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Green Bay city officials continue push to crackdown on problem landlords

by
For rent sign.
For rent sign.

GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - City officials in Green Bay are looking to crack down on problem landlords.

At the start of the year, the city created the job of Residential Housing Investigator to help in that effort.

Gary Wisneski has owned properties across the area for 23 years. He says Green Bay is by far the most difficult municipality he has to deal with. Wisneski and other landlords in the city could soon be meeting the new investigator if they have serious issues with their tenants.

“If a tenant is being abused, and that's the word for it, by a bad landlord or being cheated, there's a person to go to now and that's the person we just hired,” Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt tells FOX 11.

That person is Bob Zaspel. He has nearly 30 years of consumer protection experience with the state.

“It's very streamlined,” said Zaspel. “The approach is that the city will have a much more direct role in the enforcement of problem landlords.”

Green Bay is the first municipality in the state to turn two state consumer protection laws into municipal ordinances. More than three years ago, budget cuts closed regional offices, leaving the laws rarely enforced outside of Madison.

The city will now have the authority to fine landlords up to $5,000 for violations such as not disclosing serious defects to tenants and not following eviction protocol.

“I don't consider myself a bully,” said Zaspel. “I'm more than happy to meet with landlords. My goal is to voluntarily work things out, but if a landlord will not meet us halfway, we will utilize this new process and we will refer cases for municipal court.”

“They're after me as soon as a tenant wrecks something and calls the inspection department because I'm evicting them,” said Wisneski. “They come there in their white horse to the rescue of the tenant and they're the shining knight for them. They're not there for us. They're there for the tenant.”

Depending on the violation, landlords could have up to 90 days to comply, or start facing fines. The new position is part-time. The city has budgeted $30,000 for it.

Other city inspectors and the police department will be assisting with enforcement.

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