Sep 27

Attorney Tristan Pettit, you know, the guy that writes the standard legal forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank, is doing his landlord-tenant Boot Camp again on Saturday, October 7th. There are still a few seats left.

You get a full day of landlord-tenant law training for the price you’ll spend for 30 minutes of attorney time after you make a mistake in this complex area of law,

All the details are at:
http://www.landlordbootcamp2017.com

But the proof of value is I send my staff to Tristan’s Boot Camps.  Even though I know the laws, it is of great value to have staff learn what they need to be concerned about in a different setting than the office.

Feb 09

For the past couple of years, we have sold out both the spring and fall sessions of Attorney Tristan Pettit’s AASEW Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp.

It looks like we are on track to do the same for the upcoming February 18th, 2017 Boot Camp.

Last fall I waited too long to sign up my new staff members and could not get them in. I signed up three staff people very early for this one. 😉

You may ask ‘Why would Tim pay $537 plus wages to send three people to Boot Camp when he knows the laws so well?’

The answer is easy: One small mistake or missed opportunity will cost us far more than this. It is important that my folks know the law as WI landlord Tenant Law is not always what a reasonable person would assume it to be. And this is ever evolving, with both new laws, new interpretations by courts and new tricks by tenant advocates*. This is not the first time we’ve sent staff either.

This course is presented by Attorney Tristan Pettit. Tristan’s law practice focuses on landlord-tenant law, he is a current board member of the Apartment Association as well as former president, and drumroll please, he writes all the standard landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank.

If you want to go, now that my seats are secure ;-), you can sign up online or call Joy at the Association 414-276-7378 and reserve a spot.

http://www.landlordbootcamp2017.com

* Most “tenant advocates” only advocate for tenants that break the rules. This ultimately costs the rest of the good tenants more in increased rents and decreased service or more noise and disruption… but this is another story for another day.

Feb 28

Yesterday I wrote about 2016 revision to the Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law.  Over on FaceBook Brian Peters, whom I respect, responded.  I thought the discussion warranted bringing it over here for those who do not follow me on FaceBook.

Brian Peters Unfortunately, those changes, along with other changes in past, allow for abuses by bad landlords. Which is why I’ve been calling them the Slumlord Protection Acts.

For example, you mentioned drugs. I doubt people who do “white collar” crimes will find themselves tossed out. This will impact some people more than others.

This provision is also dangerous as it makes it easier for a landlord’s prejudices to come into play.  

Finally, do you really want landlords to be in that position? You once told me about how community prejudices would cause calls to building inspectors. Do you really want calls from neighbors claiming they saw suspicious activities and demanding you evict the person?

My response to Brian was as follows:

While you and I often agree on many issues, I think you have this one wrong.   

The notion that landlords enjoy or profit from evictions is a myth perpetrated by those with a bias against landlords or rental housing.  The typical eviction costs the owner at least two months rent, court fees and damage to the property. I have yet to meet an owner who enjoys the process or comes out ahead. Landlord’s prejudices, although rare today, most likely appear in the application selection process.   This law will not add to nor prevent this.
 
Owners already face demands by neighbors and city officials to evict for activity where there has been no arrest or even credible evidence that the tenant is engaged in wrong doing.  This provision will not add to nor prevent this as it is the result of the neighbors’ prejudices that elected officials willingly participate in hopes of getting reelected.  This is a nationwide issue. Google Minority Threat Theory to read many scholarly articles on this, or read the work of Matt Desmond that was based on his work in Milwaukee. Matt will be in Milwaukee for a book signing on Tuesday.  I will email you a copy of our HUD complaint.
 

The new law does not allow for eviction for use or simple possession, which actually makes it harder to evict by invalidating the Cobbs case, which permitted eviction for simple possession or use in Section 8 Housing 

The change in the law however allows owners to act when there is a major problem.  I would expect that you would want an owner to address rampant drug dealing or the violent person next door to your home.  This change allows that to happen easier, but contains protections for the tenant.

One change included that I wanted is the one that permits the use of 5 Day notices to address lease violation in month to month tenancies.  The law, as it was, only permitted the use of a 14 Day termination without the tenant having the right to cure when a month to month tenant violated the rental agreement.  Now we can give the tenant a 5 Day to address things like the pit bull they brought home.  If the tenant removes the dog, then they cannot be evicted and everyone wins.
Brian replies:

How does it benefit the tenant to not have the opportunity to cure the violation?

I was imprecise with my language earlier, BTW-good that you clarified it for anyone reading this.

Tim:

You have this backwards. The new law ADDS a right to cure notice for month to month breaches where none existed before.

