Posts Tagged DNS

Business Journal Article Addresses Fallout of the City’s RRI Ordinance To Date

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 . . . . ?

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DNS Has Started To Implement The New Residential Rental Certificate Program

As many of you know the City of Milwaukee’s new Residential Rental Certificate Program ordinance went into effect January 1, 2010. 

It is my understanding that the letter notices, along with a date for the inspection of your rental unit/s, the application, were all mailed out to affected landlords during the week of Dec. 28th — so those of you in the two designated areas should have received your mailing by now – Merry Christmas.

In anticipation of the many questions about the Residential Rental Inspection (RRI) Program the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) has added a new FAQ page to its website regarding the program.  The web page also contains a link to a map of the two affected areas, a link to the RRI Application form and a link to the Pre-Inspection Checklist.

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The Common Council did not vote on the passing of the city’s proposed Residential Rental Certificate Program earlier today as was planned.  Instead the Comon Council voted 9-5 to hold the proposed ordinance for 1 cycle (1 month) for further review. 

The proposed ordinance, which would require all rental property owners in the UWM-area and Lindsay Heights neighborhood on the north side of Milwaukee to pay an $85 fee per unit fee and submit to an internal inspection of in order to be able to rent out their property, passed out of the ZND committee last week by a vote of 3-2.  The proposed ordinance was to be voted on by the Common Council earlier today. 

In response to the setback of having the proposed ordinance pass out of committee the AASEW, who represents approximately 680 landlords in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas, retained legal counsel to review the ordinance for procedural and drafting errors.  Errors were found and were communicated to the City Attorney.  The AASEW  wrote to the President of the Commom Council and the various council members and pointed out its many concerns with the ordinance as written.

Prior to a vote being taken as to whether or not the ordinance should be passed, a motion was made by Alderman Donovan to hold the ordinance  for one cycle (1 month) to further review any problems and concerns.  This motion passed by a vote of 9-5.  It is assumed that the ordinance will be revised and then referred back to the ZND committee for an additional public hearing.

I will keep you advised as to what happens next.

For additional information on the proposed Residential Rental Certificate Program please refer to my earlier post.

Read Tom Daykin, of the Journal Sentinel, blog post about this change of events here.

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City of Milwaukee’s “Residential Rental Certificate Program” Is Unveiled

Well I have finally been able to get my hands on a preliminary copy of the city of Milwaukee’s proposed mandatory rental inspection ordinance.  The ordinance is sponsored by Alderman Kovac, Wade, Davis and Hines.  The ordinance refers to the proposed program as a “Residential Rental Certificate” program.  The program is really just a variation on “landlord licensing” and mandatorty rental inspection programs.  I would encourage you to read the enitre proposed ordinance, but I have also set forth the key points below:

–     This will be a 5 year pilot program.

–     The targeted area includes the UWM area on the city’s east side and the Lindsay Heights neighborhood on the city’s north side.  These areas were selected because the city believes the areas need to be monitored to prevent deterioration.  Allegedly these two areas include older housing stock, have a high density of rental properties, have a higher percentage of complaints, and have high tenant turnover.  The city feels that frequent inspections of the rental properties in these two areas are needed to maintain safe, decent, and sanitary living conditions.

–     Every rental unit in the selected areas must apply for and receive a rental certificate before the owner is allowed to rent out the unit.

–     The ordinance includes duplexes and larger multi-unit rental properties.  Owner-occupied duplexes are excluded.

–     The owner must also complete, sign and submit an application to the city that will include the owner’s legal name, the address of the rental property, the owner’s phone number, and the owner’s date of birth. 

–     A fee of $85  must accompany each rental unit application.

–     Prior to the city issuing a rental certificate the unit will be subject to an internal and external inspection by the Department of Neighborhood Services (D.N.S.).

–     DNS will conduct the inspection within 60 days of receipt of the application.

–     The owner must notify the tenant at least 2 days in advance of the inspection.

–     A fee of $50 will be imposed if DNS is unable to gain access to the unit for inspection.

–     If during the inspection DNS finds a “disqualifying violation” (defined as a condition that affects safe, decent and sanitary living conditions or other conditions that violate the city building code, building maintenance code or zoning code) the unit will be issued a 1 year certificate.

–      Any violation identified during the inspection must be abated within a reasonable amount of time (to be determiend by DNS).

–     If conditions are found that are determined to constitute an imminent danger to health and safety, DNS shall order the condition to be remedied and may limit or prohibit occupancy where approporiate.

–     DNS shall reinspect the unit as necessary to determine if any “disqualifying violations” have been remedied.  A reinspection fee may be charged.

–     If no disqualifying violations are found the unit will be given a 4 year certificate.

–     A temporary certificate can be given for up to 30 days if the disqualifying violations do not constitute a hazard to the occupants of the rental and if a plan to correct the violations is submitted and approved by DNS.

 –     After the certificate expires the owner will be required to renew the certificate and submit to another inspection and pay another $85 fee per unit.

–     If after the issuance of a 4 year certificate, DNS determines learns that there is a building or zoning code violation, the 4 year certificate can be revoked and the city can choose to replace the 4 year certificate with a 1 year certificate.

–     If at any time after the issuance of a 4 year certificate or a 1 year certificate, DNS  determines that there are building or zoning code violations that are critical and constitute an unsafe or unfit condition, the city can revoke the certificate.

