Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Committee passes housing ordinances

Madison’s Housing Committee passed three ordinances Wednesday night that would strengthen tenants rights, especially those of student renters.

Under the new ordinances, landlords would be forced to explain to denied applicants why they have been rejected and inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities. The new ordinances will also prevent landlords from discriminating against low-income applicants.

“It was a good night for renters,” Ald. Mike Verveer said.

The first ordinance requires landlords to provide applicants with a “notice of denial of tenancy.” This notice would force landlords to inform applicants of the rationale for rejecting their applications.

Megin Hicks said the Notice of Denial of Tenancy ordinance would prevent discrimination based on stereotypes and gut feelings. Hicks also said the ordinance will improve a tenant’s chance of application acceptance in the future.

“If you can’t defend yourself, you can’t sell yourself,” Rita Moir, a citizen, said to the committee.

The committee also passed an ordinance requiring landlords to distribute a document with the lease explaining the rights and responsibilities of tenants.

Under the Tenant Rights and Responsibilities ordinance, landlords will be required to alert the tenant to rights involving repairs, maintenance, security deposits, caps on late fees and the 24-hour notice required before a landlord can enter an apartment in writing.

“There are tons of problems every year with landlords screwing over students,” UW student Austin King said.

The ordinance is in response to a multitude of complaints in Madison involving misunderstandings between landlords and tenants.

“Students are often not aware of their rights as tenants, and this ordinance could help solve a lot of problems,” Verveer said.

The most controversial of the three, the Equality and Housing Opportunities ordinance, prohibits discrimination in housing based on status of individuals as recipients of need-based rental assistance.

Under Section 8, low-income tenants are eligible to receive financial assistance from the federal housing program.

Landlords now cannot deny housing applications solely because the tenants hold Section 8 vouchers.

Prior to changes, landlords were free to accept or deny low-income applicants who receive funding under Section 8. The ordinance is in response to discrimination to Section 8 applicants.

“[The ordinance] makes the letter of the law comply with the spirit of the law,” King said.

Verveer told the committee when Section 8 tenants were pinpointed on a map, divisive lines are clearly drawn, and only certain neighborhoods in Madison have been accepting low-income renters.

“We’re allowing segregation to take place in Madison by allowing landlords to refuse to consider Section 8 applicants,” Verveer said. “It’s time to at least give this a try.”

Committee member and Section 8 recipient Michael Howe said he thinks the changes are necessary because stereotyping exists and hinders renters.

“I really resent the stereotype that I know exists in our community,” Howe said.

But some, like committee member Thomas Hirsch, say preventative action by the committee is premature.

“I vote against this because I do not feel this mechanism is the right one,” Hirsch said.

The ordinances will be further discussed and voted on by the Equal Opportunities Committee February 14 before being considered by the City Council.

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