Oct 21

With the passage of SB179 and the previous passage of ACT 143 a lot has changed with Wisconsin landlord tenant law.

I am trying to assemble a working group of landlord/tenant attorneys and managers with a lot of experience to create a great Wisconsin lease that incorporates the changes in the new law as well as those from ACT 143.

First if you are one of the above group and want to be a participant, let me know.

However even if you are not a landlord tenant attorney or seasoned property manager, I would like to hear of instances that you found your lease defective or deficient.

Jul 31

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Issues Formal Opinion Concerning Residential Lease Provisions Requiring Departing Tenants to Pay for Carpet Cleaning

MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today issued an opinion to Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel in which Van Hollen concluded that Wisconsin law does not prohibit residential lease provisions that require a departing tenant to pay for routine carpet cleaning. Van Hollen determined that such a provision is not in conflict with a landlord’s statutory duty to maintain the premises “in a reasonable state of repair” under Wis. Stat. 704.07(2). Because routine carpet cleaning is not a statutorily-imposed obligation of a landlord, assigning this responsibility to a tenant through a contractual provision does not render a rental agreement void.

The full opinion letter is here:

www.doj.state.wi.us/sites/default/files/2013-news/oag-04-13.pdf

NOTE: This opinion does NOT permit the deduction of the carpet cleaning from a security deposit.

So then what  does this do for owners?

Very little to collect extra money from tenants.  However it forecloses tenants arguments that we had a common law duty to clean between tenants, i.e. cleaning is not part of a reasonable state of repairs.

I can also see this being used when DNS issues orders for housekeeping on the owner rather than the tenant.

It also clarifies you can have a lease that requires a tenant to clean when they move. You just have to bill them outside of the deposit.

Bottom line:  Personally I  never felt an across the board fee for carpet cleaning was anything more than a fee for moving out, which is probably a bad business practice even if it were legal.  Cost should be imposed on those tenants that do not leave the place reasonable well, while those that take care of the place should be treated in a manner they would rent from you again or tell their friends to do so.

Mar 09

The Journal is reporting:

Over the next three years, Barrett said raze orders in the city are expected to grow to 1,600 homes, with a cost of $24 million.  “We have a very severe problem right now,” Barrett said.

No kidding we have a “severe problem ”  This a problem that continues to grow rather than moderating.  The number of abandoned and foreclosed houses was bad nine months ago and with fresh snow on the ground you can see even a greater number of unoccupied properties than ever before. At least here on the Southside of Milwaukee these numbers are far worse than what is being reported by the city.

How much of the $24 million of anticipated razing costs could be avoided by making it more favorable to rehab properties and restore them to the tax rolls?

Perhaps the city would do better by working with, instead of against people willing to invest their own money, time and effort into putting foreclosures back in service.  I’m not even suggesting a hand up, just not the current beat down attitude. Not only would there be less spent on bulldozing, but more of the tax base would remain plus the positive economic impact for the community due to spending by owners to maintain and operate this housing.

Between taxes and the sewer and water bills the city gets  at least $5-6 million per year from 1600 functional properties. In the three year period Barrett defines this is a potential of $18 million in city revenue if the buildings were returned to occupancy. Add this to the $24 million to bulldoze and you are north of 40 million dollars.

Can every property that is deemed to be worthy of razing able to be salvaged, of course not.  But many that are in the pipeline today can be.  Every day that a property sits unattended is a day closer to the wrecking ball being the only option for that property.  There are many properties sitting vacant today that are worthy of repair, but will not be so six months or a year from now.

Additionally every time someone like you or I take on the challenge of putting properties back in service the local economy sees a benefit through the wages and materials we pay to get the job done.  All but one of my employees live in the city.  While the money you spend at the Home Depot doesn’t stay in Milwaukee,  the person who is employed by the Home Depot lives in the area and spend their wages here.

A downside for us, but an upside for the community is a greater amount of housing stock available holds rents down.  A more competative market also forces owners to do more to properties to get and keep them rented.

Once the property is back in service ongoing maintenance similarly impacts the local economy in a positive manner. It is estimated that repairs and improvements to rental properties represent $90 -120 million a year in the city of Milwaukee alone.   (These numbers are derived from our company’s experiences, the experiences of other long term owners that I’ve discussed this with and data from the Census Bureau’s Property Owners and Managers Survey.  Our data and that of many other owners indicate a slightly higher number than the Census)

Our company has the capacity and had the will to do 10-12 such projects a year without any government monies.  Heck if the environment was more favorable I could see us doing two properties a month.  We have not made an offer in MIlwaukee since November due the unfavorable policies adopted by the city. See my prior post on buying foreclosures in Milwaukee.  I talk to a lot of other owners with similar capacities that say the same thing.

Milwaukee acts like they are the only girl at the dance – as though real estate investors need to accept their petty obstructions and poor treatment because they are the only game in town.  But there are many other places to invest that treat owners much better.  One of our members is doing a big rehab in Beloit.  When I asked his project manager how it was going with the city he said they were unbelievably nice and truly seem they want to see the project succeed.  We are actively looking at the South Florida market today.

A few notes:

These 1,600 properties must be city owned or near to being city owned.  If they were bank owned the city could and would force the banks to demo the properties on the bank’s dime.  A growing trend is banks that  simply walked away from the mortgage rather than be subjected to the bad side of city regulations and fees. In another instance I spoke to an owner who the bank sued- he thought he lost the properties to foreclosure only to find out later that it was a money judgment only suit.  This adds to the zombie housing effect.  And you though only borrowers walked away.  😉

Our police chief is in the news speaking about the link between foreclosed and abandoned housing and crime.  I am certain he is correct on this.  But the Milwaukee Police do not do what they should in cases of property vandalism. See my prior post on property vandalism and the lack of police response.  This vandalism accelerate the rate of properties that are no longer viable for rehab.

Dec 23

“Going Green” is usually a positive phrase. Business that go “Green” are looked at as innovators and use this for a market advantage. It is hard to say anything bad about this type of greeness

However the way the city of Milwaukee is going grheck scares the heck out of me. .

As I drove the Southside neighborhoods finishing up our annual fall exterior surveys of our properties, I was shocked at the number of green boarded and abandoned homes and duplexes in that area. Even more than there were in spring

Continue reading »

Dec 22

Question:  If there is a  material falsification of information provided by a tenant on the  rental application, what are your options? (Granted a good screening process should have caught it).

Once you accept a tenant you must allow them to move in, even if they  materially falsified the app. This is covered under the ATCP 134:

ATCP 134.09(6) (6) FAILURE TO DELIVER POSSESSION. No landlord shall fail to deliver  possession of the dwelling unit to the tenant at the time agreed upon  in the rental agreement, except where the landlord is unable to  deliver possession because of circumstances beyond the landlord’s  control.

An interesting question would be if they lied about who they were,  i.e. gave a false name, could you refuse to let anyone but the person named on the lease to move in?

Preventing this? Hard. If you ran a credit report, that should have show other names used. A pre-acceptance home visit may have exposed the inconsistencies and extra adult.

This one bit us in the butt a few years ago. We were evicting a woman because her two adult daughters had moved in with her and were  performing prostitution in the basement of the building. We had an applicant for a different address who we accepted. One of my managers saw the woman we accepted in the waiting room and asked what she was doing her as she was the prostitute daughter of the tenant we were  evicting from Walker street.

We refused to allow the woman to take the other unit and gave her back all of her money. She got an attorney and they won the  argument in court. We were required to give her  $500 in addition to her earnest money, which we had already given back.


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