Why Mayors Want To Keep City Rental Registries


A bill currently before the state Senate would prohibit Wisconsin municipalities from requiring registries of rental properties and their landlords. City officials around the state say the bill, if passed, would jeopardize safety.

La Crosse officials estimate about 50 percent of its homes are rental properties. Property owners are required to register their rentals, but not all do. Once the properties are registered, the city inspects them every five years or each time it changes hands.

There’s a major push in La Crosse to improve the city’s housing stock. Beefing up its rental registration is one way officials are doing so.They want to make sure rentals are up to code and have proper smoke detectors.

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La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat says if the bill that prohibits registries becomes law, it would be a step back for the city.

“For the state to really come in and wipe [the registries] away, I just think is really bad policy,” Kabat said. “It’s poor leadership and it’s just very frustrating from a local level, because we’re trying to respond to what we’re facing every day in our community.”

State Senator Dale Schultz says once lawmakers reconvene, it’s possible they could add an amendment that would leave the door open for rental and landlord registration requirements. Schultz says he’s heard concerns from others, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Milwaukee has a landlord registration program.

“What municipal officials and mayors are concerned about is …public safety,” said Schultz. “If, for example, a suspected crime is going on, they need to know who to contact, [or] if somebody is creating a nuisance by letting garbage pile up and not mowing the lawn: things like that.”

Other provisions of the bill could change laws on evictions, pest management, and tenants’ unclaimed property.