Aug 23

This past week there has been a lot of talk about bedbugs on the Apartment Association online discussion group.

Bedbugs made a resurgence after DDT was banned due to its harmful effects on the environment and humans.

Diatomaceous Earth works well and is non toxic to mammals and in fact is feed to dogs, cats and even humans in some parts of the world to rid internal parasites like tapeworms.  Therefore you don’t have to worry about toxicity to tenants.

Downsides of Diatomaceous Earth:

  • It is a bit messy – white powder in the application area.  This can be lessened by using a cattle duster or plant duster.
  • It is not a fast as chemical based or heat solutions.  The trick is to do a knock down with a pyrethrin based chemical first.  Pyrethrins are semi organic, derived from chrysanthemum plants.  They are alleged to be people and pet safe, have been in use for many decades and have little residual.  The latter is great from a toxicity concern, but not so great at keeping bugs at bay.
  • It is odorless.  Why is that a downside?  People tend to believe stinky products are more effective products.

If you are going to go the pure chemical route JT Eaton products work well and are consumer labeled.  Apply the red one and then a week later the blue.  Cyonara 9.7 is also currently effective.

[Update] Brian Peters sent me a message that reminded me that DNS has a good bedbug brochure that you can provide your tenants.

Do It Yourself Pest Control has a really good overview of how to effectively treat for bedbugs.  They often, but not always, have the best prices if you are buying in quantity.

Here is a visual overview of how to treat for bedbugs

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Aug 15

Milwaukee’s wave of violent crime has not subsided.

Yesterday (8-14-15) a unit prep crew for one of the other larger Southside owners were robbed at gun point while unloading their van at 8:30 AM.  The crime happened on 24th and Maple.

One work suffered serious injuries from being struck with an iron bar across the face. The guy has a broken lower jaw, upper jaw, nose and eye socket.

What did the thieves get from this violent attack?  $40.  They did not even steal any tools.  What was the most the criminals could have expected to get robbing a couple of apartment painters art work?  Maybe… $40.  WTF.  Who robs paint crews at 8:30 in the morning?

Two guys in a grey Hyundai were driving slowly down the street, as though they were looking for an address.  They pulled in and parked a couple of car lengths ahead of the worker’s van.  Two workers were unloading the stuff they needed to finish the prep.

One of the bad guys calmly walked up to a worker and asked him for a light for his cigarette.  The worker gets out his lighter, looks up and sees the gun.  Fixated on the gun, as you would be, he doesn’t see the other guy until he was struck in the face with the iron bar. Had the worker turned his head he could have been hit across the back of the neck.

The worker never had a chance to simply hand over his wallet. These criminals were willing to possibly kill someone for a couple of dollars.

How do you even protect yourself in a situation like this?   Even if the worker had a carry permit, there would have been no time to react between this being a stranger looking for a light and a violent attack.

Later that same day two people were shot in a robbery on 34th and Lincoln. A few days earlier and a few blocks east, a ten year old was shot in his own home as bad guys decided to shoot out in the street outside.  Things are seriously headed in the wrong direction.

I used to walk the neighborhood that are properties are located in every chance I got.  Today walking what use to be the fairly safe Southside, would be insane. We are close to eclipsing Detroit as the most depressed city in America.

May 13

Bloomberg has an article based on the U.S. Department of Labor report on how many people die at work, and why. (Click “as a percent”  and “violence or homicide” in the third chart)

As far as total number of deaths, landlords rank near the bottom, but as a percentage of those on the job deaths that are violent death, we are #4.  Still, it is more dangerous to be a cashier, which should be motivation for not taking cash in your business. At least it is at mine. 

Milwaukee has seen a couple of landlords murdered while working on their properties over the past few years.

 “Let’s be careful out there.” Sgt. Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues 1981

violent crimes against landlords

May 07

Below is this month’s President’s Column from the Apartment Association newsletter.  While Joe Dahl states his reason for stepping down modestly as “to pursue other opportunities” the truth is Joe was accepted into the Princeton PhD program where he plans to expand on what he learned as an urban landlord to study housing related issues.  It will be refreshing to see this type of study being done without the typical ‘all landlords are bad and homeownership is the only answer’ bias that so much of this work is founded upon. 

Joe’s life story so far is inspirational –  growing up on the near Southside and through pure self determination, moving beyond those roots, getting an MBA and now being accepted into a doctoral program at one of the top colleges in the nation.  I told him I want a cameo appearance when his story hits the big screen.  Joe credits his involvement with rental housing as an important part of his life and opportunities.

Joe was the most charismatic leaders of the Association in the 26 years I have been involved with the group. In that sense he will be missed.

