Rules could help tenants, landlords

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Let’s face it.

Renters are less motivated than homeowners to keep property values up. So maybe that rusty truck sits in the driveway for weeks, blighting the whole neighborhood.

On the flip side, landlords have less motivation to get the oven fixed because they don’t have to use it every day. Things like that can make life tough for renters.

The city of Beloit has tried to make things fair for everyone with landlord licenses and rental ordinances.

“It’s a quality-of-life local issue,” said Steve Gregg, Beloit’s assistant city manager.

Janesville has no rental ordinances, but the city council has talked about licensing landlords to gain control of rental properties, said Kelly Lee, development specialist.

Beloit Town Board members said in a recent workshop that the time might be right for landlord licenses and rental ordinances in the township, too.

Either community could turn to the city of Beloit for ideas.

Beloit has six dedicated inspectors who systematically drive through neighborhoods looking for exterior problems. Rental housing is routinely inspected every three years, Gregg said.

Along with the proactive approach, the city responds to complaints, Gregg said.

Beloit would support a rental ordinance program for the town of Beloit, Gregg said.

The township is urban, and the two municipalities share common boundaries. A messy yard in the township could make city properties across the street look bad, he said.

Along with generating revenue, licenses help the city stay in touch with landlords, Gregg said. A license requires a local agent, so the city doesn’t have to try to deal with property owners living far away from Rock County, he said.

That’s been a problem for Janesville, Lee said. She recently had to deal with a landlord living in Puerto Rico.

Janesville’s one inspector—a second position will be refilled soon—responds only to complaints, Lee said.

She estimates that 9,000 of Janesville’s 25,000 housing units are rentals.

Her office consistently responds to complaints about junk in yards, Lee said, and most of the complaints are about rentals.

The Janesville Fire Department does indoor inspections of multifamily homes, but it only gets into common spaces, not apartment units, Lee said.

Janesville does have a nuisance abatement ordinance and can fine residents who refuse to clean the washing machines and couches out of their yards, Lee said.

But the city rarely fines.

Citations often end up in court, where an inspector can be tied up for several days, Lee said. And a $300 fine doesn’t get the couch out of the yard.

“It’s really all about compliance,” Lee said.

For more help

If you have problems with your rented home or apartment, city of Janesville development specialist Kelly Lee says you should call your landlord first.

If you can’t get the problem solved, call the Janesville Neighborhood Services Department at (608) 755-3065 and ask to talk to the housing inspector.

Last updated: 4:05 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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