The Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin (AASEW) is comprised of nearly 600 involved and active rental property owners in southeastern Wisconsin.
In addition to providing members with the educational support needed in today’s market, the Association is active in representing the legislative concerns of it members before state and local governmental bodies.
The Association’s goal is to work with owners, renters and the community to to create an environment that owners can succeed while providing safe, affordable housing.
The Association’s monthly meetings and events are great place to meet other owners, industry leaders and preferred vendors.
Since 1975 the Association has been at the forefront of state decision-making on legislative policies that impact rental housing, advocating for both the good landlord and the good tenant.
The Association was founded to oppose a proposed state law that would have allowed tenants to do “self-help” repairs and take the costs off the rent.
Below is a brief outline of some of the Association’s legislative efforts. For more detailed information on these laws attend our general meetings or consider attending one of Attorney Tristan Pettit’s AASEW Landlord Boot Camp.
We were instrumental in three major revisions to WI Landlord Tenant Law in four years. Act 176 became law March 2nd, 2016, Act 76 effective 3/1/14 and ACT 143 Effective 3/31/12. Some of the highlights of the new laws:
- The requirements to use an attorney in eviction actions for properties owned by an LLC was removed. Now a member or agent/employee can do the eviction.
- Courts are now required to hear evictions sooner and hear contested cases within 30 Days (Evictions only, not rent or damages)
- You can now accept payment from a tenant in eviction and not lose the case because of this.
- You are no longer required to use a mover and Sheriff. I recommend most owners still do however as these can become both contentious and litigious events.
- Easier termination of a tenancy for criminal activity. Drug dealing is one of the crimes you can evict for, but simple possession or use of drugs is not. Keep in mind that the Wisconsin protections for domestic abuse victims remain in place. As part of the latter we got a provision that prevents municipalities from including DV incidents in nuisance complaints.
- We finally have the ability to use 5 Day notices for breaches of a rental contract. Now when the tenant shows up with a pit bull you can respond with a 5 Day instead of a 14 Day. An advantage to the tenant is they can correct their mistake and not lose their home.
- It is much easier to have illegally parked cars removed from your property.
- The rights of landlord to dispose of property left behind has been clarified, including property left behind in an eviction if you have the proper lease language. You still must store medicine / medical devices.
- Tenants are now responsible for paying for infestations of pests caused by them or allowing them to flourish due to poor housekeeping.
- Landlords no longer have to fill out check-in sheets, they need only give tenants one to fill in themselves which must be turned in within seven days.
- You must now include a section in your rental agreement about protections for domestic abuse victims. As part of this municipalities may not include DV incidents in their nuisance laws.
- The requirements for nonstandard provisions were clarified.
- Security deposit return law has been clarified to 21 days after the sooner of re-renting the unit or lease end.
- Double damages are now only for security deposit issues or illegal lease clauses.
- Defective leases: Where only a portion of the lease is unenforceable then only that portion is invalid and not the whole lease with some exceptions for illegal lease provisions.
- Clarified that a holdover tenant owes double rent.
Changes that hold local government more in check
- Prohibits rental property inspections except upon a complaint or as part of a program of regularly scheduled inspections conducted in compliance with state or federal law. Think fire inspections.
- Dramatically changes “Reinspection Fee” by limiting the the escalating fee scheme as well as allowing fees only when there was an actual, physical inspection of the property. Previously these fees doubled every 30 Days until they were six times the original fee, plus often there was no actual inspection associated with the fee. This is important since many of the abandoned and foreclosed homes in my neighborhoods appear to have ended up in that state in part due to fees imposed by Milwaukee. The fees imposed upon these properties also made it harder for someone to come in, buy the property and put it back in service.
- Prohibits rental property certification or licensing schemes unless the requirement applies uniformly to all residential rental property owners, including owners of owner-occupied rental property.
The law still allows for programs such as Milwaukee’s Property Recording Ordinance, but most likely they will no longer be able to charge a fee.
- Prohibits an occupancy or transfer of tenancy fee on a rental unit.
- Prohibits municipal ordinances that restrict a tenant’s responsibility or a landlord’s right to recover for damages, waste to or neglect of the premises, or for any other costs, expenses, fees, payments, or damages for which the tenant is responsible under the lease or state laws.
- Prohibits ordinances requiring a landlord to provide tenants any information that is not required to be provided under federal or state laws. There is an exception for ordinances that have a “reasonable and defined objective of regulating the manufacturing of illegal narcotics.”
- Prohibits ordinances requiring a landlord to provide any information to the municipality about the tenant or landlord unless it is required by federal or state law except contact info for the owner or agent.
