Jun 18

We should not need the courts to tell us not to reject applicants for things that do not impact the tenants’ ability to pay or indicate they will be disruptive to other tenants or neighbors. It is simply good business practices to ignore things that don’t matter and keep your units full.

However, if you are confused about this, the recent US Supreme Court ruling on sexual orientation and employment, while not directly related to housing, should be a stern warning for landlords who exclude rental applicants based on sexual preferences.

But if you feel you must reject people despite having a history of paying their rent and not creating a ruckus, send them over to us. We’ll take all the good tenants we can get.

May 12

The AASEW has done a lot of great things for the industry and sustainable rental housing.

One that benefited many owners was the change to Sheriff moves to eliminate the mover, which is a large portion of the costs.  

Our attorneys, working against their own personal interest, changed the law to allow LLCs to be represented by a member or agent, rather than requiring an attorney. This saves a lot of money as well as making the case less confrontational.

Here are the laws passed through the work of the AASEW in:

2018  https://bit.ly/3bryZ0Y
2016  https://bit.ly/2Lj7NXM
2014  https://bit.ly/3dCRRM1
2012  https://bit.ly/2zx3NQZ

It is important that we work together as an industry for the betterment of all.

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 25

On its surface the article is about homelessness in Seattle, but it outlines many of the challenges we will face in coming years such as rent control and programs favoring public housing over private.

https://www.city-journal.org/seattle-homelessness

You may ask, for example, what is wrong with supporting public housing?  
Public housing would be great if it provided housing to those who are often “unrentable” in the private market such as those with serial evictions, recent or serious criminal convictions, addiction issues, poor housekeepers, sex offenders, etc. 

Yet public housing screening policies often exclude those difficult to house populations, while directly completing with private sector owners, taking the best tenants due to their incentivized rents.  So we are ultimately competing with our own tax dollars working against us. 

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.

Oct 06

Here are two more:


National Sex Offender database
https://www.nsopw.gov/Search/Results 

WI Sex Offender
https://appsdoc.wi.gov/public/ 

Oct 05

We needed to check an out of state applicant. When searching for court records we found a great resource.

National Center For State Courts

Sep 18

What the anti screening crowd misses is that screening for criminal behavior is not for the direct benefit of the property owner, but for the safety and security of the other tenants and neighbors.

Minneapolis Doesn’t Want Landlords to Check Tenants’ Criminal History, Credit Score, Past Evictions

Under the inclusive screening process, property owners are forbidden from rejecting a potential tenant for having an insufficient credit score, or for having insufficient credit history.

Landlords are also forbidden from turning down potential tenants for any misdemeanor convictions older than three years and for most felony convictions older than seven years. The law does allow landlords to reject applicants that have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, or first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but only if those convictions were within the last 10 years.

The inclusive screening process also prevents landlords from rejecting tenants for evictions older than three years.

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

Jun 30

We do all the normal screening stuff such as CCAP, proof of income, proof of current address, requiring a government issued picture ID – without an ID they can give you any name and all of your screening will fail, etc.

When it looks like a tenant is acceptable on paper, then we break out our super tool: A home visit to their listed current address without an appointment. (If you set an appointment they will be at mom’s house to meet you)

We reject close to one in four with this final step. They don’t live there, a couple of times the address they gave was  a vacant lot, they have a pit bull larger than my manager, all the screens are pushed out from the inside, the yard and house is less clean and orderly than the local dump, there is no furniture, just a flop house for druggies, etc.

Your application needs to let the applicants know in advance you will be doing this. Our language in bold at the end of the authorization to pull credit and talk to prior landlords is:

” I understand that Affordable Rental Associates, LLC will verify my current residence in person”

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