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Janesville studies licensing landlords

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ANN MARIE AMES
December 13, 2007
— The Janesville City Council wants city administration to keep studying landlord licensing and registration.

But the council doesn’t want a process that’s expensive, invasive or likely to punish responsible landlords.


Jay Winzenz, assistant director of administrative services, presented four options to the council Wednesday that could make Janesville more proactive about enforcing nuisance or housing complaints.


The staff recommended the first two:


-- Enhance current ordinances. The city would like a “nuisance abatement” ordinance, which would allow the city to step in if a problem wasn’t fixed. The property owner would be billed for work done by city staff or contractors.


This option would also charge a re-inspection fee, reduce timelines for compliance and crack down on repeat offenders.


-- Licensing or registering landowners or rental property. This would force landlords to share contact information and provide a local agent if the landlord lives out of town. The main goal is to reduce the amount of time and effort it takes staff to contact landlords if there’s a problem.


-- Enhancing exterior inspections of properties. Instead of targeting problem areas, the city could systematically inspect the entire city once a year.


This would require the addition of two property maintenance specialists.


Targeting problem areas twice a year would require a part-time property maintenance specialist.


-- Conducting interior inspections every three to five years. Inspections every five years would cost the city $127,000. Every three years would cost $215,000


“Our goal has been and continues to be voluntary compliance,” Winzenz said. “We have been very successful in attaining that.”


The board’s consensus was to continue the course of enhancing the city’s current ordinances. The board would like staff to research landlord registration, but consider if it’s absolutely necessary and if it must carry a fee.


There are about 9,900 rental units in Janesville.


Staff surveyed 15 comparable cities, including Beloit, which licenses landlords, requires a local agent and performs systematic indoor inspections.


La Crosse was the only other city with a licensing policy.



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