The DNS Complaint Process
The Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) receives over 35,000 complaints per year with 75% of them on residential property. That averages to about 95 per day for every day of the week. To see just how many residential complaints are made year by year, check out the COMPLAINTS GRAPH.pdf . In 1999 DNS was created to include elements of the former Health Department and Building Inspection Departments. With a volume like that, the public wants a quick response and the landlord wants to know what's the problem. Depending on the type of complaint, the type of response may differ. Landlords are encouraged to enroll their property in E-Notify whereby the City will send them an e-mail any time the City takes action on a property be it a complaint, permit or violation. You can even be alerted about crimes near the property.
BEFORE one calls DNS they should call their landlord or the building's owner about the problem. The owner information is available using our Land Management System (LMS). If the owner is unresponsive, then DNS should be your second call...not the first. In emergency cases like no heat or no water, DNS inspectors will try to contact the landlord first by phone. If a landlord has not recorded that information or the property is not required to record the owner's contact information with DNS we will have to send an inspector. Emergency cases are given the top priority with a response of typically 24 hours or less. Less urgent items could be scheduled for an inspection from 2-7 days depending on the season and existing work load. Where we can contact the owner, in most cases we attempt to resolve the matter with a phone call to the owner. The only real exceptions are in cases where an owner has a history of not complying or the conditions are such that they cannot be corrected within a short period of time (typically significant maintenance issues).
Various sections within DNS handle a wide range of problems based on the type of building and nature of the problem. The common factor for DNS complaints is building or property related problems. For example, DNS will handle garbage in the yard or property, but not in the street. DNS will handle any broken building component, i.e., window, door, furnace, driveway, but not the public sidewalk in front of the property. DNS will handle infestations in buildings, but not cleanliness of food service at a restaurant. One need not know all the DNS particulars when they call. The complaint intake person will attempt to make a referral if the subject is outside of DNS's jurisdiction.
Certain types of complaints are NOT handled by Department of Neighborhood Services. Lead Paint problems are handled by the Health Department. Disruptive neighbors and loud parties are handled by the Police Department.
The universal number to call in a complaint for ANY CITY issue is the Milwaukee Unified Call Center at (414) 286-CITY or (414) 286-2489.
There are certain items that a tenant is responsible for. To find out click here-> Tenant Duties
Before making a complaint it is best to review the Code Violation Process to fully understand the options available and resources to use for perhaps a more speedy resolution of the problem. For an overview of the entire process and to learn what to expect after a complaint is made, see the Code Violation Process.
In order to properly investigate complaints in a timely manner, we need accurate information. Most importantly, we need to contact the complainant and the landlord. We also need access to the building where the problem is alleged. Without this critical information unnecessary delays result as the inspector searches for the needed information or approvals to enter the building.
BEFORE YOU COMPLAIN!
Before you call or make a complaint, have you called the landlord about the problem? If so and the response is not to your satisfaction be sure to have the following information:
- Your name and daytime phone number (All complainant names are kept confidential if you so request.)
- Name of the Landlord-Operator-Manager who is in charge of the building or collecting rent.
- Address of the building with the problem.
- A full description of the problem.
- Have you been served with an eviction notice?
- Are you behind in your rent?
To make a complaint about a building related problem call (414) 286-2268, M-F 8:00AM-4:30PM (CST)
How to Make a Complaint to DNS - PDF Handout
After you make a complaint, your information will be screened for the proper type of response. See the Code Violation Process for more information.
If the complaint is at a Commercial Business, the COMMERCIAL ENFORCEMENT section is contacted.
If the complaint is at a residential location (1-2 family homes), apartments, condos or public housing, regarding animals, autos, garbage, or building defects, then the RESIDENTIAL ENFORCEMENT section is contacted.
If the complaint is about some environmental issue, asbestos, Masonary building cleaning, pools, hotels, motels, then the ENVIRONMENTAL and NUISANCE section is contacted.
Severely damaged buildings or those missing critical life/safety items like fire alarm systems, missing utilities for extended periods of time, may have to be evacuated until the critical items are restored. In those cases DNS will assist in providing relocation information services to those valid tenants impacted by a placard order. Tenants may have grounds for a lawsuit against a landlord who fails to provide housing per the terms of the written lease through neglect of maintenance items. Those cases are handled in the civil courts and not by DNS.
Other helpful resources you might consult for solving a neighborhood problem are listed in the Forms and Applications page of this site. Especially check out the brochures, documents and videos.
Following your Complaint
You can follow the progress on your complaint by logging into the DNS Land Management System (LMS). LMS is tracking and information program used by DNS to process all complaints. Simply enter the address and you can read the complaints, find the ownership, view the violation and review the permits. It is all done in real time so the information is typically always up to date.
If a complaint leads to a building code violation and cannot be resolved in a timely manner, an order may be issued. If the order is not complied with it may result in court prosecution action against the owner. To learn more about how that process works see the ENFORCEMENT SECTION.
Often landlords can avoid complaints by keeping illegal activity out of their property. The department offers FREE training on a regular basis to those owning or managing property. See the LANDLORD TRAINING program for more information.