Landlords win suit with city

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BELOIT — A group of landlords, including a woman running for Beloit City Council, has won a civil lawsuit against the city over its rental permit system.

The group claimed the city’s system violated the state-passed legislation from last year.

Rock County Circuit Court Judge Michael Fitzpatrick ruled in favor of the landlords in an initial order given Wednesday. The ruling shows municipalities can only require rental units to be registered for the purpose of having an authorized contact person associated on the rental property’s address.

Previously, the city required landlords to obtain a permit to rent property, which was obtained only after an inspection had been completed, which accompanied a $40-per-unit fee. The lawsuit was filed last spring, and saw multiple hearings leading up to Wednesday’s ruling.

Milwaukee, Wausau and La Crosse all got rid of their rental permit systems after passage of Act 176 because elements of the systems were considered illegal. Beloit was one of the last cities in the state holding onto its program.

The oral ruling found that landlords Jeanette Hansen and Brian Snyder would be able to dispute the city’s current system, and that specific sections of the ordinance did not apply and may not be enforced related to rental properties.

“It is important to rein in regulations to help keep housing affordable,” Hansen said in a statement following the oral ruling. “I look forward to working with the city to address problem landlords, continue to improve the housing quality in Beloit and make Beloit as best it can be.”

Ordinances may be enforced if a registration has been suspended due to providing false or incorrect information, the ruling noted.

Beloit City Attorney Elizabeth Krueger said the city is awaiting the final written order on the case.

“The city was disappointed with some aspects of the court’s decision,” Krueger said in a statement Thursday.

The majority of the city’s rental inspection program and rental registration programs remain intact. The city will make the necessary adjustments to the programs that are required following the court order, Krueger said.

The court found there was no evidence to support the city’s ordinance related to suspending or withholding a registration until the landlord had contacted the city regarding the triennial inspections.

The city can request an evidentiary hearing by March 24 regarding the three-year inspections, or it will be waived.

Hansen and her husband Joe have owned and operated Property Management Services for nearly 30 years. The property owners manage 79 properties.

Six candidates will face off for three open seats on the city’s top board, with Hansen, Clinton Anderson, Sherry Blakeley, Nancy V. Forbeck, Ana Kelly and Rose Richard set to go head-to-head. Current board members Regina Hendrix and Dave Luebke did not file paperwork with the city clerk ahead of the Jan. 6 deadline, and Marilyn Sloniker filed a notice of non-candidacy in December, after stepping away from the council over personal matters.

The city will head to the polls April 4.

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