Sep 27

The AASEW’s ever popular Landlord Boot Camp is just around the corner.  It will be held on Saturday, October 4, 2014 from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm at the Clarion Hotel located near the airport.

At this Fall’s Boot Camp I will be updating everyone on how the courts have been handling and interpreting all of the law changes since Act 76 was passed back in March of this year.

I will also address numerous other of topics that will help you navigate Wisconsin’s complex landlord – tenant laws.  Learn how to run your properties with greater profit while staying out of trouble.  Landlording can be pretty complex, with a seemingly never ending myriad of paperwork, rules, landlord-tenant laws and simple mistakes that can cost you thousands.

Some of the other topics that will be covered include:

1) How to properly screen prospective tenants

2) How to draft written screening criteria to assist you in the tenant selection process

3) How to comply with both federal and state Fair Housing laws including how to comply with “reasonable modifications” and “reasonable accommodations” requests

4) How to legally reject an applicant

5) What rental documents you should be using and why

6) When you should be using a 5-day notice versus a 14-day notice, 28-day notice, or 30-day notice and how to properly serve the notice on your tenant

7) Everything you wanted to know (and probably even more than you wanted to know) about the Residential Rental Practices (ATCP 134) and how to avoid having to pay double damages to your tenant for breaching ATCP 134

8) When you are legally allowed to enter your tenant’s apartment

9) How to properly draft an eviction summons and complaint

10) What to do to keep the commissioner or judge from dismissing your eviction lawsuit

11) What you can legally deduct from a security deposit

 12) How to properly draft a security deposit transmittal  (“21 day”) letter

13) How to handle pet damage

14) What to do with a tenant’s abandoned property and how this may affect whether or not you file an eviction suit

15) How to pursue your ex-tenant for damages to your rental property and past due rent (and whether it is even worth it to do so)

There will also be time for “Q&A” and Lunch is included!

If that is not enough you will also receive a manual that is over 100 pages that includes all of Tristan’s outlines on the various topics and various forms.

 Who:         Taught by Attorney Tristan Pettit, who drafts the landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank.

When:       Saturday, October 4, 2014  from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM —- Registration opens at 7:00 AM

Where:     Clarion Hotel 5311 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee

Price:        AASEW Members only $159 .  Non AASEW Members  – $249

Register:    Go to www.LandlordBootCamp2014.com and you can register online and read prior attendees testimonials.

Last year’s AASEW Landlord Boot Camp was filled to capacity.  So much so we even had to turn people away.  So register early to reserve your spot.

I hope to see many of you there.

Thanks

Jul 23

Talk about a timely meeting topic. This past Monday’s Apartment Association General Membership meeting addressed the issue of whether an owner must accept sex offenders i.e. are they a protected class.

If you missed the meeting, sex offenders and criminals in general are not a protected class in WI* today as long as you apply those criteria without regard to the applicant being a member of another protected class. For example if your criteria is to reject applicants who are registered offenders, but then give in to the white kid who was arrested for having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend. If you do not do the same for the Martian with a similar conviction you are probably going to run into fair housing issues. To be legal rejection criteria must be yes or no, with exceptions only made under a written exception policy that is applied evenly.

*Note that Madison and Dane treated some criminal offenders as protected classes, I am uncertain if Act 143 and Act 76 have changed this.

Yesterday the Milwaukee Common Council passed an ordinance restricting where sex offenders may live (Copy). The pendency of this legislation explains Council President Michael Murphy being unavailable to attend and speak at Monday’s meeting.

In passing this legislation Milwaukee did the only thing they reasonably could do at this point, which is to put ordinances in place that are comparable to those in surrounding communities, lest we remain the sex offender dumping grounds for the state.

The upside of such legislation is it should eliminate any fears of running afoul of Fair Housing property owners may have about rejecting sex offenders. The downside is at some point sex offenders ultimately get released from prison and ultimately need to live somewhere. Perhaps turn Washington Island into a leaper colony for sex offenders? (joking of course)

At some point I’m certain the proliferation of these ordinances will result in state or even federal legislative efforts to make sex offenders and possibly criminal in general a protected class. This will be worse than the current situation so we must be on the watch for such legislation. It is unlikely that the legislation will be forthright in its title or purpose, rather it will be attempts to restrict access to information as we’ve seen with the attacks on CCAP over the past few years.

If you want to know more about the issue from a criminal rights advocates prospective see:
http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2007/09/11/no-easy-answers
http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/us0907webwcover.pdf

Tim Ballering
Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

Jul 12

A reader on the ApartmentAssoc at YahooGroups list asks in regards to denying applications:

 What if there isn’t an alternative applicant and it’s not credit related? (ie criminal record or just don’t like them…Lool). I never really cared and don’t give a reason other than “your application has been denied”. Today was the first time an applicant repeatedly called wanting a reason.

In WI, excluding Dane County/Madison as they are a separate state, ;-), you are not required to give a reason.  In most cases a simple “Sorry your app was not accepted” is the best answer.

However, with that being said, you should consider having a mechanism in place where the applicant can request the reason if they are insistent. We ask that they request the reason in writing and we respond in writing.  This gets away from any allegations that someone said something they did not.

Think back to your own experiences – when someone is elusive or outright refuses to answer a question your first thought is they have something to hide. The more the other party pushed back the more you knew you were on to some kind of wrong doing.

 Rejection for criminal record is easy if you have a written criteria.  If they fail the criteria you can point it out.  So if one of your criteria is ‘We will reject applicants who have had drug related felonies in the past x years’ and they were convicted of having a ton of cocaine  in their possession  x years – 1 then the answer is a ‘sorry – your 12/14/20xx conviction prevents us from renting to you at this time.  You can apply again in a year.’

