Fitchburg to Consider a Rent Abatement Ordinance

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The Fitchburg City Council is considering a new rent abatement ordinance.

It is designed to get irresponsible or lazy landlords to fix building violations before the city gets involved. City leaders say the measure could help tenants living in places like Ridgewood Country Club apartments.

Fitchburg building inspector John Crook says he still takes at least a few maintenance calls every day at the troubled Ridgewood Country Club apartments. He says he has file upon file of complaints ranging from units with no heat to others with rotted decks. "Broken windows, broken glass, appliances missing or that don't operate properly... We've got a lot of leaks... dry wall down," Crooks says.

A local developer has an option to purchase the 52-acre complex.

In the meantime, council members will consider a new ordinance that gives tenants across the city power to withhold rent if management fails to make repairs.

Council member Jason Williams says, "if it's heat, where person goes without heat during winter it could be 95-percent or, if it's as simple as a screen off of a window where bugs are coming in during the summer, it could be as little as five or ten-percent."

Fitchburg's rent abatement ordinance follows Madison's lead.
"We copied Madison's city ordinance. The process itself could take anywhere between 90 and 120 days, which is a really lengthy process," Williams say. But he adds that the city is trying to cut down that time.

The process gives management time to fix a violation, or pay the price.
Crook says, "I've been around a lot and it seems if you get into somebody's pocketbook, that gets a pretty quick result."

Council members are expected to introduce a resolution this week on the redevelopment of Ridgewood. It calls on the city and developer to work together on a redevelopment plan and to get community input.

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