In-depth look at new ordinance aimed at holding landlords accountable
WAUSAU (WAOW)-- Starting April 1st, renters can report unsafe or hazardous conditions in their home to a city committee. If the problems aren't fixed, their landlords could lose money.
But we also learned, this new rule could also hurt the people it aims to help. That's because in the long-run, landlords say higher maintenance costs for landlords could trickle down to renters.
"When the rent check is cut in half or cut in two-thirds, that's pretty good motivation to make the repair of that issue that's a safety hazard," said Wausau Property Manager John Fischer.
Under the new rule, renters can schedule a hearing with a city committee if they believe they are living in unsafe conditions. The committee will then determine the severity of the situation, and could let tenants skip a portion of their rent payments depending on the type of violation.
Several renters we talked to say the ordinance is a good idea, but one man voiced concern that it could have a negative impact. "As soon as you mention those things, they'll jack the rent up," said Marshall Blaskowski.
Fischer said that could be true, but he said you can't put a price on safety. "It is in the long-term probably going to push the rents in our market up a little bit, but it's going to increase the housing quality."
Wausau City Council member Lisa Rasmussen helped write the new ordinance.
"It's also a way for the city to get compliance with inspection orders that have been sitting and not getting attention," she said.
For example, if a property doesn't have working handles or door locks, the committee could determine a renter can skip up to 75 percent of their rent.
Rasmussen said, "I wish we didn't have to have it, I wish that conditions were such that it wasn't necessary."
Fischer said he's not worried the new ordinance will cost him, because he takes good care of his properties. "Landlords need to take their responsibility very seriously that they provide something safe for people to live in," he said.