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Panel weighs license changes for rental property

Superior's rental licensing requirements have done little to accomplish the intended goal. What they have done for many landlords is create a costly program that has done little to address substandard housing, while forcing landlords to wade thro...

Superior's rental licensing requirements have done little to accomplish the intended goal.

What they have done for many landlords is create a costly program that has done little to address substandard housing, while forcing landlords to wade through annual red tape.

Superior's License and Fees Committee today started discussing changes proposed by a task force of rental property owners, building inspection officials and city councilors.

Under the new program, the city's more than 4,500 licensed residential properties would be subject to inspection on a three-year cycle. The goal is to have every building inspected with a minimum of 10 percent of individual units in multi-family dwellings examined on a three-year cycle. About 1,000 units will be inspected per year.

While landlords would be subject to routine inspection for the first time, the program would cut some of the red tape property owners currently must wade through. Licenses would be issued for three years.

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One of the most common complaints about the current program is that landlords now must license their property annually, said Mark Young, community development administrator. The three-year license would be in effect from the day it's issued rather than every license expiring the same day.

But there is a price. Instead of an annual cost of about $18 per unit, the newly revamped program costs about $30 per unit per year -- or $2.50 per month -- to cover the inspection and related costs. The city's anticipated annual program cost is about $133,000.

One of the few successes of the original rental license requirement is that it requires property owners who rent or lease residential property to carry a $100,000 liability insurance policy. Wisconsin does not have any insurance requirement for landlords.

The committee discussed the possibility of increasing that liability minimum. City staff has been directed to get estimates for the cost of increasing liability minimums to $250,000, $500,000 or $1 million.

The committee continues its discussion when it meets in mid-August.

Shelley Nelson can be reached at (715) 395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com .

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