Mar 11

Follow up to the Milwaukee County Proposal on making Rent Assist a protected housing class.  with a hearing is Monday March 12th, 9:00 AM at the Milwaukee County Courthouse building, Room 201B,  901 North 9th Street,  Milwaukee, WI 53233

My company accepts,  and likes the Rent Assist program.  We also have not found the inspections particularly cumbersome.  In our market we see Rent Assist as a benefit to both owner and tenant.

Yet, I oppose the bill.

  1. Mainly because it attempts to hide the fact that the true reason that people do not get Rent Assist is that Milwaukee County does not provide as many vouchers as there are folks eligible to receive vouchers.If Ms Dimitrijevic wanted to help tenants in need of Rent Assist she would look at her own branch of government and say ’We need to increase the available vouchers.’  If that was her proposal the Association and I would fully support her, as would most tenant advocates.Instead she tries scapegoating owners, making it look like discrimination against voucher holders is the problem.
    Ask Ms Dimitrijevic if there are more applicants than vouchers and how many months or years the Rent Assist waiting list is.

    The other reasons I oppose this are:

  2. Rent Assist does not allow for month to month occupancies.  Owners are more likely to take a chance on a questionable applicant if they can use a month to month and terminate tenancies that are not working as expected.  If you are a tenant, I’m sure you do not want to live in an apartment next door to a disruptive neighbor and when you complain the owner tells you that this person that is making your apartment less enjoyable has to stay for 11 more months due to a year lease.
  3. Another issue is that per the RA contract an owner must serve both the tenant and the RA agency with notices of default, such as non payment.  This creates an additional opportunity for an eviction for good cause to have problems.
  4. Finally, an owner may have to wait for the first payment.  While not a concern to our company, this is a big problem for mom and pop owners who are often under capitalized.

What the bill actually does.

Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, the bill’s author,  states on FaceBook:  “This change to the ordinance does not mandate acceptance of certain sources of income rather it makes it illegal to discriminate against tenants based on source of income.”  The bill is worded consistent with her statement.


Prospective tenant:  ‘Hi, I have a Rent Assist voucher.  Will you accept my app?

Landlord:  ’Sorry.  We do not do Rent Assist.’

Prospective tenant:  ‘Okay,  There are thousands of other owners that love the program and I am one of a few tenants who are eligible.’ and under her breath says ‘What a donkey’

Result: The tenant does not waste time and possibly money apply for a unit they will not receive.  Everyone understands upfront.  ANd the owner who does not accept the Rent Assist voucher holder loses a  great tenant, and the accompanying revenue,  that we end up with. 😉

Image what a terrible experience this will be for the tenant under the new law if they apply with an owner that will not accept Rent Assist vouchers.

Prospective tenant:  ‘Hi, I have a Rent Assist voucher.  Will you accept my app?

Landlord:  ‘Of course you can apply. I follow all laws.’

Prospective tenant: ‘Was my app approved?

Landlord:  ‘Why yes.  You met all my requirements and seem like a wonderful tenant!’

Prospective tenant: ‘Great!  Here is the Rent Assist app you must sign.’

Landlord:  ‘Sorry.  I do not accept Rent Assist, but I did accept you.’  and legally the owner could say ‘By the way, because you are accepted I expect you to take the place or forfeit the earnest money’

Prospective tenant: ‘WTF! This is an outrage.

Landlord:  ‘Sorry. This is the unintended consequences of  Ms, Dimitrijevic’s law.’

Result:   Confusion, a terrible experience  and possible negative financial consequences.

Instead of this bill, a true tenant advocate would require that owners disclose in advance of taking an app if they will accept Rent Assist or other programs.  That is what is fair and equitable, not some non discrimination code that will harm and confuse tenants.

Dec 21


If landlords like Hahlbeck go out of business, there will be even less affordable housing for low-income families, says Heiner Giese, an attorney for the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin. Both landlords and tenants agree that a lack of such housing is at the heart of the problem.

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.

Jul 13
Below is the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI’s legislative alert regarding a proposed Milwaukee County Rent Abatement ordinance

