Local landlord forced to pay $16,000 in fines under a relatively new ordinance

Published 03/06 2014 05:25PM

Updated 03/06 2014 09:39PM

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - Green Bay city leaders say a relatively new ordinance is working, that makes it easier to prosecute delinquent landlords.

Currently about a dozen cases of landlord violations are being investigated by the city. The end result could be some hefty fines.

"It was perfect for us," Brian Harrell said, describing the house he rented. "It was a block away from the kids school. We had a nice yard."

Until he looked inside. Harrell said he rented a home on Lincoln Street last June. But after four months, and no improvements from his landlord, he and his family had to get out.

"Electrical wires hanging out of the ceiling," he said. "Floors weren't finished. Bathrooms weren't finished. There was mold in the basement."

Harrell called Bob Zaspel, Green Bay's residential housing investigator.

"This home should not have been rented out in the condition it was in," Zaspel said.

Zaspel oversees the city's new residential rental practices ordinance, which went into effect at the beginning of last year. It gives the city the ability to enforce landlord violations directly in municipal court. They previously had to be dealt with  at the state level.

"It's quicker, it's easier and it's very efficient," added Zaspel.

"We definitely saw a need for this in our community," explained Jim Mueller, assistant city attorney. "We've been getting a lot of complaints about the practices between landlords and tenants. This has always been enforceable at the state level. However, do to a lack of resources at the state level, we weren't seeing a lot of enforcement."

Harrell's case was the first to be prosecuted under the new ordinance. The landlord, Derek Anderson, pled "no contest" to 13 violations and was ordered to pay fines of more than $16,000. He declined to comment, but his attorney, Eric Wimberger, told Local 5 Anderson has never had any problems with other properties he owns and he was just trying to help out someone in need.

Harrell doesn't see it that way. Now he and his family don't have a steady place to live.

"Right now I'm in limbo," added Harrell. "Just kind of figuring out what to do."

Landlord complaint forms can be found online. Click here for more information.

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