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Inspector Story

By Qixi Huang
On December 5, 2011

Student tenants, living in off-campus housing and facing housing problems, can seek help from the City of La Crosse Building and Inspections Department, Dave Rehinhard, the chief inspector, says. 

            Many students, in UW-L living off-campus housing, face life and safety trouble in their rental housing. Alyssa Swatek, a student of UW-L and a tenant of Benson management, says "the mailbox to our apartment has been damaged for over a year and despite repeated cases where letters, cards and gift cards have been reported stolen, it remains unfixed."  She adds, "Closet doors in all bedrooms were promised nearly five months ago and have still not been delivered. Benson Management has also failed to respond to our emergency call when a leaky pipe burst. It took two weeks for maintenance to even show up, let alone fix it."

            According to the Residential Rental Inspection pamphlet, published by Building and Inspection Department, lacking repair from landlords, tenants should call the department to request an inspection.

            Before signing the contract, tenants should make sure to protect their own right. Rehinhard says "Tenants should always ask for fixes before renting. If the problems remain, then you can come to us, but go to the landlord first. An Inspector will come out and look at your problems and write an order to correct or a citation; the landlord will have time to fix it, depending on the problem. We won't call the landlord after your call and tell him we're going out there."

            Some private landlords convert a storage room or porch into a bedroom to earn more money. Bijun Ou, an international student living in a private house near Wing Center, says "Our landlord changed the closet in the kitchen into a small bedroom. What is worse, he still charged $300 dollar per month for such a tiny room."

            Rehinhard says "It is illegal to convert a room into bedroom. You can't walk through a bedroom to get to a bedroom; you can't walk through an exit to get to a bedroom; it would need natural light and ventilation. Also it must have a permanent source of heating."

            However, according to Bijun, many safety and security troubles exist. The lock on the backdoor is broken. That tiny room and basement don't have escaping windows. The most serious problem is the heating device. Before moving in, the heat system for the second floor hasn't been working for one year, but no previous tenants sought help from the Inspection Department. She says, "The landlord promised to fix the heat two months ago. Now, the snows come but the heat is still broken. We are going to get help from the Inspectors."

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