Dec 12

SB 179 was signed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker today and is now Wisconsin 2013 ACT 76.

The legislation affects evictions, towing, municipal ordinances, responsibility for bed bugs and other insects.  Most importantly it allows for crime free lease addendums. I believe that the effective date for most of the statute is March 1st.

We will need to modify our leases to comply with or receive the advantage of some of the provisions.

Nov 13

Many of you, okay a few of you as CBS 58′s news ratings have been in the toilet for years, saw last night’s broadcast on landlord tenant issues.

There were many factual errors in this news report that could cause you harm as a landlord if you blindly believed CBS 58.

  1. SB 179 is not law today.  It will not become law until probably February first.  So if you begin implementing provisions contained in SB 179 today, you may be in trouble.  I would however encourage all of you to put the domestic violence disclosures in your leases today, as those provision have been law for a number of years.
  2. The newscast made it sound as though WI law allows a tenant to use “Self Help” i.e. pay for a repair and deduct it from the rent.  Then the reporter confused this further by using the term “Rent Abatement”  to describe what the tenant had done.In Wisconsin tenants cannot hire someone and take the cost out of their rent unless you as the landlord explicitly agrees to allow them to do so. Tenants that follow the erroneous information contained in the newscast may find themselves receiving an eviction summons for nonpayment of rent, just as the tenant in the newscast did.

    “Rent Abatement”  is a completely different situation.  It only applies to conditions that materially affecting the health or safety of the tenant. This law does not permit rent to be withheld in full.

  3. The reporter shows mold around the base of the tub surround and implies this is the landlord’s fault due to a toilet problem.  I’m unsure of the connection.  Usually a toilet moisture problem appears in the unit below or the basement.  It really seems to be much more a housekeeping issue.  My own tub would look like that too if I did not hit it with Clorox spray and a sponge every other week.  Whoops, cats out of the bag. My wife makes me help with the cleaning.  ;-)
  4. The newscast states the new law reduces a landlords’ duty to disclose housing code violations.  Nothing in this respect was changed by the law, so your requirements are the same after this becomes law as it is today.
  5. The reporter attempts to imply a porch collapse a few months ago at a property on 24th and National was the result of tenants being afraid to report a condition that required a repair.  The truth is the person seriously injured was a worker hired by the owner to make repairs to the porch.
  6. The reporter more or less attacked Representative Strobel for sponsoring SB 179.  However Mr. Stroble really hit the mark when he pointed out the most important part of the bill is that once again we can have leases that prohibit criminal activity at our properties.
  7. As my good friend Bill said:

    “This thread and this story, underline the need for the AASEW as industry leaders to put out their own stories and press releases.  We need to publicly respond to this kind of crappy reporting.  We are easy targets until we do.

    While we might not win the PR battle, we have to resist the bulldozer!”

    I agree with Bill except I probably may have ended the last sentence with a stronger word other than “dozer”

  8.  There appears to be more to the story between the tenant and the landlord than the newscast reveals.  Below is a thorough analysis  by one of the Apartment Association  members.


    A review of the tenant’s CCAP record shows that she lived at 6115 s 13th street just before the landlord of her eviction address ( 2007-09 W Scott) bought the Scott st property. The record revealing this is an unemployment repayment warrant from around 2011. TV 58 reported Conrad  to be the landlord of the Scott  st property, but the actual owner is Southview Properties.

    Conrad may or may not be the actual landlord. He is the registered agent according to MKE property recording records.

    Guess where the Registered agent, Conrad ,  lives.

    6115 S 13th. Same bldg that the tenant lived in until she moved to the Scott st property.

    So, there is clearly a long history between this tenant and this landlord/registered agent and the tenant is attempting to exercise some vendetta by going to TV 58 and telling maybe 5% of the truth.

    But of course, TV 58 bought it all, hook line and sinker.

    I guess Snarlin Marlin was right, I shouldn’t be allowed on CCAP.  I might just find out the truth…

 

 

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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 19

SB179 that passed last week requires language in your leases regarding protections under the law to victims of Domestic Violence.  While the law is not yet in effect, there is really no good reason not to include the language now.  Here is the required language:

NOTICE OF DOMESTIC ABUSE PROTECTIONS

(1) As provided in section 106.50 (5m) (dm) of the Wisconsin statutes, a tenant has a defense to an eviction action if the tenant can prove that the landlord knew, or should have known, the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking and that the eviction action is based on conduct related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking committed by either of the following:

(a) A person who was not the tenant’s invited guest.

(b) A person who was the tenant’s invited guest, but the tenant has done either of the following:

1. Sought an injunction barring the person from the premises.

2. Provided a written statement to the landlord stating that the person will no longer be an invited guest of the tenant and the tenant has not subsequently invited the person to be the tenant’s guest.

(2) A tenant who is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking may have the right to terminate the rental agreement in certain limited situations, as provided in section 704.16 of the Wisconsin statutes. If the tenant has safety concerns, the tenant should contact a local victim service provider or law enforcement agency.

