La Crosse Begins Enforcing Annual Rental Property Registration

34 Property Managers Have Joined Suit, Saying Rule Violates State Law

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A row of rental properties near the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus. Photo: Maureen McCollum/WPR.

Starting on Friday, La Crosse landlords will be fined if they do not register their rentals with the city — a new rule that is being challenged in court even as it’s being implemented.

Rental registration is not new to La Crosse, but now the city is requiring properties to be registered annually. Fees run from $25 for a single-family home to $65 for a large apartment complex.

The city’s chief inspector predicts there are about 3,100 rental properties in La Crosse. Less than half have been registered under the new program, although many applications are being filed at the last minute. Those who don’t sign up can face fines of up to $3,000 daily.

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Currently, 34 property owners in La Crosse have joined a lawsuit challenging the registry. Attorney Bernardo Cueto, who represents the landlords, said the city is violating a recent state law and cannot mandate this rental registration.

“They cannot require information concerning a landlord or a tenant unless they require it of all residential property owners, or it’s required under federal or state law, or it’s information solely to contact the landlord,” said Cueto.

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat said the city is complying with state law in maintaining and reworking its rental registration and inspection program. He said the program has “the ultimate goal of protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare and making sure that we have minimum standards and quality and safety for housing in La Crosse.”

The lawsuit goes before a La Crosse County judge in mid-August.

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