–     Any violation identified after a certificate has been issued must be abated within a reasonable amount of time (to be determiend by DNS).

–     Any person who purchases a rental unit in the targeted areas must apply for a rental certificate and pay the accompanying fee within 30 days of the purchase.

–     Any person that sells a rental unit in the targeted areas must notify the purchasor of the property that a residential rental certificate is required by the city.

–     An owner that fails to apply for a residential rental certificate will be fined $100 for the first infraction.  If the owner fails to respond to a subsequent notices by the city the fine will increase to $150.

–     Residential rental inspection fees will be charged against the owner’s real estate and will be considered a “special charge.”

If you would like to contact your alderman you can find contact information here.

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A friend of mine was at a meeting this morning with the City of Milwaukee’s Budget Director and learned some more information on the City’s proposed mandatory rental unit inspection program.

First, the proposed ordinance is in the final stages of drafting and will be released in the near future.

Second, it will be a 5 year pilot program in the UWM area only.

Third, there will be a fee of $40 per landlord and a $35 per unit inspection fee.

Fourth, the pilot program must be approved by the city’s common council each and every year in order for it to continue.

Fifth, if a rental unit passes its 1st inspection then the unit will receive a 4 year compliance certificate and will not need to be reinspected until the 4 years expires.


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Why Milwaukee’s Mandatory Rental Inspection Program (a.k.a. “Landlord Licensing”) Is Not Needed and Is A Bad Idea.

Here are a few of the reasons why the City of Milwaukee’s soon-to-be proposed ordinance requiring mandatory rental inspections  (a.k.a. “Landlord Licensing”) should not be passed.

For more background information on this proposed new ordinance please read my earlier post entitled ” Milwaukee To Propose Landlord Licensing and Mandatory Interior Inspections of Rental Property.”  

There Are Better Ways To Spend Milwaukee’s Limited Money – The city of Milwaukee has no money and as such the city is threatening to close libraries, not hire additional police officers, not pay overtime to police officers, cut back on the number of firemen assigned to each ladder company.  Under this new ordinance the city will spend money which would be better spent on more police officers and other safety issues rather than hiring more building inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »

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Milwaukee to Propose Landlord Licensing and Mandatory Interior Inspections of Rental Property

The city of Milwaukee is planning on introducing a new ordinance that will require rental property owners in certain parts of the city to license their rental properties and submit to mandatory interior inspections by the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS).

Many of the AASEW board members have been having regular monthly meetings with the new DNS Commissioner Art Dahlberg.  During a recent meeting Mr. Dahlberg informed us that in the near future he will be pushing for some form of residential rental inspection program (a.k.a “Landlord Licensing”) for portions of the city.  During a meeting with Alderman Bob Donovan it was confirmed that this program was in the works and that the city’s forthcoming budget already has money earmarked for the program.

Under this program DNS would target certain areas of the city which they consider to be “blighted” or which will soon become “blighted” if something is not done.  Other factors that would be considered in determining what areas to target would be the age of the housing stock, the percentage of rental units to owner occupied properties, and the history of complaints in the neighborhood.  Mr. Dahlberg indicated that the area of the city that would most likely be addressed first would be the east side near UWM due to the large number of illegally converted dwelling units and poorly maintained properties.

The goal of the program would allegedly be for the owners and the city building inspectors to work together to better the rental housing stock with the building inspectors becoming a resource for rental property owners.

While the specific details were not provided to me, any proposed program will most certainly contain provisions such as the following:

–  A requirement that all rental property owners in the targeted area pay a fee to the city for each unit that they own. 

–  A requirement that rental property owners allow the city building inspectors to conduct mandatory inspections of the interiors of each of their rental properties that are located within the targeted area.

–  If no code violations are found then the rental property would receive a certificate of code compliance which would allow the owner to rent out the unit for a period of time until the next mandatory interior inspection would be required.

–  If code violations were to be found in the rental property then the owner would be denied a certificate of code compliance (thus preventing the unit from being rented) until the violations were corrected.  Depending on the the number and severity of the violations, the rental property owner would be required to submit to an increased number of interior inspections during the ensuing months until the city would determine that the rental property was safe.

While this new program would only focus on the UWM area initially, other areas of town were also mentioned (the north side of Milwaukee for instance) as being targeted eventually.  It is fairly obvious that the end goal would be to have all rental properties within the city under this program.

I personally am not in favor of this program and I can’t imagine that many landlords would be.  If passed this new ordinance will be yet another regulation on rental property owners – a group that is already overly regulated.  I can’t imagine that tenants are going to enjoy this invasion of their privacy either.  Not to mention that the additional costs to landlords will most likely be passed on to the tenant by increased rents.  I also personally have difficulty with the fact that the city regularly threatens to cut the number of police, refuse overtime for police, eliminate the number of firemen at ladder companies, and close libraries, but yet they are willing to provide additional money for the hiring of more building inspectors.

While the alleged goal of this residential rental recording program is to improve the quality of the housing stock in the city I can’t help but think that it will also be a source of revenue for a city that allegedly is broke.

This proposed ordinance will be addressed in more detail in my future posts.

To read why this program is not a good idea click here.

To read the text of a study conducted by the LaFollette Institute in 2002 on whether or not Landlord Licensing should be implemented in Milwaukee click here.  To read a summary of the the study concluding that Landlord Licensing would casue more harm then good if implemented in Milwaukee click here.

For more information go to

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