Apr 30

Feeling wealthy. I made more money yesterday, in one day than any previous full year. In fact, more than the previous few years combined. How you ask? I simply read my City of Milwaukee tax assessment letters.

Oh, wait… What are you saying? That means I’ll have less money come December?

They should hold the city government elections two weeks after assessments, not two weeks prior!

Kidding aside, this is a real PR blunder on the part of the city with so many folks fearing that they’ll lose their homes and properties due to the economic impact of the COVID shutdown.

(Note: An increase in assessments does not actually mean an increase in tax payments. Nor does it mean the value of the property actually went up)

Apr 30


Apr 29

What is missing from the MN tenant advocates’ demands below is the cost of operating rental housing includes far more than mortgage expenses.  There are taxes, which are mention, but not asked to be forgiven by the tenant groups, insurance, maintenance, management costs, utilities

I’m sure most of the proponents of this are still expecting to still be able to take a warm shower, which is not possible it the owner can’t pay water and utilities as well as other “luxuries” like having the trash emptied weekly, the sidewalks shoveled, the lawns mowed, to have someone answer their calls, and have someone repair what breaks, etc.

In many cases the mortgage cost is less than half of the operating costs.

And why are property taxes the sacred cow? If governments are supporting the nonpayment of rent, then they should also support not receiving property tax and other payments such as sewer, water, municipal electricity, garbage pick up fees, etc.  Tenants and municipalities alike should not expect properties to be maintained or improved if they sanction rent abatement.

The world is changing.  If we are not at the forefront of these changes, many folks in our industry will be bankrupted.  

While today’s tenants benefit from such actions in the short term, they and future tenants will pay a large price in the unavailability of housing and the higher costs of what is available as seen in the years post-2008.

Subject: Letter to residential landlord

Some tenants organizations in Minnesota prepared the following letter for their members to send to their landlords.

I think you might enjoy reading it. Dale
Dale A. Whitman Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Missouri

To Whom It May Concern:

We hope you are all staying healthy during this time. We are reaching out regarding our rent for the upcoming months. A State of Emergency has been declared in the United States of America and the State of Minnesota due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a household, we have lost income due to forced work closure, reduced hours, and insufficient or unavailable unemployment insurance.

We are emailing you to inform you that though we had been able to pay rent on April 1st due to careful planning, we will be unable to pay rent on May 1st. Until we are able to leave our home and return to our jobs, which is impossible under the stay at home order, we are all holding on by the skin of our teeth. In addition, we are unable to accrue the May rent as a debt. Due to our inability to work, we are all facing limited resources and increased financial instability for the time being. We love this house, and we’ve enjoyed being your tenants. We would like to continue living here long term.

We understand that our ability to pay rent will affect your ability to cover your expenses as well; likely, our rent at least covers the mortgage payment and taxes on this house. Having a stable home is a critical part of the healthcare infrastructure that protects us all from illness. It is our collective responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 during this time of emergency, in order to keep ourselves and our communities safe.

We believe that mortgage and rent moratoriums at the state or national level are real possibilities at this moment, and we hope that our government steps in to support you and us, but again: we cannot take on this rent as debt. We need a rent freeze, and we support you in seeking a freeze on your mortgage. Some people in our networks are already receiving this support from their landlords.

The social and economic effects of the global pandemic are predicted to last over a year. We encourage you to join us in contacting elected officials to call for an immediate Universal Suspension of Mortgage and Rent Payments.

Representative Ilhan Omar (612) xxx-xxxx
Governor Tim Walz (651) xxx-xxxx
Senator Tina Smith (651) xxx-xxxx
Senator Amy Klobuchar (202) xxx-xxxx

This is a very stressful and uncertain time, and we are all trying to do our best to stay healthy and afloat. Thank you for your support and understanding,

Tenant names removed

Apr 28

WI DATCP: Emergency Rule 2002 Rule, prohibition on late fees.


This emergency rule modifies Wis. Admin. Code ch. ATCP 134 to create a temporary prohibition on charging late rent fees or late rent penalties for any missed rent payment or any late rent payment during the current public health emergency and during the 90 days following the public health emergency.

There are questions as to what happens to April late fees that are charged but not collected, as they were incurred during the emergency declaration

A better question is, not if you can legally go after April’s late fees, but should you? I urge landlords not to charge late fees at this time, law or no law. 

Most landlords are not charging late fees, so this will have little impact, other than the length of time after the crises is over.

My way of thinking about this – if the tenant ultimately catches up on the base rent, I consider it a better than the anticipated outcome.  If they leave, owing rent, then you would not have collected the late fee anyways.

There is a mandatory 45 day comment period.  You can also  (politely) comment at:https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/feedback/agencyform?cite=EmergencyRules/EmR2002
Please do not make comments that feed into the negative stereotype of landlords


The Wisconsin rules on emergency rules:

Emergency Rules
As noted, certain requirements that apply to permanent rules also apply to emergency rules, including the requirement for gubernatorial approval of the scope statement and of the final draft rule.

