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Wausau mulls rental inspection program in blighted areas

in News

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — Officials on Monday will consider a proposed rental inspection program for a limited area in Wausau where the highest property code violations occur in the city.

The proposal would create an approximate 15- to 20-block area in which city staff would work with landlords and tenants to inspect both the interior and exterior of residential rental properties. State law limits inspections to once every five years.

This is not the first attempt by city officials to control rental properties in Wausau. In November 2013, the city adopted a rental licensing and inspection program that resulted in more than 1,000 inspections over a two-year span. But state legislation in 2015 and 2016 eliminated city-wide rental licensing, as well as the ability for city officials to perform rental inspections.

Then in 2017, Wisconsin Act 317 limited broad rental inspection programs as a whole.

But city officials say an inspection program is needed to ensure decent, safe, sanitary living environments for residents. Over the past several years, officials have found that property maintenance is a top concern for residents, according to a memo from Chief Inspector and Zoning Administrator William Hebert.

Since the rental inspection program stopped in April 2016, many interior and exterior issues have been discovered in the city, Hebert wrote.

City officials have not yet specified which areas in the city will be targeted by the program, but a map of property code violations shows the greatest number of issues discovered on the city’s near east side, in an area that includes Jefferson, Washington and Jackson Streets between 6th and 8th Streets. The program is expected to include designated districts with “evidence of blight, high rates of building code complaints or violations, deteriorating property values, or increases in single-family home conversions to rental units,” according to city documents.

The proposed ordinance calls for rental owners to register with the city’s Division of Inspection and Zoning within 30 days of purchasing the property and pay a one-time registration fee of $10. Regular inspections would ensue and will incur a fee, the amount of which was not specified in the language of the ordinance.

Members of the city’s public health and safety committee on Monday will discuss the proposal, which is subject to full council approval.

property code violations Wausau

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