I spent several hours yesterday reviewing and thinking about the new Landlord’s Omnibus Bill that is to be signed into law today by Governor Walker at 4 pm.
I then spent hours of time trying to summarize the new law in yesterday’s blog post in an easy to read and understand format.
Since publishing the blog post yesterday I have a few more thoughts and concerns:
1. AASEW Board member and friend Tim Ballering pointed out to me that he believes that the new law as written will allow for any violation of Chapter 704 to be considered an unfair trade practice, thus allowing a tenant to sue his/her landlord for double damages and attorney’s fees.
Here is the language at issue:
704.95 Practices regulated by the department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection.
Practices in violation of this chapter may also constitute unfair methods of competition or unfair trade practices under s. 100.20. However, the department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection may not issue an order or promulgate a rule under s. 100.20 that changes any right or duty arising under this chapter.
In my prior post I did anticipate that this would allow for tenant’s and attorney’s to make arguments that any violation of Chapter 704 was an unfair trade practice and that concerned me. But after speaking with Tim and thinking about this in more deeply, and re-reading the new law – I think this is a major concern. So is this law saying that if a landlord improperly drafts or serves a 5 day notice that s/he can be sued by the tenant for double damages and attorney’s fees? YES.
I believe that this is such a major problem that I will be contacting Governor Walker’s office today before 4 pm and asking him to veto the bill.
2. The addition of the 8th Deadly Sin really concerns me. My friend and past Wisconsin Apartment Association President John Fischer succinctly addresses the problem with in an email that he sent to many in the industry which is reproduced below:
When the Housing Task force was looking at blight, blight went beyond just condition of the property, but it also went to criminal activity.
There has been a proposal that various apartment associations have been working on that would make it easier to evict a tenant for criminal activity. There is a “Crime Free Lease” program that started out west that is very popular with landlords and law enforcement. A few communities have started working on this program here in Wisconsin, but the biggest hurdle is that the key tool of this program is a “Crime Free Lease Addendum”. The problem is that this addendum is unenforceable under Wisconsin’s current laws.
The new law that is being signed by Governor Walker at 4 PM this afternoon (I have been invited to this private signing, but I want nothing to do with this) makes a large number of massive changes to Wisconsin landlord-tenant law. One of the most significant appears to be an answer to our attempts to allow for eviction for criminal activity. The new law would basically render a lease void if the lease contained language that criminal activity on a property would be a breach of the lease.
So there you have it. My take on this new law — as well as many others in the industry — is this new law will cause more harm then good. This is what happens when you try to rush legislation — people do not have time to consider all of the different angles — so I am planning on contacting Governor Walker and ask him to veto SB 446. I would ask that you consider doing the same.
Thank you to tim Ballering and John Fischer for their thoughts, opinions, and guidance.