La Crosse Rental Properties Must Be Registered Annually With City

City Officials Hope More Frequent Registration Will Hold Problem Landlords More Accountable

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

Rental properties in La Crosse must now be registered annually with the city.

About half of the homes in La Crosse are rental properties. La Crosse landlords have had to register their properties with the city, but now, they have to do it on an annual basis. Registration fees range from $25 for a single family rental to $65 for a large apartment complex. Landlords who are caught not registering their rentals could face fines ranging from $500-$3,000.

City council member Peg Jerome says the fees will be used to administer the registration and inspection programs. The city has been trying to improve rental inspection follow-up.

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“We just felt that if we had a handle on the number of rentals, we could make them safer for renters, and possibly clean up any nuisances for neighboring homeowners,” said Jerome. “We just thought it was going to be good for the city overall.”

A new state law places some limits on communication between landlords and municipalities, leading some La Crosse landlords to question the new annual registration’s legality.

John Fisher, a former landlord from the Wausau area who works with the Wisconsin Apartment Association, says it will be unclear what the new law means until it’s tested in court.

“If the whole purpose of this is to provide the city a way to contact landlords, and the whole purpose of the fee is to pay an administrative person to assimilate this information, the city has a pretty strong case,” said Fisher.

Fisher says if the annual fee is going towards other programs, then the city could potentially face a legal challenge.