Oct 22

A reader of the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group questions how the new landlord tenant bill affects leases that attempt to deal with criminal activity.  The new law is:

704.44 (9) Allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant based solely on the commission of a crime in or on the rental property if the tenant, or someone who lawfully resides with the tenant, is the victim, as defined in s. 950.02 (4), of that crime.

704.44 (9) is a prohibited lease provision. Therefore a lease is void if it allows you to evict the tenant solely because of a crime that the tenant or an authorized co occupant were the victim of.   The provision was meant to be a protection for domestic violence victims.

As I read this an example would be if the tenant’s door is broken.

  • If the damage was caused by the tenant and you use your lease to evict them for the damage all is good.
  • If the damage occurred during a burglary and you attempt to evict them based on a lease provision, you would fail and possibly be in trouble. It would be wrong even without this law to evict a victim of a crime.  ‘Oh, you were robbed of your tv and radio – well now you are losing your home too because having your door broken during a robbery is a lease violation’. – bad landlord.
  • If the door was broken by the ex boyfriend that they had a restraining order against, you would most certainly be in trouble.  But that is the current law under 106.50 (5m) (dm).
  • On the other hand if the door was broken during a robbery committed by a rival drug dealer and the police report indicated that, then a lease provision such as a crime free addendum would be fine.

I agree it is not the perfect language. However this is far better than the prior prohibition against a lease that permitted you to evict the tenant for a crime they could not have reasonably prevented.

Under the new wording you can evict a tenant if they fail to exercise reasonable control of the property.   An example is if the tenant’s grandson who does not live at the property comes over and sells drugs out of grandma’s unit.  Under the current law you would have a hard time crafting a lease that would be legal and permit you to evict as a means of stopping the drug traffic because it is very likely that granny could not reasonably prevent the activity. The only answer would be wait until the Police send an angry letter about the nuisance activity.  Under the new law your lease will be able to address this because granny is not a victim.

His second question is:

What happens if a tenant gets a Disorderly Conduct ticket, or a ticket for possession of marijuana, or a ticket for… Was there a commission of a crime?

You do not have to differentiate between citations and crimes in the above.  The tenant was not a victim, they were the perpetrator of the act and therefore a lease provision that permits eviction would be valid under both the old and new law. Plus the law acknowledges that criminals are not victims of their own crimes

§950.02 (4) (b) “Victim” does not include the person charged with or alleged to have committed the crime.

However if the tenant was the victim of what could be considered a criminal act, I think you must treat the tenant as a victim regardless if the perp was given a citation or a state charge.  So if in the prior door broken by a burglar example you would be wrong in evicting a tenant even if the guy who did it only received a muni citation.

There will be more on this as a discussion of how to make the Crime Free Lease or addendum work within this new law.

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