City of Burlington officials are discussing a proposal that would allow the city to inspect rental properties every five years. (File photo)

Official says it could improve aesthetics and protect tenants, but some are wary

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

City of Burlington officials are looking into creating a rental inspection program designed to improve rental units and offer tenants an additional layer of protection.

Gregory Guidry, Building Inspector, presented the proposal to the Common Council on June 15 and said the potential program comes upon the request of some elected officials.

The elected officials, he said, expressed concerns related to the lack of attention to maintenance on both the inside and outside of some rental units, therefore, affecting property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This program would allow city staff to go indoors to complete a health and safety inspection on a five-year cycle,” he said. “Staff will not have to wait for a tenant or neighbor to call in a complaint.”

Health and safety inspections range from reviewing heating units in the winter, water temperatures, leaky drains, mold, unsafe electrical connections, problems with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, broken windows, screens and even door locks.

Currently, the city can only conduct exterior inspection, and it doesn’t survey the inside unless a tenant or tenant’s family member calls to complaint

According to the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, 25 total communities have an active registration and inspection program, including some in Southeast Wisconsin.

Locally, participating communities include the cities of Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Delavan, town of Darien and village of Sharon.

 

Lingering questions

Some Common Council members, although receptive, have concerns about the total cost to launch the program, staff workload and whether the matter would become intrusive.

Thomas Preusker, of District 4, said he has spent most of his time as alderman responding to tenant concerns.

Preusker added the city has many rental properties, according to a study from the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Preusker, like others, expressed skepticism about whether the city has enough staff to launch the program and cover initial startup costs.

Those costs, which haven’t been determined, could be a major expense to the city.

District 1 Alderman Shad Branen, however, said he had concerns about the city intruding upon tenants and landlords.

Branen further added the program would create additional problems for the city.

“As much as I appreciate the effort to improve properties and values, I think that is a goal and benefit to everybody, I would take this as a big intrusion on not only landlords, but tenants,” he said. “You would see a lot of headaches with this and I also question the legality of it.”

Bob Grandi, of District 2, does not question the program’s legality because other municipalities have implemented the program.

Grandi, a landlord himself, is in favor of the rental inspection program.

“As a rental property owner, I am all for this,” he said, adding it would improve aesthetics. “More importantly, it is going to help people who don’t have a voice.”

To read the full version of this story see the June 24 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.