“Just don’t like them” is dangerous grounds, especially if they are a member of a protected class under federal state or local fair housing rules.

You don’t have to like your tenants, you just need to be sure they will pay rent, not damage the place, not conduct illegal activities out of your property and not anger the neighbors.  If they meet all those requirements I can “like” just about any prospective tenant.

Oct 30

In Milwaukee the city enforces a prohibition against occupancies with more than three unrelated people.  The answer on where in the code this resides is a bit  convoluted, but this is how the city arrives at that answer:

200-08-74. ROOMING HOUSE means any  building or part of any building or dwelling unit  occupied by more than 3 persons who are not a family or by a family and more than 2 other  persons for periods of occupancy usually longer  than one night and where a bathroom or toilet  room is shared.

If you meet this requirement you must have a rooming house license.  Now if each person has a bathroom and they promise not to pee in the other person’s bathroom can you have as many occupants as bathrooms?  I would think so.

200-8-33. FAMILY means, unless otherwise specified, a person occupying a dwelling unit, or dwelling unit with one or more persons who are legally related to such occupant by virtue of being husband or wife, son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother, uncle or aunt, grandparent, grandchild, niece or nephew, first-cousin, mother-in-law or father-in-law, all of whom comprise no more than one nuclear family unit per household. Included in the term family are 4 or fewer legally assigned foster children, except that more than 4 may be legally assigned if all are related to one another as brothers or sisters. Family also means a domestic partnership of 2 individuals who meet all conditions of s. 350-245-3-a to e and at least 3 of the conditions of s. 350-245-5

As mentioned in the last post, WI Fair Housing recognizes housing code occupancy restrictions based on quantity of people.  It does not appear to recognize  ordinances based on relationship of the occupants:

106.50(5m)(e) It is not discrimination based on family status to comply with any reasonable federal, state or local government restrictions relating to the maximum number of occupants permitted to occupy a dwelling unit.

Are you breaking state law in complying with the city code?  Who knows, but it seems like the city ordinance conflicts with the Fair Housing law.

Occupancy standards, yours or municipalities’ should be based on the number of occupants and not their relationships. There are a couple of good, interesting U.S. Supreme Court cases on the issue. Justice Marshall wrote a very interesting dissent in Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1 (1974) which was prior to the inclusion of familiar status protections

The most relevant part of Belle Terre dissent:

  MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting. 

The instant ordinance discriminates on the basis of just such a personal lifestyle choice as to household companions. It permits any number of persons related by blood or marriage, be it two or twenty, to live in a single household, but it limits to two the number of unrelated persons bound by profession, love, friendship, religious or political affiliation, or mere economics who can occupy a single home. Belle Terre imposes upon those who deviate from the community norm in their choice of living companions significantly greater restrictions than are applied to residential groups who are related by blood or marriage, and compose the established order within the community.  The village has, in [416 U.S. 1, 17] effect, acted to fence out those individuals whose choice of lifestyle differs from that of its current residents. 

A more recent case is Edmonds v. Oxford House, 517 U.S. 725 (1995) also is a good read

 

 

Oct 08

Our world is full of traps for rental owners… Fail to document the deposit return letter when was sent and a $300 deposit turns into $5,000 with attorney fees. Try to be helpful and not rent the third floor walk up to a person with a bad leg and pay $10,000 in a Fair Housing claim. Likewise tell the person with the companion dog that there is no way you are renting to a person with a Pit Bull and pay another ten grand. Give the tenant with a year lease a 14 day for disturbing the neighbors and breaking your windows or the tenant with a month to month a 5 day for the same reason and you will have to start your court case all over again. The list of pitfalls is endless and growing.

So how do you collect your rent, fill your vacancies and evict tenants without getting in trouble or having expensive do-overs?

You could throw your arms in the air and give up, but that probably is not the most effective approach. You can go through life figuring these are things that only happen to the other guy or to”bad” landlords. That works for a while until you become the other guy. You could hire an attorney to be along side you for every decision, but that probably is not financially effective.

The only viable answer is to know the laws that affect us well enough to either know the answer or know when you need help. You can venture out and learn as you go through your own mistakes, usually a very expensive education – there is a reason they call it the school of hard knocks, or you can get as much education as practical before you find yourself on the losing end of a legal battle.

I started with the learn as you go method. It cost me three grand in 1982 dollars when a tenant that snuck out in the middle of the night sued for their deposit. I lost because I did not know the law well enough to make the proper argument that the 21 days did not start on the day they skipped out, but rather on the day I found they moved. So my letter sent seven days after I found a vacant apartment was proper, but laws only work for those that know them.

My next education was a Bob Smith Landlord Tenant Law course at Marquette. Much more informative and less expensive. A couple of years later Bob condensed this into a full day landlord tenant law for the Association. It cost somewhere around two hundred dollars and included his book “Landlord Defense: Eviction and Collection manual” that had most of the forms needed. For those who want to stroll down memory lane, here is a Sentinel article with a really young picture of Bob:

The Association continues to offer the best landlord tenant law course out there. The Landlord Boot Camp gives you the fundamentals in a full day Saturday class. It is updated to include the latest law changes and includes a 100 page plus manual. It is presented by Attorney Tristan Pettit who writes the standard landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank. Tristan also worked on SB179 that may become law later this month. If it does pass he will have an insiders view on how this law can be best utilized by owners.

The next Boot Camp is Saturday October 26th 8:30 AM to 5;30 PM. Costs is $159 for AASEW members and $249 for non-members.

Learn more or sign up at:
http://landlordbootcamp2013.com/


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