Feb 05

At my company, we have tenants on bi-weekly, weekly, and alternative pay dates because I have long known the cost to us when a renter fails.

The alternative pay date can be a legal gotcha under Fair Housing. Let’s say a renter receives Social Security Disability, and their check arrives on the 3rd of the month and you have a pay before the 1st policy that has a late fee or unrealized discount after the 1st. If the renter asks you to change their due date to the 4th so that they can receive their payment and get it to you and you refuse this “reasonable accommodation” or may be in violation of Fair Housing.

Jan 24

Separate from any eviction moratorium that was applicable to lessors under the CARES Act, evictions of persons from properties securing FHA-insured Single Family mortgages, excluding actions to evict occupants of legally vacant or abandoned properties, are also suspended through March 31, 2021.

https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/OCHCO/documents/2021-03hsgml.pdf

Note this covers all tenants in HUD insured single family properties

Jan 18

President elect Joe Biden proposes a $15 minimum wage claiming it will lift 1 million people out of poverty.

Clearly, it is not possible to pay current rents working full time at the current minimum wage. That needs to be addressed. I said similarly in New York Times interviews in 1991 and 2010:

“On $673 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school and still pay your rent?” Mr. Ballering said.
($673 was the W2, WI’s welfare program, cash payment in 2010)

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/us/19evict.html

I do not think increased minimum wage is the answer though. Such programs will cause rapid inflation, leaving those making minimum wages in a similar position in a few years as they are today. A better answer is something like FoodShare for Housing, which addresses the needs without rampant inflation.

The person with some skills who is making $15 dollars an hour today is not going to accept the person with no skills making the same amount, they will demand more. Now that the former $15 an hour person is making $25, the one-time $15 an hour person will expect $40—this causing the costs of goods and services to rapidly increase.

The other factor is it will result in far less lower-paid jobs, as companies will move work overseas and automate all that can be done by a machine. But you can’t replace the hamburger flipper … oh wait, they just did. Miso Robotics Flippy robot for $30,0000 replaces 3-4 employees, produces better quality and works 100,000 hours between major servicing. 24/7 staff for 30¢ an hour, no overtime, no worker comp, no paid holidays, no calling in sick because there was a Packer Game last night…

At many fast food places, when you talk into the drive-through speaker, you are speaking to someone that is in an off-site call center. When was the last time you were at Home Depot or or the large grocery chain store that the checkout person was not you? 😉

The winners of the increased minimum wage programs will be people who own hard assets when the increase becomes law. THe more you own at the beginning of an inflationary cycle, the more you win at the end.

The biggest winners will be those with a fixed rate mortgage. Let’s say you own a $100,000 duplex with a $75k loan. Today you have $25k and 25% equity. Ten years at 7% inflation, and it is worth just shy of $200k. Now you have $125k and 62% equity, plus your principal paydown. If inflation hits 12%, you reach those numbers in 6 years.

Crazy- This will never happen. But it did. From 1973 to 1981, we saw an average of 9.25% inflation, with three years over 12%. Mortgage interest rates in 1981 were north of 18%. Interest rates were over 8% for the entire period of 1973 to 1992.

If they pass a new minimum wage, the smart answer might be to buy as much highly leveraged real estate as you can manage, unless, of course, the inflation it causes and the trillions spent on COVID relief crash the entire economy…

Jan 17

The overview of Jesse Tree is at https://www.jessetreeidaho.org/. The details of their Badge program are at https://www.jessetreeidaho.org/sign-up-for-workshops. They promote eviction prevention through rental assistance, mediation services, and working with property owners. A quote from their homepage:

It costs $1,000 on average for Jesse Tree to keep a family housed, compared to $5-10,000 for a family to find new housing after being evicted.

Evictions also result in significant costs to the property owner. TransUnion found in a 2014 study that “the true cost of an eviction can range from $3,500 up to $10,000” TransUnion infographic on eviction costs.

