Housing code violation inspection finds company with multiple issues


Wikimedia- Students should do due diligence on their landlord before signing a lease.

Sophia Voight, Opinion Editor and Writer

Discovery Properties Management was found in violation of multiple housing codes for renting uninhabitable spaces to its tenants over a four-year period, according to Oshkosh rental inspection and complaint records.

“When any violations are discovered, proper measures are taken to correct any violations to comply with any previous or current city code,” Discovery Properties Director of Operations Jason Krueger said.

However, an inspection of housing code violations against five property management companies that provide campus housing to UW Oshkosh students revealed multiple violations for renting uninhabitable spaces from Discovery Properties; no similar violations were found from Star Properties, Gold Star Investment Properties, Choice Properties or Titan Properties.

Violations against Discovery ranged from plumbing and electrical and heating issues, to lack of the proper number of safety exits.

Krueger said they strive to ensure all of their students and residents have a clean and safe place to live by fixing any violations as they come up.

“Regarding issues that are brought to our attention, we would work with the city to resolve these in accordance to the city codes and timelines provided,” he said.

A city rental inspection of one of the company’s properties in February 2017 found multiple minimum housing standard violations on their third-floor unit and the city told the owners to stop using the space as housing immediately.

The inspection report stated that a third-floor bedroom had no heat source and the floor lacked the proper number of safety exits. The report stated that the entire floor was not habitable and would require the installation of a heat source and a second stairway before it could be utilized again. The inspection report notes that the violations were corrected, but does not state what was done.

The Oshkosh Housing Code requires all houses and apartments to have adequate heating of all habitable rooms.

Oshkosh’s housing inspector Casey Koelbl said in cases where a tenant’s place is deemed not habitable, it is up to the landlord to work out a solution for the tenant.

“They would have to work out a solution that would either let them out of their lease or provide them with a different property to live at possibly,” Koelbl said.

A rental inspection from December 2016 at another property found that Discovery Properties was wrongfully using a room without windows as a bedroom.  Any room used as a bedroom must have windows for proper ventilation and natural light, according to Oshkosh housing standards.

Krueger said Discovery Properties is continuously purchasing rentals from individuals and other companies that sometimes are already occupied and that they were unaware of these violations.

“In some cases, residents also utilize spaces in a different matter than intended,” he said.

The company had a similar violation at a different residence in February 2017 where a space in the basement was being used as a bedroom despite not having the proper number of safety exits.

The inspection report stated that the basement was not considered a habitable space because it violated the city’s building code that states basements used for sleeping require at least two exits.

Social work major Olivia Smith, who is working on a tenant advocacy project for UWO students, said she found that many students complained about Discovery Properties through her survey of students’ renting experiences. “A large theme from our data collection so far is that renters through Discovery Properties have an overall negative experience,” Smith said.

The survey also showed that Discovery Properties’ tenants often experience issues with getting the owners to attend to housing repairs, Smith said

“Bigger companies such as Discovery don’t have as much incentive to be attentive to their tenants or fix problems with their housing units,” she said.

On the rental inspection database, Discovery Properties has complaints from tenants on issues of unrepaired exterior holes where squirrels were entering, and water seeping into a bathroom when it rained.

Koelbl said formal complaints about repairs typically come after a tenant has already contacted the landlord, but the landlord failed to respond.

“We want them to work it out with the landlord, but we’re typically contacted after the tenant has notified the landlord, but the landlord hasn’t done anything about it in an appropriate amount of time,” he said.

Smith said she recommends students use the rental inspection program at https://www.ci.oshkosh.wi.us/EvolvePublic/, and to contact the city if they have any concerns about their housing unit or its safety before or while living in it. “This is a service available to students and city residents that checks for safety and then requires landlords to meet safety codes on identified hazards,” Smith said.