then wonder why they have issues.

I think Ferguson’s actions send a clear message — if you are going to be in the business of owning rental property you need a business license and you need to conduct yourself in the best manner. If you are in the business of renting properties, their ordinance suggests, it is also wise to know the sex offender law to make sure you don’t end up renting to someone you should not. Again, a good business practice.

And owning rental property is a business. Why should these business owners not be subjected to standards that others business owners must?

The rights of the owner-occupant are being protected here, in my view. Because it is often the local homeowners that must deal with problem rental properties.

– Steve


Currently there are "16 comments" on this Article:

  1. Dan Icolari says:

    Well said, Steve, as usual.

    As the owner-occupant of a small rental property (three apartments + the one we occupy) in a neighborhood of very large 19th century houses with multiple units, I can attest it’s never the owners or managers of large apartment houses that cause problems, it’s the so-called investors who don’t know how to manage property or tenants, don’t sweep, don’t shovel, don’t screen applicants and don’t give a f–k about anything but getting the most for the least from anybody who applies –generally, people with few other housing options.

    When he complained about all the back rent his tenants owe him, I told the owner of a six-family across the street (which he’s illegally converted to an eight-family) that it was the direct result of his lousy management practices–and that his lousy management practices affected everyone on the block, not just him and his tenants.

    The Ferguson law acknowledges and attempts to lessen the destructive effects of absentee ownership on otherwise stable neighborhoods. I hope that, as the realtor lobby fears, this movement will spread . . . all the way to New York.

  2. Steve,

    Great post and great points across the board. I would like to see something in the City, because it would hold property owners accountable. This is regulation, however, its necessairy. Slum lords, and general lazy bums, should not allow property to fall into disrepair, and they should investigate whom they allow as tennants. This is a practical law, and lets hope it remains on the books.

  3. awb says:

    How much does it cost to see if prospective tenants are, or should be, on a sex offender list anywhere in the country?

  4. Jeff says:

    The sex offender list is “online”. Anyone with Internet access can get to it. Just go to “Google”. I think they try to make it look like it will be a big “cost”. They are just putting up “Smoke & Mirrors” to protect their own interests.

  5. “Owner to hire a property manager that resides within 25 miles of your rental property and furnish the name and all contact info to the city.”

    I cannot thank the author of the proposed legislation enough for this clause. This is essential to holding landlords accountable.

    Ferguson has attracted some rehab activity; its quaint commercial district and many fine old homes are pretty attractive. If it passes this law, the city will send a clear message to would-be homeowners that it wants them to invest in its renewal. Smart thinking!

  6. Oops — I read again more carefully and saw that the bill already passed. Great!

  7. cyr says:

    I don’t have a problem with some of the requirements there, but how do you check and see if someone “should be” on a sex offender list?

    “Well, Bubba, you ain’t on the list…”
    “…but, I mean, just look atchya? You totally look like you should be.”

  8. StaceyO says:

    Steve, I’m so glad you posted about this! Some agents in my office brought this issue up in conversation a few months ago. I couldn’t understand why they were so bothered by something like this…I thought it was an admirable stance. When I kept challenging their logic, it came down to just what I ultimately knew it would – the commission check. “No one will want to buy in Ferguson if this goes through.” Mmhm. No slumlords, that is. I’m glad there’s at least one other person sharing my point of view…

  9. awb says:

    It’s the “should be on the sex-offender list” part of the requirement that I’m wondering about. Who should be on the list that isn’t? And how does a prospective landlord find that?

    As for the rest of the ordinance, I don’t think it’s requiring too much of property owners. It is protecting their property as much as any other property. I’m just trying to figure out what it takes to comply with tracking down who “should” be on a sex offender registry anywhere in the country. Is this difficult? Expensive? Is there a service that can do this?

