The Madison Landlord Legislative Council unveiled a “Landlord Look-Up” service last week that allows tenants to search for their landlord’s contact information. The website comes as a pre-emptive strike against city legislation that would require a registry of property owners funded by surcharges on rent.
According to Madison LLC co-founder Eileen Bruskewitz, the City Council’s plan would raise rent for students by $10 to $15 per year due to administrative costs of maintaining the list.
“It was going to be redundant and unnecessary,” said Bruskewitz. “All of the information about how to contact landlords is available for free from multiple sources already.”
However, several Madison city officials said that this website is not what city legislation was looking to accomplish.
“[The Landlord Look-Up service] just points out that it is difficult to find who the actual owner is,” said Ald. Brenda Konkel, District 2, who is also the executive director of the Tenant Resource Center.
Ald. Matt Sloan, District 13, who introduced legislation for the city regulated registration plan, said the problem is that tenants sometimes have difficulties finding the name of an actual person to contact to handle complaints.
“The key idea was that way the city would have a comprehensive list of those owning properties,” said Sloan.
Megin Hicks of the Tenant Resource Center said the landlord database is not as user-friendly as it could be.
“One of the confusing issues for tenants is when there are a lot of layers of management and the tenant doesn’t know who to contact to fix their problem. It is not clear to me how [the Look-Up service] would help tenants because it is still difficult to find phone numbers.”
Hicks added, “You still have to look in several different places. You might not get a match. Having it not lead to so many dead ends might help tenants.”
Bruskewitz said that current Madison ordinance already requires disclosure of who the responsible party is, and the fact that many landlords and tenants do not know about the law does not help with the issue.
“There is very little education for the public about landlord and tenant laws,” said Bruskewitz. She added that there is no current definition of the term “landlord,” which adds to confusion when tenants are looking to voice complaints.
The city-regulated registry has already been introduced as new legislation and will continue through the city government’s process, said Sloan, who feels that the Madison LLC’s “Look-Up” website “is not particularly helpful.”
The landlord registration service is available at the Madison LLC website: www.madisonlandlords.com.