City coping with changes for rentals, landlords

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BELOIT - The Beloit City Council will hold a workshop Monday to discuss law changes regarding rental properties over the last two years that have shifted how the municipality can interact with landlords.

Municipalities across the state have seen decreased authority in terms of enforcing property inspections and various fees as state lawmakers passed sweeping changes that affect how cities and landlords interact since 2016.

The changes follow a March of 2016 lawsuit filed against the City of Beloit by property owners that resulted in the city paying $211,696 to 1,403 property owners related to a now-defunct rental property certificate program.

Last September, the city approved a new inspection program that would have allowed inspections prior to mandated triennial inspections. Compliance would have afforded a two-year extension of the property's required inspection, essentially allowing properties to go up to five years between inspections.

But on April 16, Republican-backed legislation was signed by Gov. Scott Walker that changed how inspection fees are charged by municipalities; how documents are exchanged between property owners and tenants; how emergency housing assistance is accounted for; eviction protocols; tenant background check requirements; fees charged to tenants and more.

The city originally had estimated collecting $200,000 in revenue from its new inspection program, but due to the state law changes, collected less than $2,000, according to city finance data.

According to an early budget presentation given to councilors on June 18, the impact for next year's budget "is unknown."

Two other bills that related to housing failed on March 28.

Critics of the state law changes have said the new requirements jeopardize vulnerable tenants including students, survivors of domestic abuse and those on a fixed income.

The special city council workshop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the Forum at City Hall.

According to city data, around 45 percent of all residential properties in the city are rentals.

Ahead of the workshop, the council will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. for a hearing regarding an operator's/bartender's license for Austin J. Brinkman. The council is expected to adjourn into closed session under the exemption concerning any judicial or quasi-judicial trial or hearing before the council, according to city staff. Brinkman has appealed an Aug. 14 denial of the request, prompting the special meeting.

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