City of Beloit may appeal landlord lawsuit

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BELOIT - After a March Rock County Circuit Court ruling found Beloit landlords could challenge aspects of the city's rental inspection and property registration process, the city is looking to appeal the case, according to court records.

A notice of appeal was filed May 11, notifying landlords Jeanette Hansen, Brian Snyder, WEP Enterprise, Beloit Property Managers Association and FPS Rental, case documents show.

Hansen and Snyder claimed the city's system violates individual property owners' rights. The March ruling found the city can only require rental properties to be registered with the city for the purpose of having an authorized contact person associated on the property's address, rather than be involved with the inspection process of a rental property.

City staff are reviewing whether or not landlords will be reimbursed for past registration fees. The city spent $25,706 defending its municipal property codes since the lawsuit was filed. In April, city staff said new Beloit Councilors Clinton Anderson, Sherry Blakeley and Nancy Forbeck had to be briefed on the issue before changes to policies are made. The council met in closed session Monday evening to discuss the issue, among other litigation, with no action being taken. Officials said the meeting was informational in nature.

The court found specific sections of the ordinances did not apply and may not be enforced against rental property owners. No current ordinance establishes the city being able to suspend or withhold a rental property registration until the landlord contacts the city regarding its triennial inspection process.

Both Snyder and Hansen took issue with the city forcing landlords to obtain a permit and submit to a formal inspection related to the permit process, court records show. The city had threatened a $500 per day fine if the landlords had not complied with the registration program. With Hansen owning 77 units, she could have been fined a total of $38,500 per day, but the spring court ruling prevented fines from being levied.

The city can enforce aspects of its registration program if an owner's registration had been suspended because the owner had given false or incorrect information on the application form for a registration certificate.

Representatives for landlords listed in the lawsuit could not immediately be reached for comment.

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