  10. jason says:

    There are two things that scare me. While I appreciate Steve’s insight and agree with some issues, I take exception to a couple. 1. Are registered sex offenders not supposed to rent housing? I am not a big fan of this group but at the same time the humanitarian in me says that they have to live somewhere. I could see making them register when they move in, but to keep them from living in ferguson at all is a bit harsh. It seems very NIMBYish as well as the broad description of sex offender that is currently in the books. Some guy in college gets it on with a girl who says she is 18 but isnt and presses charges- suddenly he cant live anywhere? 2. Requiring them to hire a property management company also seems rediculous. Can they not manage thier own properties? If they are found to be a repeat violator thats one thing, but if they have never had any issues, it would be an added expense that maybe they cannot afford, or one that they would pass through to their tenants who would have to move because they couldnt afford the rent anymore.

    Fire away please and answer some of these issues for me as I am obviously confused on the matter.


  11. awb says:


    My first reaction was similar to yours. I didn’t have time to read the ordinance too closely, but what I got from it was that registered sex offenders cannot live near schools and playgrounds, and rental property within that distance could not be occupied by the offenders.

    For other properties far enough away from schools, well I didn’t have time to read it closely. Perhaps Ferguson just wants the landlord to be sure the offenders are registered. I never got the idea that Ferguson is overtly discriminating against offenders who served their time. I think if the ordinance is publicized enough, sex offenders will not want to rent there, so they may accomplish it anyway.

    However, it is the law that sex offenders register and not live close to schools. Ferguson seems to be putting the onus on the landlords to identify them.

  12. three-one-four says:

    It’s a fair concern that searching all 50 state’s sex offender registries is an undue burden on a landlord.

    I were a landlord who owned property near a school or “protected area,” I’d directly search MO and the registries of those states immediately surrounding just to be sure, which leaves 42 other states’ registries that need to be searched.

    Any landlord who would prefer to actually conduct their business of showing, renting, and maintaining properties as opposed to searching state sex offender websites all day would end up consulting public records aggregator services instead for this information.

    Those systems, however, aren’t perfect. What if an applicant looks great on paper, the background checks from the aggregator service look clean, but he’s listed as a registered offender in Hawaii? What is the landlord’s liability at this point?

    Obviously a landlord does not want to lose a tenant by having them arrested for being a sex offender living in an area where the law says they may not, so it’s in their interest to do a reasonable degree of investigation and screening. But ultimately, the task of enforcing sex offender laws is for law enforcement, not landlords.

    The rest of the rules seem fair, assuming that the “hire a property manager” rule implies that landlords can act as their own manager if they meet the qualifications. Tenants need a local contact for property, and do not need an out-of-town slumlord. If the rules dictate that landlords MUST hire an outside management firm, then it’s clearly putting the small-time landlord at a disadvantage versus a large, more established developer.

    [REPLY – My reading of the ordinance is that it does not ban sex offenders. It is my understanding that there have been situations where a landlord has unknowingly rented to a sex offender at a location too close to a school. Landlords then get upset when law enforcement says the person has to move. Does the landlord have the right to enforce the lease? In my view no, they should not have leased an apartment to a known sex offender too close to a school.

    This ordinance will force landlords to do a better job of screening applicants. It will also force them to wonder if an applicant is a sex offender and it the unit inside or outside the area where a sex offender can rent. Having landlords think about this issue is important as it will reduce problems later and lesson the burden on law enforcement.

    Landlords using a screening service to check an applicant’s Social Security number will be able to determine if they are or should be on a list. This is not, in my view, a big deal.

    I don’t see why a property owner can’t hire themselves to be the manager as long as they live within 25 miles of the property. Again, we’ve got property owners from others states that try to manage properties by long distance. I applaud Ferguson for taking some tough action to clean things up with absentee landlords within their city limits. – SLP]

  13. three-one-four says:

    Clarification the above:

    By “A landlord does not want to lose a tenant by having them arrested for being a sex offender living in an area where the law says they may not,” I meant that any legit landlord clearly does not want to rent a property to someone who they thought was OK, only for the police to come six months later to haul the tenant away.