- Cities and counties cannot pass or enforce eviction moratoriums. (All of us old timers remember the Milwaukee Christmas eviction moratorium that typically ran from December 10th to Jan 3).
Time of Sale protections
- The bill prohibits local regulations from interfering with respect to taking title to or occupancy of property.
- The new law also changes regulations with regard to sprinklers, historical buildings, trespass and towing.
But, we’ve been around and active a lot longer than the past four years.
- In the 1990s the Association worked towards reasonable lead paint laws at both state and local levels. The original drafts of state proposals would have required the removal of all painted surfaces below five feet in all pre 1950 rental homes. This would have decimated both our industry and property values. We were able to defeat this portion of the bill, while at the same time legislatively overturning a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling that made owners negligent per se for lead hazards – remember that just two decades earlier the government not only allowed lead paint, but required it for some government funded housing.
- Working with the Milwaukee Health Department we were able to deflect an onerous proposed ordinance and replaced it with an effective subsidized window replacement program that many members have successfully used.
Rental licensing and recording
- When rental recording was proposed the city wanted $100 per unit per year in fees. We successfully organized our membership in one of our hardest fought battles. In the end there was no fee for units you already owned and a minimal one-time fee for newly purchased properties.
- This fight continued when the city proposed and passed an onerous real estate licensing program. The Association funded litigation to end the program. We were ultimately unsuccessful in that attempt. We followed up with state legislation that made such laws difficult.
Working with local government and community groups
We have also worked with local governments to pass laws that improve the community as well as worked closely with community groups.
- Advocated for Legislation Making Graffiti a Crime, which Governor Thompson signed into law. On Milwaukee’s Southside this legislation already has had a major impact on the graffiti problem that demoralized residents and devalues neighborhoods
- Criminal Gang Law – Intended to allow for faster eviction for gang members.
- Supported the 5-Day Drug Eviction – and continue working to improve programs aimed at making neighborhoods safer.
- Worked with WHEDA to create a state loan program for improvements and repairs to rental housing in neighborhoods were such financing is typically difficult to obtain.
- Worked with government agencies, community groups and private industry leaders on a Rental Housing Task Force to address issues such as the impact of W-2 and other programs aimed at helping stabilize low-income neighborhoods.
- We, in cooperation with WE Energies, developed an occupant verification program to remove the incentive for tenants moving to avoid utility turn offs. This does help to stabilize neighborhoods.
- Worked with the Wisconsin Department of Administration on an Electronic Benefits Transfer for low-income residents who have difficulty managing their finances. Efforts to reduce evictions help stabilize urban neighborhoods
- Worked to obtain easier access to criminal records, so rental owners can better avoid renting to prospective tenants who might disrupt other tenants and the neighborhoods in which they live.
- Gang Crimes Task Force – Worked with the Drug Abatement Program, community leaders, politicians and law enforcement agencies to find answers to the growing gang crime problems facing our community
- Raised $1,200 for Clarke Square Community Association, in a charity softball game against Milwaukee Building Inspectors. We “let” them win this time, but there’s always next year. Clarke Square, a group that receives no government funds, used this money to help put on their annual holiday party for kids who may otherwise find little under the tree
- Raised $1,600 for the “Survive Alive House” in a bowling tournament ”against” tenant advocates which featured the candidates for Mayor and County Executive.
- Provided 32 cases of smoke detector batteries to the Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services so no home has to go without this inexpensive safety device.
- Supported the city of Milwaukee in obtaining their first HUD lead paint abatement grant. In awarding the grant HUD stated they had seldom seen the level of cooperation between property owners and a city
- Offer ongoing educational seminars to educate rental owners on Landlord-Tenant Law, Fair Housing and Lead Paint. Through educating landlords about the laws surrounding rental property management, both owners’ and tenants’ rights are protected.
- We have supported the city’s Landlord Training program, both giving input to content and continued promotion to our members.
- Provided active participation on city and state lead hazard reduction task forces.
- Participated in Community Advocates Sleep Out to End Homelessness. One year the Association’s leadership spent a night in refrigerator boxes to raise money for this fund. Another year a Building Inspection vs. Landlord croquet game raised funds.
- Participated, in cooperation with United Community Center on a Community Policing Board.
- Supported Community Advocates and the UW -Extension’s tenant training programs to help educate tenants in their rights and responsibilities.
- Our board members also served on the boards of other community-based organizations such as Southside Organizing Committee, Clarke Square Community Association, Medcalf Park, Merrill Park, Garfield Heights, Kaul Avenue and LAND community groups and the Southside Landlord Compact.
- Provided volunteers to work a phone bank for a mayoral survey on the causes of board ups.
- We have helped promote a Wisconsin Humane Society program which makes it possible families with trained animals to find rental housing.