We championed the addition of the right to cure notice because our industry wants to avoid evictions when possible, but we also want disruptive removed as soon as possible if they will not make the correction. Remember all evictions are costly to both landlord and tenant.

Brian:

I realize that. I guess you see the bad tenants while I see the bad landlords so we both have our perspectives.

Tim

Actually I see very few bad tenants. While some fail due to economic fragility, I would not call them bad. Out of approx a thousand tenants last year, it looks like we evicted 7 during the year that would be considered bad.

Tenants and landlords need each other just as Clownfish and anemones need each other. A quick view of this is at the post: The enemy of my customer is…. Of course it is more complex than that.

Both sides need to be careful not to be played by people who try to create strife between us only due to their dislike of tenants for reasons unrelated to housing.
Sep 08

A five day notice for payment is a “pay or quit” or right to cure. If the tenant presents the full amount within the five day period the notice is void.  Remember if you serve via certified mail, you must add two days.

The law changed with 2013 ACT 76, effective in March 2014.

799.40 (1m) Acceptance of rent or other payment. If a landlord commences an action under this section against a tenant whose tenancy has been terminated for failure to pay rent or for any other reason, the action under this section may not be dismissed solely because the landlord accepts past due rent or any other payment from the tenant after the termination of the tenant’s tenancy serving notice of default or after commencing the action.

If the tenant pays a portion but not all the rent due, the notice is probably valid.  The tricky part here is if you the tenant felt that you agreed to waive the notice if they made the partial payment.  This turns into ‘he said, she said’  To avoid that issue we have the following at the bottom of our notice:

“Non Waiver: If you make a  payment  of less than the $xxx.xx required by this notice, you will still be in default and SUBJECT TO EVICTION  unless the Owner agrees in writing to cancel this notice.”

Our system also prints the following on receipts of tenants with active five days:

“Non-waiver: This partial payment will be applied to past due rent owed and that by accepting same owner is not waiving his right  to proceed with an eviction based on the 5-Day notice dated xx/xx/xxxx unless tenant enters into a written payment agreement for the balance and owner agrees in writing to vacate the notice.”

Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  Don’t be a jerk about it.  If the tenant owes, let’s say $900, and pays, let’s say $820, with a promise to pay the balance with next month’s rent and you quietly accept the money and then file the eviction that would meet my definition and probably the Court Commissioner’s definition of being a jerk.  Court Commissioners can find some pretty creative ways around jerks. 😉  However in the same scenario the tenant gives you $200 and promises to be back on Friday to pay the balance on Friday and fails to, then by all means evict.

Finally the reader asked about payment in full of rent and late fees.   The law does not currently permit late fees on five day notices for month to month tenants and inclusion of those on a five day will cause the eviction to fail in some counties.  The Apartment Association is working to change this law in the current session.

Mar 12

The Housing Authority, with support from the Apartment Association wins an important decision on eviction for drug activity.

The Apartment Association of Southeastern WI  filed an Amicus Curiae ( legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/amicus+curiae ) brief in support of the City Housing Authority.   

The brief filed was jointly on behalf of the Apartment Association and the Wisconsin Association of Housing Authorities was drafted by AASEW attorney Heiner Giese.  It is a fun read:

A. Hard Cases Make Bad Law

We start with a disabled 62 year old public housing tenant in the City of Milwaukee. He was perhaps smoking a bit of weed in his own apartment, doing it quietly, and when the security officer knocked on his door to ask, “What’s that smell?” he understandably didn’t let the officer in. And for this small, albeit criminal transgression (we are in Wisconsin, not Colorado!) his Housing Authority landlord serves him with an eviction notice.  

The Wisconsin Supreme Court writes:

Tenants will have an incentive not to use illegal drugs in the first instance if they can be evicted for, and given no right to cure, drug-related criminal activity. The potential to be evicted for any drug-related criminal activity, including a first offense, provides a powerful incentive to avoid such activity. See Rucker, 535 U.S. at 134 (citing Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Haslip, 499 U.S. 1, 14 (1991)) (“Strict liability maximizes deterrence . . . .”). By contrast, if a landlord were required to give a “free pass” on a tenant’s first drug offense, tenants would have little incentive not to use illegal drugs because if they are caught, they can just promise not to do it again. For the other tenants of the building, this after-the- fact promise is far from a remedy for completed criminal activity and “‘stan[ds] as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.'” See Barnett Bank, 517 U.S. at 31 (quoting Hines, 312 U.S. at 67). The objective of Congress is to provide safe, drug-free public housing, not to provide housing that allows criminal drug activity so long as the offender promises not to do it again.

  

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/supreme-court-upholds-milwaukee-mans-eviction-over-smoking-pot-b99460952z1-296077981.html

Tim Ballering

Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

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