Yesterday, a La Crosse County circuit court judge ruled that the City of La Crosse's landlord registration and rental unit inspection programs did not violate a recently enacted state law prohibiting municipalities from adopting certain landlord regulations.
Wisconsin Act 76, which took effect March 1, 2014, prohibits a municipality from adopting ordinances requiring a landlord to communicate to the municipality any information concerning the landlord or a tenant unless certain exemptions apply. One of the exemptions, for which the League successfully lobbied, allows municipalities to require landlords to provide information enabling a person to contact the landlord. Such landlord registration requirements are fairly common, particularly in communities with college campuses.
In May, two La Crosse landlords filed a lawsuit against the City claiming its landlord registration requirement and the city's rental unit inspection program violated Act 76. On August 27, La Crosse County Circuit Judge Scott Horne ruled that the city's registration application, which asks for the owner's name, address, email and telephone, plus a primary contact if not the landlord, does not go beyond the scope of what Act 76 allows. Horne also said that Act 76 does not restrict what the city can do with that information. In light of the broad "home rule" powers state statutes grant local municipalities to "act for the health, safety and welfare of the public," Horne found no basis to halt the rental registry or inspection program as the landlords requested.
An article in the La Crosse Tribune provides more details.
La Crosse based its ordinances on similar regulations passed by the City of Wausau. Landlords in that city have also filed a lawsuit arguing Wasau's registration and rental unit inspection requirements violate Act 76. No ruling has been issued yet in that case. More information on the Wausau lawsuit is available in an article published in the Wausau Daily Herald on July 16.