Judge upholds Oshkosh's ordinance to inspect all rental housing

Winnebago Apartment Association plans to continue to fight ordinance

OSHKOSH, Wis. - A United States District Court judge sided with the city of Oshkosh on Monday after the Winnebago Apartment Association asked for an injunction to stop the city from beginning inspections on rental properties in the area.

The city wants to inspect roughly 14,000 rental properties over a five-year cycle to make sure landlords are keeping apartments and rental houses up to code. The city would inspect about 2,800 properties per year. 

Oshkosh city manager Mark Rohloff says the city has heard from renters who have problems that their landlords aren't fixing.

"We really feel that it's necessary to make this as broad a program as possible so we can identify those problem areas and really get them addressed with very common health and safety issues that we have concerns about," Rohloff explained.
 
Officials can already inspect properties where the tenants have submitted their complaints to the city, and the Winnebago Apartment Association's lawyer wonders why that isn't enough.
 
"The major problem with the program that the city has adopted now is it applies to every rental unit in the city, which we think is an overly broad solution to a problem that the city is trying to address with certain apartment units," the WAA's lawyer, Jeff Vercauteren of Husch Blackwell LLP, said. 
 
The Association also said the wording of the city's ordinance seemed that it would allow inspectors to go on the property without proper consent, which the group argued was a violation of landlords' and tenants' Fourth Amendment rights.
 
Oshkosh City Council plans to update the ordinance to make it more clear, and keep it in line with state and federal laws. 
 
"We're making some clarifications to our ordinance that the 21-day inspection window is going away because we're going to be making appointments with people," Rohloff said.
 
Inspectors are allowed inside an occupied property as long as they have consent from the tenants, and allowed into empty properties with permission from the landlord. 
 
The city will also charge each landlord a fee per inspection, a $100 trip charge and $45 per-unit charge.
 
Oshkosh officials will charge that fee and inspect the outside of the property, even if the tenant or landlord does not allow the inspector inside. 
 
State law requires the city to charge a fee that's reasonable in relation to the inspection costs to the city, and we have yet to see the $100 trip charge and the $45 per unit charge is really reasonable," Vercauteren said. 
 
Oshkosh City Council is expected to approve the amendments to the ordinance on Tuesday night, and could start inspecting properties as early as Wednesday. 
 
The Winnebago Apartment Associations plans to continue to fight against the new ordinance. 

 


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