La Crosse Mayor Kabat: Rental moratorium serving its purpose

Published On: Oct 10 2013 08:50:44 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 10 2013 08:53:31 PM CDT
Renters moritorium
LA CROSSE, WI -

The 6-month rental conversion moratorium in La Crosse is about half-way done and Mayor Tim Kabat says a lot of progress is being made to come up with a long-term solution to keep rentals from becoming run-down.

Since the moratorium was passed in July, there have been a flood of requests from landlords to be exempt from the code.

So far the city has approved all 18 requests.

While it may seem like that defeats the purpose, city officials say the moratorium is working.

Mark and Amanda Christianson received a notice in the mail in August telling them they'd have to evict all the tenants in their two rental properties because of the rental conversion moratorium.

"We scheduled the inspections you're supposed to have and shortly after that we get our certificate that says it's inspected. It was a misunderstanding on our part that that certificate then has to be registered with the city," said Amanda.

The Christianson's are one of 18 approved requests to be waived from the moratorium.

It's a process Mayor Tim Kabat says has helped educate landlords and given the special committee working on a long-term solution some insight into how to fix the problem of run-down rental properties.

"It helps point out the lack of standards that we currently have because right now, we really don't have standards that say, 'If you have 3 police calls and 4 code violations and two or three other things, well then you lose your registration,'" said Kabat.

Kabat says the committee is meeting every two weeks and is making progress figuring out how to stream-line processes like registration, inspections and how to raise the standards of how well the property has to be kept up.

"We want to make it clear and straightforward. If you're a property owner and you want to rent your property, here's what you need to do. Here are the steps and for the most part that's really it because most landlords are good but if there are problem properties, what are the standards that kick in for the city to say there are issues or problems let's get them fixed," said Kabat.

While the Christianson's support the idea of raising the standards, they wish the city could make that happen without implementing a moratorium.

"I know families that are struggling because they can't sell their home. If investors can't go out and look at homes, they'll sit empty. We would have purchased another home this summer but didn't because of the moratorium that's in place," said Amanda.

The Christianson's say they've put $30,000 of repairs into their properties already this year.

They bought them as foreclosures.

They say higher standards for property up-keep should be the same for rental and owner-occupied homes.

The moratorium started in July and will end in January.

The Mayor says an extension to the moratorium should not be necessary.