STEVENS POINT, WI (WSAU) - Complaints about rental housing in Stevens Point have the attention of city leaders. Several people spoke to the City Council Monday night, most of them landlords or citizens concerned about the disrepair of several properties. They expressed concern about unlicensed rentals being held to different standards than licensed rentals, overcrowding of rentals, and the increasing use of single family homes as college rentals with more unrelated tenants than the ordinances allow.
Most of the rental property issues are within close proximity to UW Stevens Point.
Seth T. Hoffmeister, UWSP President of the Student Government Association. He says he has seen some health and safety concerns in rental properties. “I really want you all to take a look around at a lot of the landlords that are offering properties, particularly to students, and to just look at them and ask if they’re up to code. Are the rules that are on paper being followed right now?” He adds, “There are a lot of substandard properties here, and UW Stevens Point has a lot to offer but, if we have a community which doesn’t necessarily prioritize student friendly housing, safe housing, housing without mold, housing that is legally compliant, then we really as a community need to re-prioritize that.”
Landlord Dave Brandt is concerned that the unlicensed properties can be dangerous and unhealthy if they’re not maintained and inspected like the licensed properties. “I’ve seen many pictures such as this one of many I’ve received from students wondering what they should do when they have a bathroom like this filled with black mold. That’s what we’re putting out students in here, and by not enforcing the ordinances as outlined in chapter 21, the city is setting a precedent that unlicensed rental properties and substandard housing with ordinance violations is OK.”
Dave Achenbach is a landlord and member of the Central Wisconsin Apartment Association, which educates members and tenants about issues and how to go about resolving issues. He says that the Inspection Department is doing a pretty good job. Achenbach says there may be some properties that are getting missed, but overall, Inspectors are doing their job. “There’s probably two or three or four, maybe ten out there that they’ve missed that people haven’t reported, but overall, If I have a railing that’s bad and my tenants don’t tell me, I get a letter from the inspection department. I get follow up from that, and I get fined if it’s not taken care of promptly.”
Community Development Director Michael Ostrowski says there are some differences in the types of rental property. The city licenses multiple family dwellings, but not single family homes.
Outgoing City Attorney Louis Molepske Sr. says occupants of homes including unlicensed rentals have 4th Amendment rights. “Reasonable suspicion is sufficient to stop a motor vehicle or stop you personally on the street in an open area, but it is not probable cause, which is necessary for that inspection.”
Molepske encouraged the Council and his successor to look closely at the rental property ordinances moving forward.