Oct 30

There has been a proliferation of online services that sell fake employment and housing documentation used by tenants to pass screening when they do not have a legal source of income. (Drug dealers and prostitutes do not get pay stubs for their efforts.)

Here is one such “service” is https://paystubsnow.com/pricing/ There are dozens of similar offerings on FaceBook, some for as low as $9.

One trick the fraudsters use is selecting employers that will not verify employment, such as Waste Management, which requires people doing background checks to use https://theworknumber.com, an Equifax service that charges $41-$48 per inquiry. At that point, many property owners simply accept the pay stub as real.

I encourage people who have been a victim of this to report this to the District Attorney

Oct 07

These are the reasons we need to unify as an industry.  Read the full, well-written piece at:

https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-landlords-are-people-too-20201007-zqsmvkptgjcyjkzbmwojhh7r7y-story.html

“Landlords are the devil incarnate. “F–k landlords.” “Cancel rent.” “Kill the landlords. “Landlord (sic) are a disease.” These inflammatory words come from social media postings, but it is not unusual to hear them at the protests and riots that have become routine in recent months. In addition, there have been marches specifically crafted to promote the rent-strike movement — a movement that suggests a tenant, even when she has the ability to pay, may choose instead to withhold the money and place the funds in a shared escrow account. Small business owner, Roni von Henschen says, “I know people who aren’t paying even though they can afford it. I don’t know why. Maybe they figure they can live month after month for free since evictions are banned.”

Jul 06

We may wish to address the impact that fireworks have on housing and insurance before 2021.

There were 140 reported fires over the Fourth of July weekend 2020 (07/03/2020 to 07/05/2020 inclusive) 

The same period last year (07/03/2019 to 07/05/2019 inclusive) had 60 reported fires.  

Even when you include the weekend after the 2019 Fourth (07/03/2019 to 07/07/2019 inclusive) there were 81 fires reported

MPD/MFD fire calls 

07/03/2020 to 07/05/2020 140  (3 days)
07/03/2019 to 07/05/2019   60  (3 days)
07/03/2019 to 07/07/2019   81  (5 days to include the following weekend)

Feb 29

AB30, which creates a procedure for granting certificates of qualification for employment for persons convicted of a crime, has passed both Houses with unanimous support. Something hard to believe in this era of polarized politics.

The concept has my support. It is the right thing to do.  People who make an effort to fix their lives should be given a fair chance to do so. 

I anticipate we will see something similar for housing in the next legislative session.

One problem that our industry faces, and the reason for my interest and forwarding this bill, is the growing sentiment against using criminal records for screening.  

The first regulation generally impacting WI landlords was the 2016 HUD prohibition from using arrest records and restrictions on using conviction records in screening. If you get this wrong you can be subject to an expensive Fair Housing complaint.

Owners screen for criminal convictions for the benefit of their tenants, the neighbors of their properties and the safety of themselves and their employees.  To a lesser degree the do so to avoid nuisance ordinance violations.

The restrictions on criminal screening places the owner in a “Catch 22” situation when combined with local nuisance ordinances. one government body telling you that you must screen out potential criminals or lose your properties and another level of government potentially subjecting you to significant penalties that could cause you to lose your properties for screening out potential criminals.

I fully support government enacted bright-line rules for the use of criminal records for screening, i.e. an owner cannot be charged with a Fair Housing violation or subjected to nuisance ordinance violations if they exclude rapist for x years, murderers y years, …  The current fuzzy guidelines are a lawyer’s dream and a landlord’s nightmare.

For bright-line rules to work fairly, there also needs to be “a certificate of qualification for housing” with similar immunity provisions as the employment bill.

Deciding who is and who is not a threat to their neighbors or coworkers is beyond the scope of what should reasonable be expected of employers and landlords who do not have the case details nor the training to make the proper decision. Instead let a court that has full access to the record and can hear testimony make those important decisions.

Jan 30
As we are in an industry that many of us have or had mortgages, it is probably a good idea to keep an eye on your credit report for a while, again…
 
 


The server, running an Elasticsearch database, had more than a decade’s worth of data, containing loan and mortgage agreements, repayment schedules and other highly sensitive financial and tax documents that reveal an intimate insight into a person’s financial life

But it wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access and read the massive cache of documents.

Jan 13

The Spring 2019 Apartment Association Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp is February 9th, 2019. (Less than a month away.)

Even though I know the law well, we’ve sent our staff.  It is good for them to hear the rules from someone else.  Plus if they learn one new thing, it more than pays the modest cost.

Tristan knows the latest law, but that’s the easy part.  He also is one of the most prolific landlord tenant attorneys in Southeastern WI.  That gives him great insights into how the courts are ruling today and what the most recent “Gotcha’s” are.

At $179 for members, it is far cheaper than learning from your mistakes.  Not only does it help prevent costly errors, you also will learn how to screen better and other things that will result in profitability.

AASEW Landlord Boot Camp 2019

WHEN: Saturday, February 9, 2019

WHERE: Four Points Sheraton 5311 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53207 (Across from the airport)

Registration opens at 7:10 AM

The seminar runs from 8:30 to 5 PM with a 30 minute break for a complimentary lunch. There will be a one hour question and answer session afterwards, ending promptly at 6 pm. Many will find the Q&A invaluable, therefore you may wish to arrangements to stay until 6 pm.

Updated to include information from Wisconsin ACT 317!

INCLUDED: 100 plus page manual to help you put what you learn into practice.

