It's been a little more than a year since La Crosse restarted its rental inspection program.
It was suspended in 2009 during an investigation into why hundreds of properties weren't being inspected.
Within the next five years, city officials said they will have inspected all of the roughly 9,000 rental properties in La Crosse.
Now with one year of the cycle in the books, inspectors and renters hope this is a good start to holding the community to a higher standard.
“Unfortunately, this is one of those lights that takes a while to warm up,” said Michelle Wanders, CEO of 360 Real Estate Solutions as she switched on the bathroom light. “We need to fix that.”
The business manages roughly 400 rental properties in the city and she said maintaining safety is important.
“Most times when people are injured, they're in their home dwelling,” said Wanders. “They spend the majority of the time in their homes, and we need to keep our number one priority of providing safe dwellings.”
All of the company's properties have to be inspected once every five years through La Crosse's Rental Inspection Program.
She sees it as a benefit.
“Perhaps the tenant has extension cords that need to be removed,” said Wanders. “That may be something that we're not aware of. We're in properties doing routine maintenance, but not always do we catch those things.”
In 2012, the city inspected more than 860 rental properties in La Crosse.
Inspectors look for things including working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, plumbing and ventilation.
“If we find something wrong, we give them an order to correct and they have a certain amount of time to take care of it, and the landlords usually do,” said David Reinhart, chief inspector for the city of La Crosse.
Reinhart said inspectors didn't issue any fines last year because landlords took care of the needed changes and repairs.
He said that's a good sign landlords in the city are taking preventative measures seriously.
“We don't know how many lives we do save doing this program or fires we prevent or things of that nature, so it could be substantial or it could be minimal,” said Reinhart.
Wanders said the program helps hold the community to a higher standard.
“Rental properties should never have a negative impact on a neighborhood,” said Wanders. “They should never have the opportunity to perhaps bring down the property values of family owner's homes.”
Reinhart said the city is on track to finish inspecting the rest of the roughly 9,000 properties left within the next four years.
He said the most common things inspectors found within the first five-year cycle (2003 to 2008) was open wiring, smoke detectors missing batteries and extension cords being used for permanent wiring.
Reinhart said the hope is these common mistakes will become less of an issue in the future.
Property owners will have to pay anywhere from $25-$65 for the inspection.
Fines for violations can cost the landlords anywhere from $100-$500.