Nov 13

Many of you, okay a few of you as CBS 58’s news ratings have been in the toilet for years, saw last night’s broadcast on landlord tenant issues.

There were many factual errors in this news report that could cause you harm as a landlord if you blindly believed CBS 58.

  1. SB 179 is not law today.  It will not become law until probably February first.  So if you begin implementing provisions contained in SB 179 today, you may be in trouble.  I would however encourage all of you to put the domestic violence disclosures in your leases today, as those provision have been law for a number of years.
  2. The newscast made it sound as though WI law allows a tenant to use “Self Help” i.e. pay for a repair and deduct it from the rent.  Then the reporter confused this further by using the term “Rent Abatement”  to describe what the tenant had done.In Wisconsin tenants cannot hire someone and take the cost out of their rent unless you as the landlord explicitly agrees to allow them to do so. Tenants that follow the erroneous information contained in the newscast may find themselves receiving an eviction summons for nonpayment of rent, just as the tenant in the newscast did.

    “Rent Abatement”  is a completely different situation.  It only applies to conditions that materially affecting the health or safety of the tenant. This law does not permit rent to be withheld in full.

  3. The reporter shows mold around the base of the tub surround and implies this is the landlord’s fault due to a toilet problem.  I’m unsure of the connection.  Usually a toilet moisture problem appears in the unit below or the basement.  It really seems to be much more a housekeeping issue.  My own tub would look like that too if I did not hit it with Clorox spray and a sponge every other week.  Whoops, cats out of the bag. My wife makes me help with the cleaning.  😉
  4. The newscast states the new law reduces a landlords’ duty to disclose housing code violations.  Nothing in this respect was changed by the law, so your requirements are the same after this becomes law as it is today.
  5. The reporter attempts to imply a porch collapse a few months ago at a property on 24th and National was the result of tenants being afraid to report a condition that required a repair.  The truth is the person seriously injured was a worker hired by the owner to make repairs to the porch.
  6. The reporter more or less attacked Representative Strobel for sponsoring SB 179.  However Mr. Stroble really hit the mark when he pointed out the most important part of the bill is that once again we can have leases that prohibit criminal activity at our properties.
  7. As my good friend Bill said:

    “This thread and this story, underline the need for the AASEW as industry leaders to put out their own stories and press releases.  We need to publicly respond to this kind of crappy reporting.  We are easy targets until we do.

    While we might not win the PR battle, we have to resist the bulldozer!”

    I agree with Bill except I probably may have ended the last sentence with a stronger word other than “dozer”

  8.  There appears to be more to the story between the tenant and the landlord than the newscast reveals.  Below is a thorough analysis  by one of the Apartment Association  members.

    A review of the tenant’s CCAP record shows that she lived at 6115 s 13th street just before the landlord of her eviction address ( 2007-09 W Scott) bought the Scott st property. The record revealing this is an unemployment repayment warrant from around 2011. TV 58 reported Conrad  to be the landlord of the Scott  st property, but the actual owner is Southview Properties.

    Conrad may or may not be the actual landlord. He is the registered agent according to MKE property recording records.

    Guess where the Registered agent, Conrad ,  lives.

    6115 S 13th. Same bldg that the tenant lived in until she moved to the Scott st property.

    So, there is clearly a long history between this tenant and this landlord/registered agent and the tenant is attempting to exercise some vendetta by going to TV 58 and telling maybe 5% of the truth.

    But of course, TV 58 bought it all, hook line and sinker.

    I guess Snarlin Marlin was right, I shouldn’t be allowed on CCAP.  I might just find out the truth…




Nov 12

Interesting paper on forced ownership i.e. prohibitions against abandonment by owners or lenders

Forcings by Lee Anne Fennell::SSRN

Despite some efforts to force lenders to foreclose when mortgagors vacate the premises and cease paying, defaulting mortgagors may be forced to retain ownership and the obligations that follow from it—including liability for homeowner association dues. A sale of the property is often blocked by the fact that the mortgage balance far exceeds the likely sales price. The inability of the homeowner to come up with the difference locks her into ownership, unless the lender either agrees to a short sale or forecloses on the property—and it may legally choose to do neither.

Nov 04

A reader of the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group asks:

I am about to hire someone to cut some trees around houses. I told him that I would like him sign something to knowledge that I will not be responsible of his personal injury from this job if it happens. What kind of form and where I can find it? and is it enough or something else I have to do to insure that I will be absolutely OK if his personal injury from work actually happens

It is not possible to have someone sign away their rights or your liability under Wisconsin worker comp laws.  The only safe options are to have a minimum worker comp policy of your own or only hire companies that are insured.

Remember that a dwelling liability policy will not cover injuries to those working on the property.  This is an area that a lot of owners of small multi families run into problems with when they assign a tenant to do lawn work or snow removal for a discount in rent.

There is really a great risk in not having the coverage or in hiring people without coverage. I had an employee that was making a minor repair to a small first floor porch overhang. He made a wrong move, fell and the worker comp carrier had to pay out $140,000.  If we would have been uninsured that would have been me paying out the $140k, and probably more as insurers get discounts from the medical providers.

If you have employees, or non employees deemed to be statutory employees,  then the law requires coverage.

I think the minimum worker comp policies are around a grand a year, but am not positive.

Nov 01

My wife, Carmen Ballering, is preparing for Miami Art Basel (Dec 5-8) If you’ve been to my office you’ve seen her house paintings in acrylic. Crooked Houses is done in uninflated balloons and acrylic over canvas.

You can see a lot of her work including couture fashion from balloons at


Crooked Houses by Carmen Ballering

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