Feb 22

[Thank you to Joe Murray for the research]

First, let me preface this that in general, I feel that Governor Evers has done well in the distribution of housing aid during the pandemic.

However, his proposed budget has a number of concerning provisions.  And how the heck does Wisconsin allows laws unrelated to spending to be part of a budget is well beyond me.

  • If passed, municipalities will be able to restrict how you screen, what you can charge, prohibit showing occupied units, making certain you lose a month or more between tenants, limit charging for damages, limit or prohibit security deposits and allow for rent abatement for minor issues.  
  • If passed municipalities will also be able to enact their own eviction moratoriums.
  • If passed, you will be inhibited from evicting for criminal activity. That should make other renters and neighbors feel safe — Not!  
  • If passed you can be required to disclose code violations “regardless of whether the landlord has actual knowledge of the violation

Actual details are below.  
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Local landlord-tenant ordinances

Current law prohibits political subdivisions from enacting certain ordinances relating to landlords and tenants. Political subdivisions may not do any of the following:

1. Prohibit or limit landlords from obtaining or using certain information relating to a tenant or prospective tenant, including monthly household income, occupation, rental history, credit information, court records, and social security numbers.

2. Limit how far back in time a landlord may look at a prospective tenant’s credit information, conviction record, or previous housing.

3. Prohibit or limit a landlord from entering into a rental agreement with a prospective tenant while the premises are occupied by a current tenant.

4. Prohibit or limit a landlord from showing a premises to a prospective tenant during a current tenant’s tenancy.

5. Place requirements on a landlord with respect to security deposits or earnest money or inspections that are in addition to what is required under administrative rules.

6. Limit a tenant’s responsibility for any damage to or neglect of the premises.

7. Require a landlord to provide any information to tenants or to the local government any information that is not required to be provided under federal or state law.

8. Require a residential property to be inspected except under certain circumstances.

9. Impose an occupancy or transfer of tenancy fee on a rental unit.

10. Current law also prohibits political subdivisions from regulating rent abatement in a way that permits abatement for conditions other than those that materially affect the health or safety of the tenant or that substantially affect the use and occupancy of the premises. 

The budget bill eliminates all of these prohibitions.

Local moratorium on evictions

Current law prohibits political subdivisions from imposing a moratorium on landlords from pursuing evictions actions against a tenant. 

The budget bill eliminates that prohibition.

Notification of building code violations

Under current law, before entering into a lease with or accepting any earnest money or a security deposit from a prospective tenant, a landlord must disclose to the prospective tenant any building code or housing code violations of which the landlord has actual knowledge if the violation presents a significant threat to the prospective tenant’s health or safety. The bill eliminates the condition that the landlord have actual knowledge of such a violation and that the threat to the prospective tenant’s health or safety be “significant”; under the bill, the landlord must disclose to a prospective tenant a building code or housing code violation, regardless of whether the landlord has actual knowledge of the violation, if the violation presents a threat to the prospective tenant’s health or safety.

The budget bill eliminates these provisions.

Terminating a tenancy on the basis of criminal activity

Current law allows a landlord, upon providing notice to a tenant, to terminate the tenant’s tenancy, without an opportunity to cure the tenant’s default, if the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest of the tenant 1) engages in any criminal activity that threatens the health or safety of other tenants, persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises, or the landlord; 2) engages in any criminal activity that threatens the right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other tenants or persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises; or 3) engages in any drug-related criminal activity on or near the premises. 

The budget bill eliminates these provisions.

Nov 06

Featuring: How To Navigate Eviction Moratoriums

We are excited to announce Attorney Tristan Pettit’s Landlord Boot Camp will be held on November 14th, 2020. 

Due to recent changes impacting the CDC National Eviction Moratorium, we delayed the event to include the most timely information on navigating the current Moratoriums. 

The Saturday, November 14th event will be held as a live-streamed webinar from 8:30 AM -5:00 PM with live Q & A from 5-6 PM. 

Enjoy these advantages of the new virtual format:

  • Attendees will receive a searchable PDF Boot Camp manual, making it easier to search and reference items in the future.
  • A recording will be available to attendees for 14 days after the event to re-watch portions that you want a deeper understanding of.
  • Attend the event from the comfort and safety of your home. 
  • As in prior Boot Camps, the live Q & A session is part of this event.
  • You will receive all of the same information normally presented in Landlord Boot Camp PLUS the latest information on navigating the CDC and CARES Act eviction moratoriums. 

For pricing and registration click here:  

https://aasew.org/event-4043452

www.aasew.org

Oct 30

There has been a proliferation of online services that sell fake employment and housing documentation used by tenants to pass screening when they do not have a legal source of income. (Drug dealers and prostitutes do not get pay stubs for their efforts.)

Here is one such “service” is https://paystubsnow.com/pricing/ There are dozens of similar offerings on FaceBook, some for as low as $9.

One trick the fraudsters use is selecting employers that will not verify employment, such as Waste Management, which requires people doing background checks to use https://theworknumber.com, an Equifax service that charges $41-$48 per inquiry. At that point, many property owners simply accept the pay stub as real.

I encourage people who have been a victim of this to report this to the District Attorney

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

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