Landlords in Janesville will have to take a more pro-active approach if their tenants get in trouble. A new city ordinance now holds them responsible for their tenants bad behavior. The ordinance is designed to target tenants before they are convicted of any offense. It deals with chronic nuisance-type behaviors, such as disorderly conduct, drug dealing, fighting and theft.
Police Chief Neil Mahan will now notify owners after four arrests, citations or warnings have been issued on their property. Owners have five days to meet with police and another ten days to create a plan to stop the behavior. The Janesville Police Department says it will force absentee landlords to get involved in making their neighborhoods safer, but some residents say the ordinance targets the wrong people.
"The tenant controls his premises and so that's the one they ought to go after, not the landlord," says former Janesville Police Officer and former property manager Al Lembrich.
"That's true, but property owners are also business owners and they have a responsibility to run their business in a way that doesn't destroy a neighborhood," says Police Chief Neil Mahan.
Other businesses like the ordinance. Robin Poulson of Janesville Property Management says she supports anything designed to make her tenants safer.
"We don't always know...of everything that is going on unless a neighbor complains, so this way we can nip some problems in the bud right away," says Poulson.
Last year, police had problems with apartments on South Academy Street in its Fourth Ward. One building there produced nearly 200 calls for everything from fighting to aggressive panhandling.
If landlords do not come up with an abatement plan with police, they can be subject to fines in the thousands of dollars. If tenants do not comply with the plan, owners can start the process to evict them.