The Madison City Council will soon be considering a bill to form a database listing of every landlord citywide. The project is expected to cost each student renter an additional $10 to $15 per year in rent.

Many students do not know who their actual landlord is, and students should not have to spend hours doing research to find out this information. Amazingly, landlords are not required to give tenants a contact phone number on their lease, so critical contact information, including phone numbers for the owner and management company, is a mystery for many. It is of little help when student renters are given only names without phone numbers or P.O. box numbers.

This proposal for a landlord database is still in its infancy and could be either a valuable resource or a total failure. A preemptive website with some landlord contact information was created by the Madison Landlords Legislative Council to ward off City Council efforts. The Madison LLC site is demonstrative of what a failure this project could be. This site is incomplete, not user-friendly and of little benefit to students.

If the city wants this project to be a success, council members must keep their constituents in mind. The database would need to be accessible via the Internet, with a link on the city’s webpage. The ability to quickly and easily cross-reference contact information by rental company and by apartment street address is a must. It would also be beneficial for landlords to have links to listings for their properties so that students could go to one website when looking for a rental unit instead of trying to find each individual owner’s website or contact information. How could rental companies disagree with this free advertising?

We look forward to seeing this potentially valuable resource progress. It could be a great tool for renters across Madison ? but only if it’s done right.