Between the cost incurred by the renter and the cost incurred by the property owner, as well as hidden costs incurred by the community such as the impact on MPS, evictions have a significant economic impact on the community

The Jesse Tree Badge workshops remind me of the 1990s UW-Extension “Good Neighbor/Good Tenant Program” for Milwaukee County residents.   HACM, Milwaukee County, and the City of West Allis provided the funding. It was a $52,500 County budget item in 1995. 

The UW program provided training to renters with evictions or no rental history. Renters that completed the program were given a partial move money grant. More importantly, the program had a rent guarantee for the first year of the tenancy that would pay a month of rent if the renter failed to pay. With what was in essence, two months security, owners were more likely to take a chance on a renter that would not otherwise meet screening criteria. Owners that participated had to offer certificate holders a special deal. I think most owners gave a 25/month discount if the rent was paid by the 5th.

My company was a participating owner in the Good Neighbor/Good Tenant Program. I considered the program successful.

Jan 07

There was a discussion on the free  Apartment Association listserv about application fees and move-in fees. One member told of how large management companies charge many hundreds of dollars in application and move-in fees.

In WI an owner can charge for a credit check fee up to $25 actual costs and, if the applicant is from out of state, additional actual background costs, up to $25. In WI all other application and move-in fees appear to be illegal.

WI Administrative Code ATCP 134 RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PRACTICES.

134.02 (3) “Earnest money deposit” means the total of any payments or deposits, however denominated or described, given by a prospective tenant to a landlord in return for the option of entering into a rental agreement in the future, or for having a rental agreement considered by a landlord. “Earnest money deposit” does not include a fee which a landlord charges for a credit check in compliance with s. ATCP 134.05 (3).

coupled with

134.05 (2)(b) A landlord who receives an earnest money deposit from a rental applicant shall do one of the following if the landlord enters into a rental agreement with that applicant:

1. Apply the earnest money deposit as rent or as a security deposit.

2. Return the earnest money deposit to the tenant.

makes it clear that all application and move-in fees, except credit reports and out of state background checks, are illegal in WI.

Owners that try to circumvent this with fancy wording will eventually find themselves in trouble as “any payments or deposits, however denominated or described” is extremely clear.

Dec 30

Matt Desmond author of EVICTED often claims “the rent eats first.”

However, the truth is municipal governments are first at the table for that rent check, with their ever-increasing property taxes, sewer and water bills, those extras that are attached to the water bills as well as all the special assessments added to the tax bills.

Municipal governments also are the ones who will be paid even if you don’t and even ahead of the mortgage holder.

If rents increased year over year the same 9-286% as the city taxes, there would be rioting in the streets. There are a lot of news articles where there has been outrage at modest rent increases because that is not what one expects in an economic downturn.

However, owners will have to raise rents substantially to cover these tax increases. Add to that the reduction in rent collected many owners are experiencing this year and 8-20% rent increases will be required just to maintain the financial position of last year.

When costs exceeds the property’s income, the property will eventually fail. If this happens on a widespread basis, all tenants will be harmed and face much higher rents in the future.

Dec 22


https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2020/12/22/landlords-tenants-say-rent-assistance-needed-part-eviction-ban/3932908001/

“I  don’t think a landlord should be expected to shoulder the burden of taking care of a property for several months or a year,” when a tenant stops paying rent, said Dawn Anastasi, a landlord who owns 18 properties on the northwest side of Milwaukee. “It’s not the tenant’s fault, but it’s not the landlord’s fault either.”

Even with the rent assistance, landlords will be left holding the bag for much of the unpaid rent, predicted Tim Ballering, treasurer of the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin.

“The unpaid rent will never be paid, let’s be honest about that,” Ballering said, noting that even when a tenant is evicted the landlord seldom collects the past due rent. 

As a result, Ballering, who is also a landlord, predicted a spike in the number of local landlords who sell their properties to large absentee rental companies.

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” Ballering asked. “That depends on your views. Do you think that the small American farmer being driven out by large corporate farmers is a good thing?”

Heiner Giese, attorney for the association, said the $25 billion in rent assistance will be helpful though he agreed it would likely only last a couple of months.

