Late yesterday the Wisconsin Senate approved an Assembly amendment to SB 179. This law, which should be in effect around the first of 2014, makes sweeping changes to Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law. The bill was a combined effort of the Apartment Association of Southwestern WI, The Wisconsin Realtors and the Wisconsin Apartment Association.
The Legislative Council Memo on SB 179 puts the changes in fairly layman terms. AASEW past president Attorney Tristan Pettit worked extensively on the bill. He will be providing information on the changes at the AASEW Fall 2013 Landlord Boot Camp.
Highlights of the bill taken from the Leg Council Memo are, and this is my analysis of what is important and not a legal opinion by an attorney because as you know I am Just A Landlord:
Restrictions on Local Ordinances [Sections 1 to 4]
Municipalities are currently prohibited from enacting or enforcing ordinances that:
- Imposing a moratorium on eviction actions
- Places certain limitations on what information a landlord may obtain and use for screening.
New law adds prohibitions against ordinances that:
- Limits a tenant’s responsibility, or a landlord’s right to recover, for any damage or waste to, or neglect of, the premises that occurs during the tenant’s occupancy of the premises.
- Limits a tenant’s responsibility or a landlord’s right to recover for any other costs, expenses, fees, payments, or damages for which the tenant is responsible under the rental agreement or applicable law.
- Requires a landlord to communicate to the municipality any information concerning the landlord or tenants unless the information is required under federal or state law or is required of all residential real property owners.
Leases [Section 18]
Under current law, if a lease is void and unenforceable if it contains a provision that allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant if a crime is committed in or on the rental property, even if the tenant could not reasonably have prevented the crime. [s. 704.44 (9), Stats.]
The new law allows for Crime Free Lease Addendums as long as you include a specified notice, in the lease agreement or an addendum to the lease agreement, of certain domestic abuse protections available under ss. 106.50 (5m) (dm) and 704.16, Stats. The first of these sections prohibits a landlord from evicting a tenant because of the tenant’s status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. The second of these sections provides that a residential tenant may terminate his or her tenancy if the tenant or a child of the tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if the tenant remains on the premise
Timing of return of Security Deposit with regard to evictions [Sections 15 and 16]
Under current law, if a tenant is evicted, a landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant, less any amounts that are appropriately withheld, within 21 days after the date on which the writ of restitution is executed or the date on which the landlord learns that the tenant has vacated the premises, whichever occurs first. [s. 704.28 (4) (d), Stats.]
Under Senate Bill 179, If the tenant is evicted before that date, the landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days after the lease terminates or, if the landlord re-rents the premises before that day, the date on which the new tenant’s tenancy begins. If the tenant is evicted after the termination date, the landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days after the date on which the landlord learns that the tenant has vacated the premises or the date the tenant is removed by eviction.
Service of Summons in Eviction Action [Section 22]
Allows courts to permit service of eviction summons by Certified Mail. This will be on a county by county basis.
Allows LLC to appear by member or agent, rather than requiring attorneys [Section 21]
Under current law, in any small claims action, a property owned by an LLC must use an attorney or full time employee of the LLC
Senate Bill 179 eliminates the requirement that the employee be a full-time employee and also allows any small claims action by a member of the person, an agent of the member or an authorized employee of the agent. This provision applies to all small claims actions, not only evictions.
Disposition of Property Left on Rental Premises After Eviction [Sections 9, 10 and 29 to 46]
Under current law, in Milwaukee County, the sheriff must remove and store the tenants’ property. In all other counties, the landlord may choose to be responsible for the removal and storage of the property.
Under Senate Bill 179, if a tenant is evicted and leaves property on the rental premises, the landlord is not required to store the property unless the landlord and tenant have entered into a written agreement which provides otherwise. If the landlord does not intend to store personal property left behind by a tenant, the landlord must provide written notice either when the tenant enters into or renews the rental agreement. If this notice is provided, the landlord may dispose of the property, other than prescription medicine or medical equipment, in any manner that the landlord determines is appropriate.
Towing of Vehicles [Sections 5 to 8]
Under current law, a vehicle that is parked on a private parking lot or facility without the permission of the property owner may not be removed without the permission of the vehicle owner, unless a traffic or police officer issues a citation for illegal parking, or a repossession judgment is issued.
Under Senate Bill 179, a vehicle that is parked without authorization on private property that is properly posted may be towed immediately regardless of whether a parking citation is issued.
This final one is the most complex of the changes and requires some Administrative rules to be created.
There is also a change regarding Mobile Home Parks, but I am not impacted and therefore did not review them.