However the Association will continue to thrive.  The incoming president, Jerry Carne, is long time landlord and a person who values action as well as understands fiscal responsibility. He will do well in this position, even if he may not look as good in a fedora as Joe. 😉

We have many other outstanding board members who continue to work hard behind the scenes.  Shari Engstrom, from Sid Grinker Restoration, has really stepped up the quality of our special events like the Trade Show, summer party and holiday parties.  Tristan Pettit remains intimately involved in the Association. Tristan and AASEW Attorney Heiner Giese work diligently to make sure laws are as favorable to our industry as possible.  Ihsan Atta is one of the sharpest and most personable people I’ve met. Carrie Maas has many connections within the industry and community.  Ralph Hibbard, from Orkin, probably has rental housing in his DNA as his family has been in real estate even before me.  Few of you probably see this, but Ralph is the real workhorse for the Association behind the scenes.  For better or for worse I tend to stick around for the AASEW, adding some continuity.   We have three newer board members who will find their stride and do well for us: Tim Dertz, Ronald Hegwood, and Brian Bartsch.  

While on a personal level I will miss Joe, from an Association’s standpoint “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” Timbuk 3

Two years ago I took the reins of the AASEW with the vision that we could grow membership and improve the industry through collective action. Supported by an outstanding board of directors I am proud of the progress we have made on both fronts. Leading the organization has been a tremendous honor and it is with a heavy heart that I must step down to pursue other opportunities. Effective June 1, 2015 board member, Jerry Carne, will become interim President.

Our organization is full of entrepreneurs, large and small, who have built businesses and improved their communities through responsible investment. As an industry with low barriers to entry it remains one of the few spaces in the economy where hard work, tenacity, and perseverance can overcome the barriers of lack of capital and connections. Ensuring this pathway to prosperity exists for others is the responsibility of all who have benefited from it.

Yet our accomplishments have not been without failure. For every landlord who responds to our call to action and joins, there are 5 who do not. Foolishly believing they can go it alone, or worse, content to free load off the structural changes we effect, this segment represents our greatest obstacle and opportunity. Their short-sightedness emboldens aggressive municipalities and inhibits are ability to resist them. Engaging them as members will be the difference between our success and failure.

Upon assuming the Presidency I promised to turn the AASEW around or run us into the ground. Maintaining the status quo was not an option and I sincerely hope our leadership carries this philosophy into the future. As an organization we must fight complacency and stagnation as aggressively as a bad laws, both are costly.

Leading the AASEW has made me a better landlord and business person and professional. It’s been integral to my success and has helped me forge a new path forward. It has been my honor to serve our members and work side by side with a group much more  talented and intelligent than myself to make Wisconsin a better place to own and manage real estate.

Thank you for the opportunity.

All the best,

Joe Dahl

Apr 30

Over on the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group an owner asks:

I’m wondering if we would be discriminating to look for one person rather than two, whether a couple or whatever…because we are both over 55 and can’t take the noise we’ve taken through the years…even between couples yelling at each other. Do we have to declare the house 55 and older and find someone over 55 for the lower?  I thought I read a post that said if you are living in the other unit in the house you can…? 

Seems like Fair Housing question month.

Is this your personal residents?  There is an exemption to the Federal Fair Housing law for owner occupied 1-4 family properties. It is called the Mrs. Murphy exemption.   The exemption does NOT apply in Wisconsin however.  

Wisconsin 106.50 

106.50  Open housing.

(1)  Intent. It is the intent of this section to render unlawful discrimination in housing. It is the declared policy of this state that all persons shall have an equal opportunity for housing regardless of sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status, status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, lawful source of income, age, or ancestry and it is the duty of the political subdivisions to assist in the orderly prevention or removal of all discrimination in housing through the powers granted under ss.66.0125 and 66.1011. The legislature hereby extends the state law governing equal housing opportunities to cover single-family residences that are owner-occupied. The legislature finds that the sale and rental of single-family residences constitute a significant portion of the housing business in this state and should be regulated. This section shall be considered an exercise of the police powers of the state for the protection of the welfare, health, peace, dignity, and human rights of the people of this state.

If you do not live in WI here is a good reference to state laws on the “Mrs. Murphy” exemption:

Even under the Federal “Mrs.Murphy” exclusion you are not permitted to advertise an otherwise discriminatory preference, so if you do not qualify under the housing for older persons exemption you could not, lets say, advertise ‘adults only’ or ‘one person only’.  If you do qualify you can advertise 55 and older.

I could not advise you on the housing for older persons question as it is not a issue that I deal with.  

My assumption is if one unit is vacant you do not meet the standard, but I may be wrong.  I would ask the Division of Equal Rights directly:

Sub (5m)(g) may offer some relief:

(g) A person may not be held personally liable for monetary damages for a violation of sub. (2)(2m) or (2r) if the person reasonably relied, in good faith, on the application of the exemption under this subsection relating to housing for older persons. For purposes of this paragraph, a person may show reasonable reliance, in good faith, on the application of the exemption under this subsection relating to housing for older persons only if the person shows all of the following:

1. That he or she has no actual knowledge that the housing is not or will not be eligible for the exemption.

2. That the owner of the housing has stated formally, in writing, that the housing complies with the requirements for the exemption.

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