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Saturday, September 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Overcast
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Madison chronic nuisance ordinance up for renewal
Capt. Joe Balles calls the nuisance ordinance a tool to
'show landlords we're serious.'
Capt. Joe Balles calls the nuisance ordinance a tool to 'show landlords we're serious.'

At the end of September, Madison's two-year experiment with a chronic nuisance ordinance will end, and the city must decide whether to renew it.

The law lets the city hold property owners accountable for frequent problems - such as noise complaints, drug dealing, prostitution or code violations.

It's been used against only eight properties so far, according to a report in March by Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy. But Capt. Joe Balles, commander of the Madison Police Department's south precinct, says it's a useful tool to "show landlords we're serious about problems going on in your property."

Police using the ordinance send a letter to the property owner, detailing problems and requesting a meeting. The owner is asked to come up with an abatement plan. If problems persist, the city can fine the owner, and ultimately use state laws to seize the property.

Balles says that option "is really the last thing we want to do because having a boarded-up property doesn't do anything to improve the neighborhood."

Nancy Jensen, executive director of the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin, also hopes the ordinance continues. "Good property managers, good owners, do not have a problem with the chronic nuisance ordinance because they don't have problem tenants," she says. "They have good management practices in place."

But not everyone is thrilled with the law. Wonders Bert Zipperer, who serves on the Equal Opportunity Commission, "Will people be put in danger because they could have or should have called the police, but won't because they're afraid they'll lose their housing?"

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