Once the Governor has approved a final draft emergency rule in writing, the agency may publish the rule in the official state newspaper, at which time the rule takes effect, unless the rule specifies another effective date.

The agency must also file a certified copy of the rule with the LRB in order for the rule to be valid. On the day an agency files an emergency rule with the LRB that may have an economic impact on small business, the agency must also submit the rule to the SBRRB. Just as for proposed permanent rules, the SBRRB must determine whether the emergency rule will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small businesses. If it determines that the rule will have such an impact, the board may submit suggested changes to the agency to minimize the economic impact of the rule.

An agency must hold a public hearing on an emergency rule within 45 days after the adoption of the rule. An emergency rule remains in effect only for 150 days, unless JCRAR grants an extension for up to an additional 60 days. The total period for all extensions granted may not exceed 120 days.
[s. 227.24, Stats.]

The Small Business analysis is at: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/register/2020/772B/register/emr/emr2002_rule_text/emr2002_initial_regulatory_flexibility_analysis

Apr 21

The Minnesota congresswoman’s proposal to cancel rents and mortgages during the coronavirus pandemic is both wildly impractical and constitutionally dubious.

And this is why we need to work together as an industry.

Small landlords are often independent and segmented, allowing us ot fall victim to these things.

What can you do? Join a real estate investor group, in fact join a few of them.

Apr 19

There are a lot of articles predicting that many companies will continue the work from home experiment long after Corona is under control. Here’s three of the more interesting ones:

I was predicting in 2017-2019 BC (Before Corona) that commercial space, other than warehousing, manufacturing or social engagement, was a risky investment. Corona simply accelerated the move to remote business.  My daughter has worked from home for AT&T for probably close to ten years,

If this was s 70s pandemic remote work would not have occurred, nor the shut down. We did not have a capacity for it. And we would be talking about it on a Party line Yea, it was a real thing when I was a kid. 

I was having a conversation with a friend about this. He asked “Are there any other sectors that will (May) win you’re thinking about?”

My reply (edited to make it more readable)

There is only one in R.E.  Residential.  You can’t sleep in a virtual bed, in a virtual house.  You can’t work from home, without a home.  While many business properties can be replaced with virtual assets, a house cannot.

The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.

Warren Bennis ( ~ 1989)

Boil it down to the essential.  To live you need air, water, food, shelter, clothing, companionship and … the internet. 😉  

Provide any of those and you will both survive and be very well regulated by the government.  And of course entertainment.  Without entertainment and engagement, why live?   Entertainment is music, travel, hiking, bars, boats, reading, TV… and a huge amount of other things,  People often would rather spend on entertaining themselves than the “necessities” making that more of a necessity than the necessities. 

Air is freely available.  If it isn’t, nothing else matters. Water is a municipal service, a well, or a river.  Food can be delivered from unmanned warehouses via internet orders.  Today I get my food from InstaCart and have not been inside a store since 3/18  Clothing can be purchased online. Companionship can be provided in Zoom meetings, online chats, video church, FaceTime, etc. 

This pretty much shelter and entertainment. Entertainment has changed as people are hesitant to go to the movies, restaurants, and not so much bars and casinos.  We watched the new release of Trolls this past weekend on TV for $20.  Going to a movie theater would have cost twice as much, used twice as much time, and exposed us to an infinite amount of unknown germs. Remember back when you were young, unattached and looking for a mate?  That will exist for as long as humans do.   It will be the driving force behind social gatherings, bars etc., well into the years A.D. (After Disease)

Shelter though is not replaceable. It may change form, and ownership models, but it remains a basic need.

People want their own space.  Even at home, I’m sure you want your own space, be that a desk, a lazy boy recliner or the left side of the couch. This is regardless of how much you like/love your spouse, offspring and or roommates.  We are by nature both communal and territorial. 

So if I vote for one, it is shelter, followed closely by entertainment and social venues But entertainment and similar venues are risky as they will be the first to be closed when the virus strikes.

So those of us in residential are lucky. But we need to survive the next six to 24 months.*

*Modeling study suggests 18 months of COVID-19 social distancing, much disruption.

Opportunities will abound for those that see opportunities. Failure will abound for those who see only failure. 

Apr 18

Make sure you have only one person at each job site.

In the case of emergency work in occupied units that requires more than one person, be sure to document the need. Error on the side of one person only. Mask and gloves are a good idea for the protection of staff and tenants

Below is the relevant part of the Governor’s order:

Individuals may leave their homes or residences only for the following functions as are defined in this Order:
a. Essential Activities (defined in section 11);
b. Essential Governmental Functions (defined in section 12);
c. To operate Essential Businesses and Operations (defined 1n section 13);
d. To perform non-essential Minimum Basic Operations (defined in section 14);

Section 3. Prohibited activities. All public and private gatherings of any number of people that are not part of a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes expressly permitted in this Order. Nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members of a single household or living unit. Landlords or rental property managers shall avoid entering leased residential premises unless emergency maintenance is required.