(3) A tenant is advised that this notice is only a summary of the tenant’s rights and the specific language of the statutes governs in all instances.

You will also need to update your disposal of property language to include the new language on stuff left behind after an eviction, but that can wait until this law is in effect.

Oct 16

Late yesterday the Wisconsin Senate approved an Assembly amendment to SB 179.  This law, which should be in effect around the first of 2014, makes sweeping changes to Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law.   The bill was a combined effort of the Apartment Association of Southwestern WI, The Wisconsin Realtors and the Wisconsin Apartment Association.

The Legislative Council Memo on SB 179 puts the changes in fairly layman terms. AASEW past president Attorney Tristan Pettit worked extensively on the bill.  He will be providing information on the changes at the AASEW Fall 2013 Landlord Boot Camp.

Highlights of the bill taken from the Leg Council Memo are, and this is my analysis of what is important and not a legal opinion by an attorney because as you know I am Just A Landlord:

Restrictions on Local Ordinances [Sections 1 to 4]

Municipalities are currently prohibited from enacting or enforcing ordinances that:

  • Imposing a moratorium on eviction actions
  • Places certain limitations on what information a landlord may obtain and use for screening.

New law adds prohibitions against ordinances that:

  • Limits a tenant’s responsibility, or a landlord’s right to recover, for any damage or waste to, or neglect of, the premises that occurs during the tenant’s occupancy of the premises.
  • Limits a tenant’s responsibility or a landlord’s right to recover for any other costs, expenses, fees, payments, or damages for which the tenant is responsible under the rental agreement or applicable law.
  • Requires a landlord to communicate to the municipality any information concerning the landlord or tenants unless the information is required under federal or state law or is required of all residential real property owners.

Leases [Section 18]

Under current law, if a lease is void and unenforceable if it contains a provision that allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant if a crime is committed in or on the rental property, even if the tenant could not reasonably have prevented the crime.  [s. 704.44 (9), Stats.]

The new law allows for Crime Free Lease Addendums as long as you include  a specified notice, in the lease agreement or an addendum to the lease agreement, of certain domestic abuse protections available under ss. 106.50 (5m) (dm) and 704.16, Stats.  The first of these sections prohibits a landlord from evicting a tenant because of the tenant’s status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.  The second of these sections provides that a residential tenant may terminate his or her tenancy if the tenant or a child of the tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if the tenant remains on the premise

 

Timing of return of Security Deposit with regard to evictions [Sections 15 and 16]

Under current law, if a tenant is evicted, a landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant, less any amounts that are appropriately withheld, within 21 days after the date on which the writ of restitution is executed or the date on which the landlord learns that the tenant has vacated the premises, whichever occurs first.  [s. 704.28 (4) (d), Stats.]

Under Senate Bill 179, If the tenant is evicted before that date, the landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days after the lease terminates or, if the landlord re-rents the premises before that day, the date on which the new tenant’s tenancy begins.  If the tenant is evicted after the termination date, the landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days after the date on which the landlord learns that the tenant has vacated the premises or the date the tenant is removed by eviction.

Service of Summons in Eviction Action [Section 22]

Allows courts to permit service of eviction summons by Certified Mail.  This will be on a county by county basis.

 

Allows LLC to appear by member or agent, rather than requiring attorneys [Section 21]

Under current law, in any small claims action, a property owned by an LLC must use an attorney or full time employee of the LLC

Senate Bill 179 eliminates the requirement that the employee be a full-time employee and also allows any small claims action by a member of the person, an agent of the member or an authorized employee of the agent.  This provision applies to all small claims actions, not only evictions.

Disposition of Property Left on Rental Premises After Eviction [Sections 9, 10 and 29 to 46]

Under current law, in Milwaukee County, the sheriff must remove and store the tenants’ property. In all other counties, the landlord may choose to be responsible for the removal and storage of the property.

Under Senate Bill 179, if a tenant is evicted and leaves property on the rental premises, the landlord is not required to store the property unless the landlord and tenant have entered into a written agreement which provides otherwise.  If the landlord does not intend to store personal property left behind by a tenant, the landlord must provide written notice either when the tenant enters into or renews the rental agreement. If this notice is provided, the landlord may dispose of the property, other than prescription medicine or medical equipment, in any manner that the landlord determines is appropriate.

Towing of Vehicles [Sections 5 to 8]

Under current law, a vehicle that is parked on a private parking lot or facility without the permission of the property owner may not be removed without the permission of the vehicle owner, unless a traffic or police officer issues a citation for illegal parking, or a repossession judgment is issued.

Under Senate Bill 179, a vehicle that is parked without authorization on private property that is properly posted may be towed immediately regardless of whether a parking citation is issued.

This final one is the most complex of the changes and requires some Administrative rules to be created.

There is also a change regarding Mobile Home Parks, but I am not impacted and therefore did not review them.

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