City seeks to declare landlord of ‘substandard’ properties as ‘nuisance’

City seeks to declare landlord of ‘substandard’ properties as ‘nuisance’
House on Williamson Street where Tony Robinson was killed

Madison’s city attorney plans to file a public-nuisance action against Ray Peterson, who owns 45 rental properties, including the home where Tony Robinson was shot.

The city attorney’s office sent a memo to Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and Common Council members Tuesday saying Peterson has been “unable to retain qualified staff to assist him with the maintenance and management of his 43 rental properties.”

“The city has been prosecuting Mr. Peterson for building code violations for well over 25 years,” the document said. “Mr. Peterson owns some of the most dilapidated and unkempt properties in the city of Madison.”

In the document, city officials said years of telling Peterson to correct violations has had no effect, and he “rents substandard housing to individuals and collects significant rental income in exchange for providing substandard housing.”

“Mr. Peterson’s rental properties do not evidence pride of ownership and in many neighborhoods they are an eyesore for the entire neighborhood,” the document said.

City officials said Peterson owes the city $669,991.05 in outstanding fines for building code violations over the past three years. Peterson’s properties are assessed at a total value of $6,702,700.

According to the document, from May 1, 2010, through May 1, 2015, there have been 277 building code cases generated against Peterson, with 1,311 violations, 787 inspections and 55 citations.

“Mr. Peterson picks and chooses what landlord/tenant regulations and laws he follows and seems satisfied to provide substandard housing to those unfortunate enough to rent from him,” the document said.

Officials said Peterson is in a position to hire a management company and a maintenance staff to help him.

“There is no excuse for Mr. Peterson to not keep his properties in a decent, safe and sanitary condition and there is no excuse for the number of building inspections necessitated by Mr. Peterson’s failure to maintain his properties,” the document said.

Officials said Peterson’s repeated violations of municipal ordinance and the continuing complaints from people about the condition of his rental properties qualify him as a public nuisance.