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.

Feb 23

True service animals are specially trained dogs and miniature horses. Sorry that Peacock is not a service animal despite the cute vest he is wearing.

People often question the miniature horses. Here is an article that explains the rational and usefulness of miniature horses as service animals

Of course I’m sure some tenant or perhaps even an airline passenger will show up with a Clydesdale wearing a cute service animal vest…

Feb 23

It seems many of the same people who want to implement rent control are the same folks who support exclusionary zoning for their neighborhoods and communities. NIMBY Not In My Back Yard

The answer to housing costs, like most things, is to increase supply. When there is an abundance, sellers, or in this case landlords, must reduce prices to compete. When supply is restricted and demand is increased, you can get more.

Here is an interesting New York Times article on one such NIMBY fight. The wealthy residents weren’t to happy with allowing multi units in there community:

In letters to elected officials, and at the open microphone that Mr. Falk observed at the City Council meetings, residents said things like “too aggressive,” “not respectful,” “embarrassment,” “outraged,” “audacity,” “very urban,” “deeply upset,” “unsightly,” “monstrosity,” “inconceivable,” “simply outrageous,” “vehemently opposed,” “sheer scope,” “very wrong,” “blocking views,” “does not conform,” “property values will be destroyed,” and “will allow more crime to be committed.”

Feb 15

Two bills being proposed by the WI legislature. One allows for eviction moratoriums, the other restricts using eviction records for screening. This emphases the dangers that face our industry if we are not actively involved legislatively.

Bills like this, if passed, increase the cost of housing for tenants who pay their rent as the rent losses will be spread across the entire tenant population.

Back in the early nineties there was a Christmas eviction moratorium that basically allowed tenants who did not pay December rent to stay until mid to late January. We fought it and defeated it. It made to the New York Times.
https://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/29/us/scrooge-visits-tenants-in-milwaukee.html

WI Proposed Law Allowing for Eviction Moratoriums

http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/raw/proposal/2019/-0131

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Under current law, no city, village, town, or county may enact or enforce an ordinance that imposes a moratorium on a landlord from pursuing an eviction action against a tenant of the landlord’s residential or commercial property.

This bill repeals that provision.


WI Proposed Law Restricting Use of Eviction Records for Screening

http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/raw/proposal/2019/-0201

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

This bill provides that it is discrimination under the state open housing law to do any of the following:

1. Inquire, whether orally or in writing, of a prospective tenant or any other individual about any eviction of a prospective tenant that occurred more than five years prior. The bill prohibits a prospective tenant from being asked about prior evictions unless the prospective tenant is informed that evictions more than five years old need not be disclosed.

2. Refuse to rent housing to an individual, or otherwise treat an individual unequally in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of housing, because of an eviction of the individual that occurred more than five years prior to the date of a rental application.

The open housing law is administered by the Department of Workforce Development, which receives, investigates, and evaluates complaints of violations and may order relief in appropriate cases. Persons who allege a violation of the open housing law may also bring a civil action.

Feb 10

Here is the first “final” draft of the one page form and flowchart for animal accommodation request. This is only a draft, put out for feed back and comments. This form is based on HUD’s recently released Guidance on Documenting a Person’s Need for Assistance Animals in Housing.

I previously posted a draft flowchart for reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals to use while making the determination.

Initially I did not feel the new HUD guidelines offered much relief from the problem with people who skirted no pet policies with fake “service animals”

After working through this I feel that this will prevent many of the problem we are currently experiencing, while protecting the tenant that has a true need for a service or support animal. While fake service animals concern me, I have no sympathy for the owner that would deny or charge extra for a seeing eye dog, a service dog for a person in a wheelchair, a person suffering from PTSD, etc.

Clarifying that the accommodation only applies if the requester has a disability that imposes a substantial limitation on major life activities is important.

Clarifying that property owners can request documentation of both a disability and the need for a disability-related need for the animal from a licensed professional rather than having to accept some $29 vest from Amazon as proof is important.

Feb 09

Yesterday I wrote a brief post on HUD’s newly released guideline on “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal”

No owner should object to true service dogs, think seeing eye dog, etc. However the proliferation of tenants trying to skirt no pet policies by calling fluffy a service animal has gotten out of control. There is also the rights of other tenants who have allergies to furry critters to consider.

Since the guideline has been released we’ve been working on creating tools for our staff and others to use in making determinations on tenants’ reasonable accommodation requests for having a support animal. We don’t want to deny a person something they need for major life activities, but we also are not happy with properties turning into a zoo full of uncontrolled animals.