 

More info and sign up at LandlordBootCamp2019.com

Mar 04

The Journal has more details on the murder of the 70 year old landlord at his Cudahy rental that Peter Kazaks brought to our attention Friday.

Journal Article on murdered Greenfield Landlord

As Peter points out you must be increasingly careful out there.

Last year I attended the breakout session on personal safety at the AASEW trade show and the officer presenting was clear that situational awareness is very important to lower the likelihood that you become a victim.  Always be aware of your surroundings, regardless of where you are.

–Peter Kazaks

This is at least the third landlord murdered in our area while working on their properties in the past three years.

Many more have been assaulted.  A number of Association members have robbed at gunpoint while working on their properties, with at least one severely beaten.  A couple of years ago a former board member was carjacked at gunpoint at a fast food joint just south of the stadium.   Two and a half years ago another former board member’s employees was hit in the face with a pipe and seriously injured on 24th and Maple during an armed robbery that netted $10.

Also remember that it was less than a year ago Milwaukee building inspector Greg Z (Known to many as “ Ziggy”)  was murdered during an attempted carjacking during work.

 

Aug 27

Seattle recently banned rental property owners from screening prospective tenants for criminal records.

Seattle tries to make this a landlord issue, ‘How dare landlords prohibit criminals from renting. These good people paid the price for their crime and should be free to live anywhere they want after being released from prison!‘ And Seattle’s landlords fell into this political trap, opposing the ordinance from a concerned landlords’ perspective, rather than what it really is – an assault on the rights of the vast majority of Seattleans that are not criminals.

Let’s step back and look at this situation truthfully.

Landlords screen for criminal backgrounds not for their benefit, but rather do so mostly out of concern for the safety and tranquility of their other tenants and neighbors. The selfish motivation of the owners, if you want to call it that, is crime devalues neighborhoods.  But that motivation is beneficial to all in the neighborhood as well as the city itself.

This ordinance may benefit the owners as it will:

  1. Raise rents. Seattle has a housing problem. There simply are not enough units for the population. By forcing owners to accept the ten or fifteen percent of residents that have criminal histories that exceed the HUD guidelines for criminal screening, the city fathers have worsened the housing crisis for the rest of the population seeking decent housing.
  2. Reduce owners civil liability for the bad acts of their tenants. Jimmie ‘the Hacksaw’ Smythe from 201 rapes and murders Ms. Jones in Apt 310.  ‘Don’t blame me. I could not screen for his previous twenty years of criminal activities. In fact feel sorry for me,  I now have two vacancies.”
  3. Likewise, owners will no longer be accountable to the municipality for disruptive tenants. ‘Hey, I just rented to the people you told me I had to take.’

In a sad, ironic way, the crime free leasing movement that started in the Pacific Northwest is about to die where it was born. Milwaukee’s Landlord Training Program had its roots in a 1997 Portland program. In fact Washington State passed a Crime-free rental housing program in 2010, a half decade before Wisconsin did.

The motivation behind screening out criminals was to make neighborhoods more stable and more desirable, thereby benefiting the municipality, the residents, and ultimately the property owners.

This screening prohibition is just another case of failed liberal governments harming the very people they purport to help and support.

Sadly, when this ordinance fails, and it will fail, rental owners will face criticism for the increase in crime happening to Seattle’s more affordable neighborhoods.  This time the landlords will be blamed for allowing the very criminals into their units that they were required to under this new ordinance.

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.

Jul 03

A reader writes of the frustration he was having after being charged by the city for mattresses dumped at his property that were not from his tenants.  With the ever exploding bedbug problems in urban areas, there are a lot more mattresses hitting the garbage.

We had a similar problem with properties in Milwaukee.  At one property mattresses would appear behind it once a month or so even though there were no move outs.  We would the get gigged for the $100 repeat litter fine even though we had our clean out crew drive past the property every couple of days and remove any trash well before getting notified by the city.   Somehow it seemed the city inspector was there the day the mattress was dropped off each month.

I wanted to catch who ever was dropping the mattresses in the act so I bought a trail camera and mounted it to view the garbage area.  Mattresses quit appearing immediately after that.  We have since installed trial cameras or wifi cameras at a number of locations.  The problems generally stopped upon installation (deterrent effect)  In one case we caught a neighbor who is a small contractor dumping.  He quit after being given a picture of him unloading his truck in the garbage cart area of our property.  I’m sure he is now dumping at someone else’s property to avoid paying the construction debris fees at the self help dump.  Most bad happens after dark so Infrared (IR) technology is important for night vision.

An example of a trail camera that uses an SD memory card to record images.  We have a number of the Moultrie cameras.  In fact they were being sold in the sporting goods section of Wal Mart at a similar price to Amazon.

A 64GB card holds a lot of images.  Set it to overwrite when full and then retrieve the card when there is a problem.  These can be mounted anywhere as they are battery powered. A set of batteries lasts three months or so.

If you have a cooperative tenant with internet or provide internet to your building, the other choice is wifi enabled security cameras.  The under $100 ones need to be building mounted for the power, but you can upload to cloud storage and keep a month’s worth of images or movies.

Netgear makes a battery powered wifi camera system that intrigues me, but haven’t bought any yet.

Why do my Amazon links start with smile instead of www?  AmazonSmile donates a portion of the sale to any charity you select.  I chose Children’s Hospital of WI, but there are a million 501 (c) (3) organizations that you can choose from.

 

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