Apartment complex ends temporary no-guest policy

Rethke Terrace had imposed 30-day visitor ban
Apartment complex ends temporary no-guest policy

The operator of Rethke Terrace, a 60-unit building designed for those who have struggled with homelessness, ended a temporary ban on guests Monday after residents raised concerns about its legality.

Heartland Alliance issued the ban after a number of disturbances in the past month.

Madison police Officer David Dexheimer said in July, police responded to 46 calls at the complex, two of which were stabbings.

“This is a level we are definitely concerned about,” Dexheimer said.

After years of dealing with homelessness, Lenzy Maratre calls Rethke Terrace home.

“When I first saw the building, I was surprised. I was excited,” he said. “I just pay my rent and do what I have to do.”

But he said his home of two years is starting to make him feel unwelcome.

“When I heard about the ban, I was heartbroken,” he said.

Heartland Housing posted a notice banning guests for 30 days at the end of July, meaning Maratre couldn’t have anyone over – something he calls his therapy.

“They didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing,” he said. “There’s a couple of troublemakers in the building. Why (does) the whole building have to suffer? I don’t think that’s right.”

The ban raised legal questions. Executive director of Madison’s Tenant Resource Center Brenda Konkel said a Madison city ordinance means a landlord may not completely prohibit tenants from having guests.

City ordinance 32.05(1)(g) states, “A landlord may regulate guests, but may not prohibit a tenant from having all guests. Guest regulations, if any, shall be included in the rental agreement.”

“If police need to be called, that’s fine,” Konkel said. “But everybody in the apartment complex should not be penalized because of the actions of other people.”

While Madison police are working with the Heartland Alliance, Dexheimer said it is not their role to enforce a private policy issued by the management company

“We did not have input on it, or draft it, or ask for that ban,” he said, adding that police wouldn’t go to private apartments to check up on whether residents are following the rules.

“I know there was some talk out there that this was happening, and to my knowledge, this has not happened,” he said. “The request may have been made. Appropriately, so we did not accept that.”

Police or not, Maratre wants to live somewhere he feels at home.

“I’m willing to be homeless again, today, rather than let somebody control me,” he said.

In a statement issued around 5 p.m. Monday, Heartland Alliance said, “For the safety of all of our Rethke Terrace residents, we temporarily employed guest restrictions for adult visitors. In an effort to ensure the practice was being followed, staff had miscommunicated the review of residential compliance regarding guest limitations. We will not be inspecting any units as related to this matter, nor limit visitors. We are adjusting our approach to the safety and security of our residents immediately, as we have recently been made aware of local ordinances that do not permit these practices.”

In the statement, the spokesperson stated Rethke Terrace employees will continue to regulate guests by signing them in at the front desk, as specified in the lease agreements.