Section 10. Essential Infrastructure. For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to offer, provide, operate, maintain, and repair Essential Infrastructure.

Essential Infrastructure includes, but is not limited to: food production, distribution, fulfillment centers, storage facilities, marinas, and sales; construction (including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long-term care and assisted living facilities, public works construction, school construction, Essential Business and Operations construction, construction necessary for Essential Governmental Functions, and housing construction, except that optional or aesthetic construction should be avoided except as permitted as a Minimum Basic Operation); building management and maintenance; …

Section 13. Essential Businesses and Operations. For the purposes of this Order, Essential Businesses and Operations means Healthcare and Public Health Operations, Human Services Operations, Essential Infrastructure, and Essential Governmental Functions, and the following:…

m. Hardware and supplies stores. Hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, heating, and construction material.

n. Critical trades. Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, and other trades including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, carpenters, laborers, sheet metal, iron workers, masonry, pipe trades, fabricators, finishers, exterminators, pesticide application, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, forestry and arborists, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, and Essential Businesses and Operations….

Section 14. Minimum Basic Operations. For the purposes of this Order, Minimum Basic Operations include the following, provided that employees comply with Social Distancing Requirements, to the extent possible, while carrying out such operations:…

g. Aesthetic or optional exterior work. Minimum Basic Operations may include aesthetic or optional exterior residential construction and lawn care, if all the operations are performed by one person in a room or confined space, including a car or truck. No more than one employee or worker may be on the site at a time. Services may not require a signature by the recipient. Aesthetic or optional exterior work requiring more than one person on the site are prohibited.

Apr 17

I have a number of people ask me about the prior post stating there is an eviction moratorium for Section 8 Voucher recipients. Below is the analysis from the Congressional Research Service.


Eviction and Rental Payment Protections

CARES Act Section 4024(b) prohibits landlords of certain rental “covered dwellings” from initiating eviction proceedings or “charg[ing] fees, penalties, or other charges” against a tenant for the nonpayment of rent. These protections extend for 120 days from enactment (March 27, 2020).

Section 4024(c) requires landlords of the same properties to provide tenants at least 30 days-notice before they must vacate the property. It also bars those landlords from issuing a notice to vacate during the 120- day period. In contrast to the eviction and late fee protections of Section 4024(b), which are expressly limited to nonpayment, Section 4024(c) does not expressly tie the notice to vacate requirement to a particular cause. Thus, Section 4024(c) arguably prohibits landlords from being able to force a tenant to vacate a covered dwelling for nonpayment or any other reason until August 23, 2020 (i.e., 120 days after enactment, plus 30 days after notice is provided).

Section 4024(b)’s and (c)’s protections, however, do not absolve tenants of their legal responsibilities to pay rent. Tenants who do not pay rent during the eviction grace period may still face financial and legal liabilities, including eviction, after the moratorium ends.

What properties does the CARES Act protect?

The CARES Act’s eviction protections only apply to “covered dwellings,” which are rental units in properties: (1) that participate in federal assistance programs, (2) are subject to a “federally backed mortgage loan,” or (3) are subject to a “federally backed multifamily mortgage loan.”

Covered federal assistance programs include most rental assistance and housing grant programs, including public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, rural housing programs, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.

A “federally backed mortgage loan” is a single-family (1-4 units) residential mortgage owned or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or insured, guaranteed, or otherwise assisted by the federal government. The term includes mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Agriculture’s direct and guaranteed loans. The act defines a “federally backed multifamily mortgage loan” almost identically to “federally backed mortgage loan” except that it applies to properties designed for five or more families.

Researchers estimate that roughly 12.3 million rental units have federally backed financing, representing 28% of renters.

Apr 17

In a funny/sad story, strippers are pushing as hard or harder for member benefits as our industry:

Strip clubs and lobbyists sue for stimulus dollars  – CNN

Apr 16

The CARES Act includes a 120-day moratorium on evictions, late fees and other penalties for properties with federally backed mortgages (Freddie Mac/ Fannie Mae/ FHA /VA / HUD), beginning March 27th.

These prohibitions also extend to tenants receiving Section 8 vouchers.

Owners of properties with the government backed mortgages or tenants on rent assist are prohibited from serving eviction notices or filing evictions until July 25th. The law also requires a 30 day notice to evict, effectively not allowing evictions until August 24th.

This does not apply to tenants that are not receiving rent assist or living in a federally mortgaged property.

That said we are not charging late fees during this unprecedented time and urge other owners to do the same, because it its the right thing.

In WI you cannot evict or give notice for nonpayment to any tenant until 5/27/2020. The rent is, however, still due.

I will argue that it is in not only the tenants’, but also your best interest to work on payment plans for tenants who fell behind because of loss of income when you factor in the costs of unit turns.

Try mediation if you are having trouble working out a reasonable repayment plan. Maybe try meditation too. 🤔

We posted a bunch of resources to help tenants get through this at: https://apartmentsmilwaukee.com/r/

You can copy the page content into an email to your tenants, and edit out our contact info.

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