LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Two landlords are suing the city of La Crosse claiming a new registration and inspection ordinance violates state law and treats landlords unfairly compared to other property owners.
It all revolves around Act 76 -- a state law that essentially puts landlords and other property owners on the same playing field.
Attorney Bernardo Cueto is representing the landlords. He said through the new ordinance, landlords need to register their property with the city and undergo an inspection. If not, they face a fine.
"You treat landlords like you treat any other residential homeowners. You don't treat them differently. If something is a safety concern, well it should be a safety concern for all residential homeowners," Cueto said.
The ordinance violates Wisconsin Act 76, according to Cueto.
That law reads, in part:
"No city, village, town, or county may enact an ordinance that requires a landlord to communicate to the city, village, town, or county any information concerning the landlord or a tenant, unless any of the following applies: The information is required under federal or state law. The information is required of all residential real property owners. The information is solely information that will enable a person to contact the owner or, at the option of the owner, an agent of the owner."
"The way that the law is written, there is a registration program that's allowed as long as you're only asking for the same information that we would ask for anybody else," said Mayor Tim Kabat.
He said a home inspection or a fine if a landlord doesn't register on time, is not within the scope of Act 76.
According to Kabat, the city has had rental registration in place for a decade. He said the ordinance is not to discourage people from renting property in La Crosse. It's to make the rules clearer.
"This is not new. This is really clarifying existing ordinances that were in place that were really causing some confusion because we had two systems," Kabat added.
But Cueto thinks it will discourage people from renting properties. He hopes to put a block on the new ordinance before landlords have to register July 1.
The city has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit by submitting a written answer to the court and to Cueto.
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