    I did not mean that a landlord doesn’t want to lose a potential tenant (read: money) by actively having them arrested for doing what they were not supposed to, although I’m certain there are shady landlords out there who would just sit there quietly as long as a check kept coming.

    [REPLY – Yes, exactly. – SLP]

  14. toby says:

    This Ferguson mandate tackles some very important issues but then clouds it with one difficult issue.

    Laws to cut down on absentee landlords is a must. Laws that require stricter background checks on potential renters is a must for maintaining stable properties. Hopefully other muncipalities will have the spine to enact such ordinances.

    But to add to it the censure of “sex offenders” is off base. What about convicted drug felons, murderers, wife beaters, embezzlers? Does this imply those people are OK? If you single out only one portion of criminals, then it’s a biased law with deeper agendas.

    Also, getting landlords in line with other small business owners is tough enough without forcing them to become minor law enforcement officials. If all these criminal records are easily available, then those who protect and over-see the law should be doing that. Requiring landlords to be amateur policeman is an unnecesary burden, and opens the door to all new forms of litigious nightmares.

    Removing that one aspect from the law will not erode the concept. Leaving that one aspect in needlessly muddies the waters.

    [REPLY – The sex offender issued is a muddy one. But please consider the timing issue. It is not to make landlords into law enforcement. What happens now is law enforcement looks at a change of address for a sex offender and potentially realizes that their new abode is too close to a school. What then? The law enforcement does their job and says they have to move, leaving the landlord pissed at the police for removing a paying tenant.

    This ordinance is simply requiring that landlords screen tenants. The first think I think I will do, as a landlord, is to determine the issues related to sex offenders — what are the distances from schools or other places. If I determine that I own a property within the safe zone I will know this is an issue for me as a landlord. If my properties are beyond the no offender zone then I can be certain that I will not have to worry that an offender will suddenly be removed for being too close.

    I’ve never screened tenants for being sex offenders but I think it is wise practice in this day. This law will potentially save landlords some frustration and expense and will free up law enforcement for more critical tasks. – SLP]

  15. Joe Frank says:

    Hopefully this would also help reduce some of the workload on the Ferguson city inspectors. I think they have two, which is not many for a mid-sized suburb with many houses and apartment buildings.

    I hope some of the surrounding munis take Ferguson’s cue on this one. Dellwood, for example, sure could use better controls on its many absentee landlords who rent out mostly single-family houses.

  16. George French says:

    I have read the above comments in reference to the City of Ferguson new Renter’s License Permit
    Ordinance and agree 100% with the person or person whom is against this Ordinance. Otherwise;
    those individuals whom agree with the Ordinance
    do not have a “Vested Interest” in the new Ordinance. Therefore; I Suspect the individuals
    who do agree with the Ferguson New Renter’s
    License Permit Ordinance are not “Rental Property
    Owners in Ferguson, they are White People vs
    Spanish or Black Americans, and they are not
    Renters vs. Home-Owners “. So these individual
    just have an “Opinion”.
    Finally, the “Real Issue” here is “Restrictive”
    Housing. The same “Restrictive Housing Issue”
    a Black Family had to Litigate the City of
    Blackjack to change the Housing Ordinance that
    “Restricted Blacks” from living in “Blackjack
    as “Renters or Home-Owners”. It is going to
    take HUD to pressure the City of Ferguson to
    reverse their “New Ordinance” or Litigation
    on Behalf of “Black or Spanish citizens living
    in Ferguson as Tenants or Owner’s of Property”
    to cause the City to reverse itself.
    In addition, “Ferquson wants to keep it’s
    community Lilly-White”. Over 60% of
    the Rental Tenants are Blacks and Spanish living
    in Ferguson. So Ferguson, is very clever in
    “Black-Dooring” it’s effort to “Remove the
    Potential Negative Elements” that leads to
    “So-Called Crime, Drugs, Lower Property Values,
    and Poor Rental Property Maintenance”.
    Furthermore; HUD feels the same way as me as
    a Result of my HUD Complaint I Filed Against
    the City of Ferguson.


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