Boone County Commission asks lawmakers for rental regulations

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JEFFERSON CITY — If you rent in the City of Columbia, you might have better living conditions than some people who live in Boone County.

Currently, landlords in the City of Columbia are required by law to protect tenants from inappropriate living conditions. Renters must have access to basic security, water, sewer, electrical and heat services. 

However, if you live in unincorporated areas of Boone County, those standards don't exist.

Representative Chuck Bayse, R-Rocheport, a sponsor for House Bill 2336, is encouraging lawmakers to establish regulations on rental properties in those areas. 

Fred Parry, Boone County District Commissioner, says he is concerned for the health and safety of lower income people in the County.

"This is critically important for people living below or at the federal poverty level," he said. 

Representative Bill Falkner, R- St. Joseph, said "some of these people deserve to live in conditions that are clean and that have heat."

But Falkner said it's not always on the landlord to achieve these conditions.

"We need to take into consideration the damage some of the renters do," he said. 

Kala Tomka, Environmental Health Supervisor for Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, said they receive numerous complaints from renters about their unsafe living conditions. 

"It is heartbreaking and demoralizing," Tomka said.

She said tenants deal with "mold, leaking plumbing, lack of water and electricity," and there is often nothing they can legally do to change it."

But Shawna Neuner, a realtor and real estate investor in Boone County, said it is important to be skeptical about why rental conditions get worse. 

"Is there a chance the resident did not tell the landlord about the problem?" Neuner said. "People want to blame someone and landlords are an easy target."