Lawmaker's basement residence may not meet code - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lawmaker's basement residence may not meet code

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- A Janesville official said the basement residence of a newly sworn-in state lawmaker will be checked to ensure it meets building codes.

Rep. Joe Knilans (R-Janesville) represents the 44th Assembly District, even though he was unable to vote for himself because Knilans did not live in the district. Knilans said he is leasing a basement room in the 44th District in order to satisfy residency requirements.  The basement room is in the Winchester Place home of Knilans' brother,  Janesville city council candidate Michael Knilans.

City assessor records describe the basement as unfinished, and Janesville's building and development services manager, Gale Price said he wants to verify the room has required exits, windows and fire safety features.

"If those things aren't in place, or there are not walls defining that specific bedroom or bedroom space, then it's really not intended to be occupied from the standpoint of having somebody sleep there,"   Price told WKOW27 News.

Price said a letter will be sent Thursday to homeowner Michael Knilans, asking for verification all building codes are being met with basement occupancy.

Price said if codes are being violated, Knilans will have to move out of the basement.

Calls by WKOW27 News to Joe Knilans and Michael Knilans have yet to be returned.

Joe Knilans has said he's trying to sell his family home in the 45th assembly district so he can move into the district as a home owner.  Knilans' home is co-owned with his wife and he lived there during his successful campaign with her and their two children.

The man Knilans defeated for the legislative seat, former assembly speaker Mike Sheridan, also lived outside the district for a time, but was allowed to do so because it was a temporary absence.   A Wisconsin government accountability board spokesperson has said such a temporary absence is not legally available to an incoming lawmaker.

Online reporting by Tony Galli

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