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April 15, 2016Published Article

The New Standard for Rental Inspections

Wisconsin Law Journal

The state in February enacted Act 176, which created a prohibition against local ordinances that require routine inspections of rental units.

These ordinances typically required building code inspections before a change in occupancy, but without an administrative warrant. Some ordinances went further to require a property be registered with, or certified or licensed by, a municipality.

Milwaukee, for example, requires a Certificate of Compliance as a condition a landlord must fulfill before leasing rental units in specified neighborhoods in which the city has deemed the concentration of rentals or the quality of housing stock to be in need of monitoring. Such a certificate is valid for up to four years unless an inspection reveals code violations. When a violation is detected, the city may require a recertification every year.

Various municipal interests were cited to justify these inspection requirements. Among them were the need: to preserve an aging housing stock in urban areas; to monitor student housing that is prone to overcrowding; and to uncover repairs and remodeling that tenants or unlicensed contractors might have undertaken and inadvertently created safety hazards.

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