Change to city rental property ordinances could mean a safer community

Change to city rental property ordinances could mean a safer community

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - There could be a change to rental property ordinances in La Crosse. Two City Council members are proposing a change to make the ordinances easier to understand and help the city keep track of the number of rental properties.

The proposal would combine two rental property ordinances in the city. One focuses on single-family homes, the other on apartment buildings. The City Council members and neighborhood associations believe this is a good step toward making the community a better place.

Rental properties have been a hot topic in La Crosse for the past year. For the past nine months, there's been a moratorium on converting single-family homes into rental properties, and now the two council members want to put single-family homes and rentals on a level playing field.

"It was a really high priority of the single-family conversion committee to get these merged, simplified and get the language cleaned up," District 12 La Crosse City Council member Peg Jerome said.

It would especially help to simplify  fees and inspections.

"Right now, when a rental unit is inspected there's already fees that have to be paid for that inspection. With this program those fees go away. It will just be an annual fee that you have to pay to receive a certificate," Jeremy Novak, director of operations at Three Sixty Real Estate, said.

Novak said an annual fee of $25 per rental isn't much for the benefit it could have.

"It protects the single-family owner-occupied places, protects the values of their homes, it protects the neighborhoods that are existing," Novak said.

And local neighborhood associations hope this will protect their neighborhoods from landlords buying up the single-family homes.

"Those houses are not being purchased by families. They've been purchased by landlords who turn them into cash cows as rentals, and the majority of them have not been well cared for," Barb Janssen, co-president of the Grandview Emerson Neighborhood Association, said.

Novak believes by making the change, La Crosse will benefit.

"Time will tell the long-term benefits, obviously, but I really believe that this ordinance is going to protect those neighborhoods, those existing neighborhoods with owner-occupied properties," Novak said.

The proposal will be presented at the committee of the whole on Tuesday, then to the full City Council on Thursday.

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