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 please attend our general meetings or consider attending 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)
- Payments can be accepted from tenants in eviction without losing the case because of this.
- A mover and Sheriff are no longer required, although both can make the process simpler and more secure.
- Easier termination of a tenancy for criminal activity. Drug dealing allows a landlord to begin an eviction, but simple possession or use of drugs does not. The Wisconsin Protections for domestic abuse victims remain in place; AASEW was instrumental on adding a provision that prevents municipalities from including domestic violence incidents in nuisance complaints.”
- 5 Day notices can now be used for breaches of a rental contract. A pit bull or other lease violation can now be responded to with a 5 Day rather than a 14 Day notice, allowing a tenant to correct their mistake and not lose their home.
- Illegally parked cars can be more easily removed from a property.
- The rights of the landlord to dispose of property left behind has been clarified, including property left behind in an eviction with the proper lease language. (Medicine and medical devices must still be stored for 7 days.)
- 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 to Local Government
- 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.
- Dramatically changed the “Re-Inspection Fee” by limiting the fee ceiling as well as allowing fees only when there was an actual, physical inspection. 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. The fees imposed upon these properties made it harder for someone to buy the property and put it back in service.”
- Prohibits rental property certification or licensing unless the requirement applies uniformly to all residential rental property owners, including owners of owner-occupied rental property.
- Retains the Milwaukee Property Recording Ordinance, but limits the ability 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.
Time of Sale Protections
- The new legislation 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.
- The AASEW helped to develop more reasonable lead paint laws and limit owner liability for lead paint hazards.
- The AASEW, in concert with the Milwaukee Health Department, replaced a difficult proposed ordinance with a subsidized window replacement program successfully used by many members.
Rental Licensing and Recording
- Successfully organized the AASEW membership to remove the proposed $100 per unit per year rental recording fee.
- The AASEW enacted state legislation that made laws for real estate licensing programs difficult for the city to pass.
Improving the Community
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.
- In cooperation with WE Energies, the AASEW developed an occupant verification program to remove the incentive for tenants moving to avoid utility shut-offs, which helps 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. 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.”
- 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.
- Participated on a Community Policing Board, in cooperation with the United Community Center.
- 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, Metcalfe 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.
- Helped to promote a Wisconsin Humane Society program which makes it possible for families with trained animals to find rental housing.