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Wausau landlord licensing ordinance approved


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau will soon be licensing landlords and inspecting rental properties. That decision made on a 7-4 vote Tuesday after lengthy discussions at the Wausau City Council meeting, and the Committee of the Whole meeting just prior to that.

After some amendments, the proposal that passed will annually charge property owners $20.00 per unit, regardless if it is a single-family house, duplex, or multi-unit apartment building. The city will have an inspector, which will go through the city’s nearly 63-hundred rentals about once every three years.

Council President Lisa Rasmussen supports the landlord licensing, saying thirty landlords promised three years ago to self-police their properties for problems, and it’s just not happening. She says there are still tenants doing illegal things, and buildings that are in disrepair.

Landlord Scott Drake spoke against the licensing proposal, addressing Council President Lisa Rasmussen’s concern about drugs found in Jackson Street rentals. “The gentleman lived there less than a month. He had lived in other parts of the city before that. He had been selling drugs. It was his third conviction. This is not an eye-of-the-hurricane problem, the building had nothing to do with it. It’s an individual problem.”

Rasmussen fired back, telling of an incident involving tenants and drugs, and how landlords don’t always take adequate action. “Inside the unit were evidence of prostitution, evidence of drug use, multiple, dozens of needles, bottles of urine, all sorts of ugly things, and they went and got the landlord and they took him to the property, and the comment or the opinion that we got from the police department as a result of showing the landlord what was going on in the property was that he seemed not concerned enough. Mr. Drake owns that property.”

Property owner Arden Emmerich is concerned the new ordinance may have unintended consequences, such as making older rental properties unattractive to buyers, who may not know what they’re buying into. “I can estimate the cost of the real estate. I can determine what my costs are going to be to upgrade it, but I don’t know what the inspectors are going to tell me what my compliance is going to be, what other codes I’ve got to meet.” He says if people don’t buy them, they could become foreclosures in even worse condition.

The new ordinance has a six year sunset, expiring January 1st 2020. That will give the city two complete inspection cycles to evaluate the effectiveness of the ordinance and then decide if it should be renewed.