Dear AASEW Members:
The Milwaukee County Board is considering a proposal that would permit your tenants to abate rent for maintenance issues not addressed within 24 hours.
For example, your tenant calls on Friday morning to say the bathroom faucet is not working correctly.  You go out and fix it on Sunday, 50 hours after the call came in.  This proposal would allow that tenant to deduct $200 from the rent – Yes! Under this proposal, the tenant can deduct TWO HUNDRED dollars even though you made a timely repair of a minor item that does not affect health or safety. 
There will be a hearing on this proposal at 9:00 AM Monday, July 17th, 2017 at the County Board Committee Hearing Room at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 North 9th Street, RM 201B, Milwaukee, WI 53233 Phone: 414-278-4222.  Ironically this is two floors below the eviction courtroom where the legitimacy of each deduction will be decided.
I encourage you to attend.  If you cannot attend you can still make an impact by reaching out to your County Supervisor and/or County Executive Chris Abele to let them know the potential negative impact of this proposal on both you as the property owner and on your tenants.  If you live in one of their districts please make an extra effort to contact your supervisor and attend.  Constituents of the supervisors make a bigger impact when in attendance.
Who represents me?
           Here is the link to look up your County Supervisor:
           Here is the link for County Executive Chris Abele:
Here are some talking points to help you get started when making your call.
  • How is maintenance even directly related to evictions?
  • Who will be responsible for verifying maintenance issues?  At what cost? In what time frame?
  • What is the plan if the issues are deemed inaccurate?
  • Cost of these abatements and the court costs to fight them will be passed on to good tenants
  • There is a risk of tenants seeing these types of abatements as a means to avoid paying legitimate rent.
  • This proposed system is just another layer of cost to the city
  • There are already programs in place to protect tenants through the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS).  Why add this? If the current system is not working, why not improve what we have rather than create a new layer of bureaucracy and cost.
  • Evictions are not a result of non-repair, but a result of non-payment
  • This proposal will increase evictions, not decrease them.
Many of the tenants featured in the news surrounding the Eviction Defense Project (Milwaukee) are serial evictees.  This type of evictee increases the rents of good tenants; repeated court costs, employee time, and loss of rent will cause rents to rise.
There are bigger issues to be addressed regarding evictions in Milwaukee.  We need to be looking at ways for landlords to be better landlords and tenants to be better tenants.  Many want to blame housing for all the problems in our communities.  A better approach for both housing and for the tenants that find themselves in eviction would be to look at the underlying cause of the tenant’s failure to pay rent and have both financial assistance and social intervention to make their future tenancies successful. Housing isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution.  The money would be better spent on education, neighborhood programs, and increased police protection.
The AASEW applauds efforts to reduce evictions as they are time-consuming and costly for the owners as well as negatively impacting the housing stock and the tenants.
Take action today; contact your supervisor or attend the meeting on Monday (7/17/17).
Ron Hegwood
AASEW President
May 03
Fox 6 did an expose on Alderman Stampler’s side gig as a landlord.
While Stampler may or may not be a good or bad landlord[1], the problem with this type of reporting is it stigmatizes everyone who is in this very tough business.  And it is a hard business. Many a well-funded nonprofit has failed trying to provide housing in lower income markets
So the Baird investment banker takes a public shaming that may be career-ending. An NBA star receives a public shaming that could potentially have forced him out of the league. An alderman takes a public shaming.
This relentless negative press on the industry creates a fear within those of slightly lesser means that if things go even a bit wrong, they will be publicly attacked. What a disincentive for those with adequate resources to invest in the poorer neighborhoods of the city, creating an environment that allows and perhaps even encourages predatory owners into the market due to the vacuum created by the of others unwillingness of others to take the chance.

[1] Stampler responded to the reporter “Put it this way, when she moved into that property it wasn’t like that, okay,
If the house had rodent problems, broken windows, defective detectors and damaged light fixtures when the tenant moved in shame on Stampler.  If the tenant did the damage and lived in a way that contributed to infestations and then blamed  Stampler in an attempt to ruin his career, then shame on her.
The home on N 22nd is a single family.  If the infestation was not present when she moved in, then the responsibility was that of the tenant under both state statutes, §704.07(3)(a), and Milwaukee ordinances  275-82-3-b.  The woman was a landlord herself prior to a handful of foreclosures in 2010.
DNS orders are not always what they appear to be. A defective detector often is one that the tenant simply took the batteries out of. A handrail violation? Many times DNS orders retrofitting of rails to newer standards, contrary to the codes. In DNS terms a defective roof could be an entire failed roof or a single missing tab.
Prior to 1986 Milwaukee’s code and building inspection held tenants responsible for things like removing batteries from detectors, housekeeping and the damage they did.  In 1986, File Number 85-1396-a,  the Council decided that tenant responsibility was a bad thing. The only recourse owners have now is an eviction or small claims judgments.  Judgments on uncollectible defendants are worthless.
Evictions are expensive, and the results are not satisfying despite what the author of Evicted may purport.  Not holding tenants accountable for their actions contributes to the decline in housing and neighborhood disorder.
We must return to a system where all parties are responsible for their acts and omissions, not just the landlord.

M.C.O. 275-82-3

b. Occupant’s Responsibility. Every occupant of a structure containing a single occupancy shall be responsible for the extermination of any insects, rodents or other pests on the premises. Every occupant of a structure containing more than one occupancy shall be responsible for extermination within the occupancy whenever the occupancy is the only one infested. Whenever infestation is caused by failure of the owner to maintain a structure in a reasonably rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.

Wis. Stats. §704.07

(3) Duty of tenant.
(a) If the premises are damaged, including by an infestation of insects or other pests, due to the acts or inaction of the tenant, the landlord may elect to allow the tenant to remediate or repair the damage and restore the appearance of the premises by redecorating. However, the landlord may elect to undertake the remediation, repair, or redecoration, and in such case the tenant must reimburse the landlord for the reasonable cost thereof; the cost to the landlord is presumed reasonable unless proved otherwise by the tenant.

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