I was recently interviewed by Business Journal reporter Sean Ryan regarding the fallout of the dismissal of three landlords’ lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee regarding the unconstitutionality of its Residential Rental Inspection (RRI) program. My most recent post on the subject can be read here.
On October 1, 2010, The Business Journal published its article entitled “Judge Upholds Milwaukee Home Inspection Program. Reporter Sean Ryan spoke with the primary plaintiff, Joseph Peters, Alderman Nik Kovac (sponsor of the ordinance), Todd Weiler (of the Department of Neighborhood Services) and myself for the article.
I found Mr. Weiler’s comments to be very noteworthy. He was quoted as saying that to date DNS has inspected over 800 properties in the two target areas (Lindsey Heights on the north side and the UWM-area on the east) and that during those inspections 8,550 violations were found. Apparently 1/2 of the the properties inspected – or 400 – had no violations at all.
I wonder if all 8,550 of the violations that were found — and which the landlords were cited for – pertained to life-safety issues? If you will recall, life safety issues were the “alleged” original impetus behind the ordinance being introduced.
In speaking with several landlords that I know who own proeprties in the target areas, I was informed that the violations that they were cited for involved very minor issues — such as peeling paint on the outside of a building, torn screens, and failure to paint some wood that had been properly sealed but not painted. The lead plaintiff, Jospeh Peters, was quoted in the article as saying that the Orders To Correct that he received on his 10 buildings also involved very minor repairs – such as torn screens.
Just how many of the 8,550 violations dealt with life safety issues? How many illegal attic bedrooms were found? How many poorly maintained second story porches that could collapse at any minute were identified? Don’t forget the overloading of circuits by the improper use of extension cords – how many of those were found?
If you will recall the testimony that was offerred by both Alderman Nik Kovac, who sponsored the ordinance, and Art Dahlberg, Commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood Services, at the public hearing before the ZND Committee way back when, the focus of this program was to make these affected properties safe and prevent unnecessary deaths.
I’m not sure how many lives have been saved as a result of the RRI ordinance to date, but at least we wont have to worry about any of those deadly torn screens, inherently dangerous unpainted wood, and the lethal peeling paint on the outside of a duplex.
Not sure about you but I feel a lot safer already.
This ordinance is now being shown for what it really is — not an attempt to save lives and improve properties — but rather an way for the city to get inside one’s private property without the need to obtain a warrant or even receive a tenant complaint, a way to make additional money (through the required filing fees and reinspection fees), and a way to further harass landlords that are having a difficult enough time making ends meet.
Sometimes I just wish that all of the landlords in the city of Milwaukee had the ability to just walk away from their rental properties. I wonder if the city would then realize, once all the landlords are gone and there is no one to own or operate rental housing, that we provide a much needed service and that most of us do a good job of providing that service. Would they try to work with us then . . . . ?