Giese noted that the federal bill will allow landlords to file for rent assistance, unlike other rent assistance programs that require the tenant to apply

Giese, who is also a landlord, said he has seen cases where tenants signed the required CDC declaration that protected them from eviction but then did not apply for any rent assistance.

“They would just say he’s going to evict me anyway, so screw it,” Giese said.

Dec 20

How do landlords think unemployed people will pay rent?:

…an average of 8% of renters don’t pay rent in normal times. During the coronavirus crisis to date, that share has gone up to 15 to 20% of renters not paying.

“But generally, I think we need a better approach instead of just pitting owners versus tenants,” he says. Both the tenants and landlords need some larger, holistic fix from the government that acknowledges that there just isn’t as much money flowing through the system as there should be.

Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, Moody’s Analytics warns. Last month, 9 million renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey.   

The over $70 Billion in unpaid rent, as reported by Moody’s will cripple many housing providers and will cause a housing crisis that will impact both tenants and municipalities for years, if not decades.  In May of 2020 Milwaukee property values finally recovered from the 2008 Great Recession. 

Less than 2.5% of rent judgments are paid in Milwaukee County five years after the eviction.  And eviction judgments represent only a small fraction of the unpaid rent.  In surveying owners, we see on a high end 42% of their lost rent is included in eviction judgments, with most owners reporting less than 10%.  Some owners never pursue money judgments. So the million dollars a month in eviction judgments represent somewhere between $28.5 million to $100 million a year in money that should go into housing but does not.  I peg the number at least to be $48 Million a year in lost rent in one county.  This is just insane. 

The right answer is for the government to step up to the plate and create a portable housing voucher to cover a portion, to all, of the rent /housing costs for people below a certain income, similar to food stamps.

Instead, the government pits tenants against landlords in a zero-sum game where one must lose for the other to win. In the end, this makes housing more expensive or limits choices.

This has been a problem long before COVID. In 1991 I was interviewed by the New York Times on evictions. I asked the reporter, “On $574 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school, and still pay your rent?” Nothing has changed much since then. $574 was the AFDC (now W2) payment amount. Twenty years later in an NYT interview, my comment was basically the same:

“On $673 a month, how do you buy tennis shoes for the kids, clean shirts for school and still pay your rent?” Mr. Ballering said.” 
https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/us/19evict.html 

Some suggest canceling mortgages and rents, thinking that this equivalent and will prevent the economic failure of housing.  Sadly, it will not.

The average mortgage payment is 36-39% of gross income. The average owner earns 7-9% of gross income for their investment of capital, financial risks, and physical efforts.  If you stop mortgage and rent payments, as well as prevent owners from being paid for their investment and efforts, there is still 52-57% of gross rent that is needed to cover other operating costs such as sewer, water, property taxes, maintenance, insurance, etc.

In Milwaukee, for most properties, the City takes a far bigger cut of the rent in property taxes, and sewer/water bills, than the owner gets to keep.

If you read the Brookings report, you will see this plus the “local economic multiplier” effect of wages and other monies expended by owners.

The Census Bureau reported in 2018 that, on average, every unit generates almost $1,200 in wages. Those wages, the property tax money, etc, circulate throughout the community many times over.

Here’s what scholars believe will happen if there is a moratorium without rental assistance; https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3641859 It goes into the economic impact on housing and the cost borne by other current and future tenants. It is an informative read.

Dec 19

I am hearing from more and more owners who are not paying their mortgages, utilities, and even fire insurance because they can’t, due to uncollected rent.  Maintenance was the first casualty.  

If you are facing similar problems and would be willing to share with your elected officials and or the media, please email me. Tim[at]ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/17/success/landlords-struggling-rent-eviction/index.html

If landlords are struggling, tenants will also be affected as home maintenance slides.

“I’m seeing landlords who can’t pay for trash removal,” Gray said. “We’re getting ‘no heat’ calls. They aren’t paying real estate taxes. They aren’t paying their mortgage.”