Here is our draft version of a flowchart based on the HUD document. I am posting it for comments and corrections. Please do not base any decisions on this at this time. When this is updated, I will post the new version on this site.

Feb 08

Just over a week ago HUD issued a new guidance document on service animals and emotional support animal accommodations for housing providers It is 19 pages. There is a lot to digest.

The HUD press release on assistance animals is worth reading as well.

At first read I did not feel the new document was that helpful in addressing abuses by some pet owners and the internet “service animal document mills” that aim to exploit both pet owner and housing providers.

Once I got into it a bit more, I believe that this will help greatly reduce the amount of “service dog’ fraud, while protecting those who need assistance animals.

We are working on a flowchart and other tools for owners to use in making proper determinations.

Stay tuned for more.

Oct 21


https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/19/ben-carson-hesperia-california-discrimination-charge-051504

The ordinance also mandated unannounced annual inspections and criminal-background screenings by the sheriff’s department. The county sheriff’s department enforced the ordinance in a way that targeted minorities and evicted some residents who were the victims of crimes, including people who had called the police, HUD alleges.


HT: Tristan Pettit

This is similar to, Magner v. Gallagher a case that went to the SCOTUS. St Paul withdrew under political pressure from the Obama Administration.

Five years ago almost to the day, I shared the comments of Attorney John Shoemaker who represented the property owners in Magner. You can read that here:

Aug 18

The Fall 2019 Apartment Association Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp is October 26, 2019

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.

Wisconsin landlord tenant law has changed dramatically in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 to Wisconsin’s Landlord Tenant Law with Act 143, Act 76, Act 176 and Act 317.

Tristan obviously 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 $189 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 legally screen better, thereby reducing evictions, and other things that will result in profitability.

AASEW Landlord Boot Camp 2019
WHEN: Saturday, October 26, 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 the latest law changes and court rulings!

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

More info and sign up at http://LandlordBootCamp2019.com

Jul 01

List of  Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law changes

 

There have been a lot of questions lately regarding which Wisconsin landlord tenant laws have been changed in recent years. Below is a list of state law changes since 2011.

The Association’s Landlord Tenant Law Boot Camp is a good way to learn how to implement these changes in your rental procedures.    It is a full Saturday of intense information.  Attorney Tristan Pettit, AASEW Board Member and the guy who drafts the standard forms you get at WI Legal Blank is the presenter.  Tristan sat at the table as a lot of this was drafted.

Many of the changes were promoted by the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI, Inc., which I have been a board member of for all but one of the last 30 years.  You should consider membership so that we can continue these good works. 😉  Join at https://AASEW.org

While portrayed by some as anti tenant, it is the good tenants who meet their obligations who ultimately pay for those tenants that don’t pay or are disruptive.

Some changes were just common sense and benefit both owners and tenants.  Previously, you could only give a month to month tenant a 14 Day notice without right to cure for lease violations.  Now you use a 5 Day Breach to clean up their garbage or get rid of that  one hundred pound Pit Bull – Rottweiler that is chasing the mail carrier down the block. If the tenant complies, their rental continues.

Another example was the change to waiver.  For a while the tenant advocate attorneys would raise the issue of waiver if you had waited until, lets say the 15th, to give a five day.  Then you get tired of constant late payments and issue a five day on the fifth. The argument was raised that by waiting until the 15th that you changed the terms of the agreement.  Owners responded by adopting a no leniency policy, giving everyone a five day on the fifth.  Now that this has changed owners have the option of giving tenants extra time before issuing a notice, remembering that notices appear more confrontational that a note reminding them rent is due.


2017 ACT 317

 

2017 Wis. Act 317

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/related/lcactmemo/act317

Summary by Tenant Resource Center


2015 ACT 176

 

2015 Wis. Act. 176

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2015/related/lcactmemo/act176

Tenant Resource Center Summary of 3/2/16 Changes


2013 ACT 76

 

2013 Wisconsin Act 76

2013 Wisconsin Act 76 Evictions, Towing Practices, and Prohibitions 

Tenant Resource Center Summary of 3/1/2014 Wisconsin Law Changes 


2011 ACT 143

 

2011 Wis. Act 143

2011 Wisconsin Act 143: LC Act Memo

Tenant Resource Center Summary of 3/31/2012 Wisconsin Law Changes


2011 ACT 108

 

2011 Wis. Act 108

2011 Wisconsin Act 108: LC Act Memo


I think this is the full list

 

preload preload preload