Aug 21

In the past week I have had three owners ask about pools.  First, let me say this is much better than the questions about ice dams that we get most of the year.  😉

If your lease is silent on pools, you may use the Wisconsin state law that requires your tenant to comply with local housing codes.

§707.07(3) (c)  A tenant in a residential tenancy shall comply with a local housing code applicable to the premises.

Milwaukee Ordinance define the requirement for pools, starting at 75-20-5

“PERMIT REQUIRED. In addition to the requirements of ch. SPS 390, Wis. Adm. Code, no person shall construct, install, enlarge, establish, maintain or make any alteration to any public swimming place or any outdoor private swimming place without a pool construction permit issued by the commissioner.”

If your tenant is a month to month you must give them a 14 day termination.  I suggest if they were otherwise good tenant that you include language such as “We will vacate this notice only if you remove the pool within 48 hours conditioned on not reinstalling a pool in the future without first obtaining all permits and complying with all City regulations”.   Attached a copy of the Milwaukee pool regulations.

If you use a year lease you must give them a 5 day breach notice, allowing them 5 days to remove the pool or be evicted.

Why are owners against pools, don’t they want the tenants to enjoy summer?  Pools are dangerous even when installed with proper fencing etc.

  • An average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States
  • About  one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.
  • For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Aug 19

A reader on the ApartmentAssoc at YahooGroups list asks

What thoughts are there on a Request for a comfort animal with a month to month lease.

Can the lease be terminated under the month to month provision.

Terminating the tenancy due to a legitimate, i.e. they met the requirements of a comfort animal, not that you feel it is legitimate, comfort animal probably is worse than simply rejecting a request as you are now breaking additional rules and statutes.  For example in Wisconsin’s Chapter 704 (Landlord Tenant Statutes)

704.45  Retaliatory conduct in residential tenancies prohibited.

(1) Except as provided in sub. (2), a landlord in a residential tenancy may not increase rent, decrease services, bring an action for possession of the premises, refuse to renew a lease or threaten any of the foregoing, if there is a preponderance of evidence that the action or inaction would not occur but for the landlord’s retaliation against the tenant for doing any of the following:

(a) Making a good faith complaint about a defect in the premises to an elected public official or a local housing code enforcement agency.

(b) Complaining to the landlord about a violation of s. 704.07 or a local housing code applicable to the premises.

(c) Exercising a legal right relating to residential tenancies.

(2) Notwithstanding sub. (1), a landlord may bring an action for possession of the premises if the tenant has not paid rent other than a rent increase prohibited by sub. (1).

(3) This section does not apply to complaints made about defects in the premises caused by the negligence or improper use of the tenant who is affected by the action or inaction.

The real answer is to ask the feds to step in and repair this rule before housing goes to the dogs, including Federally Subsidized Housing.

A person should need something more than a Skype conversation with a doctor in Cali before it is declared that the tenant should have the right to a dog, cat or 20′ python.  Breed should matter, an 80# pit bull “comfort animal” in a complex doesn’t sound like it would be very comforting to the rest of the tenants.  In a single family home I doubt it would be comforting to the neighbors.

Also, what about the rights of others.  My wife has severe allergies to dogs and cats.  A companion animal on a flight we were on that gave her such a bad reaction that they almost landed the plane in Cincinnati.  A flight a month later ended with her leaving the plane on a stretcher after being given an Epipen and oxygen.  While there was no dogs on that flight, the airline confirmed  there was a dog on the flight just prior to ours.  We have not flown since.  I was at the Wall-Mart a couple of months ago a a scraggly animal wearing a “service animal” vest was basically running loose on a 10′ leash.  It walked up and sniffed my leg, which was annoying.  A short time later it licked a baby across the face.  The mom was so angry that I thought the animal owner was going to leave the store in a condition that would require a real service animal. There are valid reasons that owners exclude pets.

Let me be clear that I am talking about people who are using this as a loophole to get around no pet policies and not legitimate trained service animals.  A true service animal is better behaved than most tenants.  The true service animals need to be accepted.

May 21

Perhaps I wasn’t clear in the original post.

This law only affects separately metered municipal utilities in tenant occupied units. Nothing has changed in how you handle utility cost for joint metered utilities. What you are doing now is permitted as long as disclosed in advance of signing the lease.

With the enactment of this legislation separately metered municipal services can now be directly billed to the tenants by the local governments, similar to how separate gas or electric accounts are billed to tenants by WE Energies*. This makes it more practical to have tenants pay their own sewer and water with less potential that you will find their unpaid bills on your property taxes*.

This change will initially affect many single family rentals where owners already have tenants responsible for their own sewer and water bills. With minimal costs owners of duplexes can take advantage of the new law by having a plumber separate the water supply and install a second meter. Then those duplex tenants could be billed directly by the municipality.

I would be surprised if many multi unit owners will incur the costs of this work, at least initially. But just like separating gas and electric, duplexes were the first to be retrofitted followed by more and more multi unit buildings

The net result should be more conservation, that ultimately results in more rate increases. ;-(

“The additional revenue is needed to offset declining water sales in the face of rising costs, officials said.”

*This is now similar, but not exactly the same as how a WE Energies account is handled. The new law does NOT completely eliminate the ability of the municipality to place the charges on the property.

May 15

Sewer, water and municipal service fees have become a major operating expense.  I’m sure these runaway fees have lead to the failure of many newer, under capitalized owners.

Last month the law changed on municipal utility charges, making it more practical to have tenants be responsible for these charges.  We owe a lot of thanks to the work done by Gary Goyke in making this law a reality, as well as the support of the members of the Wisconsin Apartment Association, the Apartment Associations of South Central WI and of course the members of the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI

In addition to the potential financial benefit to owners, there is a societal and environmental benefit as this will certainly result in conservation.  No more walking into a unit, only to see the tenant thawing dinner by running cold water over frozen meat for half an hour.  Remember when you paid for heat and would find windows open on sub freezing days or when you paid for hot water and found your basements being used as a laundromat for friends and family.

The most important aspects of the law effect the 2015 billings.  However there are some things we as owners need to do now to ramp up.

First, you cannot bill tenants directly for utilities that are not separately metered.  This means for multiple unit properties the water needs to be separated and an additional meter added.  In older Milwaukee duplexes this is not going to be a major job.  The two plumbing contractors I spoke to felt it would be a $600-1000 per duplex  to separate the water and install a second meter horn.  Remember that in this style building you only need to separate the cold water to the lower unit faucets and toilet as well as the feed to the lower water heater and possibly laundry facilities.

Older side by sides and four families will take more work, read $, as they typically have a single cold feed to the upper units.

Second, for the benefit of tenants, owner occupants and the city’s ability to collect their utility bills; we must urge the city to go to monthly billings

Attorney Tristan Pettit shared the attached doc from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities that should be the first step in the road map to making the change.

Apr 30

 

Bloomberg reports on a case in CA where  Deutsche Bank is being sued for evicting the tenant of a foreclosure in violation of the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009

Rothschild, legal director at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the January ruling established that tenants can take owners who acquire properties through foreclosure to state court for violating protections Congress afforded renters under the 2009 Protecting Tenants Against Foreclosure Act. The law doesn’t give renters the right to sue in federal court.

An attorney for the United Trustees Association states:

The overly broad decision may lead to a proliferation in lawsuits for breach of the lease imposed upon purchasers at a foreclosure sale. With no prior knowledge, a purchaser at a foreclosure sale now may be burdened with a lease with unlimited combinations of potential contractual obligations ranging from unilateral renewal rights to mandatory substantial improvements to the property.

All of this could make buying an occupied or recently vacated unit a dicey situation.


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