For the typical landlord in trouble, which he said is someone who bought their property in the last five years and is leveraged to the hilt, there are no reserves. “Despite tenant protection laws, these landlords don’t have the cash reserves, nor the equity in their building to get loans,” he said. “With the moratoriums, they’re taking hit after hit.”

Some landlords, he said, are being paid less and seeing the wear and tear on their property increase as grown children or friends double up after losing their own housing. Routine maintenance that was supposed to take place this year has in some cases been delayed or canceled because landlords just don’t have the money, said Gray.

“They can legislate the need to do timely repairs,” he said. “But for many landlords, there is no money.”

Dec 13

The Apartment Association of Southeastern WI, with 24 other organizations, joined Milwaukee County Exec David Crowley in urging the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation to approve a meaningful relief package to ensure the viability of communities and housing.  

Moody’s was reporting last week that unpaid rent may reach $69.9 Billion by the end of this month, an amount that will devastate rental housing for years or decades. The only solution is Federal rental and economic assistance to help those who have lost their income due to the COVID economic crises. 

If after reading the letter included below, you agree with it, please write your Congressperson and Senator. It is easy using democracy.io


WISCONSIN COALITION SUPPORTS IMMEDIATE COVID RELIEF

December 9, 2020

Dear Members of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation,

We write today to ask for your support in securing bi-partisan legislation that provides critical additional assistance to communities throughout our state, including local and tribal governments, businesses, non-profits, and first responders to address the ongoing public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We sincerely appreciate the previous three relief measures enacted by Congress and executive action by the President, However, the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic continue to grow. As a result, an immediate and unified response that provides additional support is critical to supporting efforts to contain the virus and mitigate the consequences of this unprecedented crisis.

As members of a diverse coalition of leaders in our state, we can attest to the severe economic and public health impacts facing our members, economies, and the communities we support. Without additional federal financial support, the immediate negative consequences will be significant, and will be compounded by severe long-lasting effects. Additional federal aid will enable a continued joint response from the public and private sector, and supporting partnerships between local governments, businesses, and their communities to mitigate the economic, health, and public safety impacts of COVID-19.

For example, Milwaukee County recognized the value of these partnerships early in the pandemic. In addition to direct virus mitigation and recovery measures, the County partnered with businesses and non-profits to address the collateral damage inflicted by the pandemic, especially to communities of color. This partnership resulted in Milwaukee County utilizing roughly one-third of its direct CARES Act allocation to immediately address housing and foreclosure needs, issue small businesses grants, and partner with community groups to address mental health and food assistance needs.

This unprecedented situation requires action at scale with the problem. Addressing the issue now with bold solutions will prevent larger systemic economic damage. To enhance the fiscal responsibility of this legislation, reasonable guardrails could require COVID-19 relief dollars be tied to the public health, economic, and community impacts of COVID-19, ensuring resources are utilized in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

As evidenced by the diversity of the groups who have signed on to this letter, the effect of delaying further relief will have second- and third-level impacts on business, property owners, and a multitude of other industries throughout the state.

We sincerely appreciate your earlier efforts to assist our communities in addressing this crisis. However, we request further action – a bi-partisan solution that provides additional resources to address the public health and economic impacts of this pandemic. Our businesses, employees, and communities depend on the continued support of our federal government in these trying times.

Respectfully,

Apartment Association of South-Central Wisconsin, Inc.
Apartment Association of South Eastern Wisconsin, Inc.
Children’s Wisconsin – Milwaukee Hospital
Commercial Association of REALTORS Wisconsin
Community Advocates, Inc.
Cooperative Network
David Lubar
Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin
Greater Milwaukee Committee
Manpower Group
League of Municipalities
Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee
Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
Milwaukee County Commission on Aging
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley
NAIOP Wisconsin
Potawatomi Tribe
Visit Milwaukee
Wisconsin Apartment Association
Wisconsin Bankers Association
Wisconsin Counties Association
Wisconsin Credit Union League
Wisconsin Mortgage Bankers Association
Wisconsin REALTORS Association
Wisconsin Restaurant Association

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