Act 76 has made many changes to Landlord-Tenant law in Wisconsin, some of which I have explained in prior blog posts. One of the biggest changes, which I have not yet blogged about, is the requirement that a landlord include language notifying tenants of certain domestic abuse protections in all rental agreements or addenda as of March 1, 2014.
The required language is set forth in sec. 704.14, Wis. Stats. and must be included verbatim in the rental agreement - it cannot be modified or summarized.
The language that must be included is:
NOTICE OF DOMESTIC ABUSE PROTECTIONS
(1) As provided in section 106.50 (5m) (dm) of the Wisconsin statutes, a tenant has a defense to an eviction action if the tenant can prove that the landlord knew, or should have known, the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking and that the eviction action is based on conduct related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking committed by either of the following:
(a) A person who was not the tenant’s invited guest.
(b) A person who was the tenant’s invited guest, but the tenant has done either of the following:
1. Sought an injunction barring the person from the premises.
2. Provided a written statement to the landlord stating that the person will no longer be an invited guest of the tenant and the tenant has not subsequently invited the person to be the tenant’s guest.
(2) A tenant who is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking may have the right to terminate the rental agreement in certain limited situations, as provided in section 704.16 of the Wisconsin statutes. If the tenant has safety concerns, the tenant should contact a local victim service provider or law enforcement agency.
(3) A tenant is advised that this notice is only a summary of the tenant’s rights and the specific language of the statutes governs in all instances.
Unfortunately many landlords are not even aware of this new requirement. Others complain that this will make their rental agreements 1/2 page longer. Depending on formatting – this very well may be true. Nonetheless, any rental agreements that are entered into or renewed as of March 1, 2014, must include this language. If your rental agreement does not contain this language you your rental agreement will be declared void and unenforceable.
Why is that you ask? Keep reading.
Act 76 also modified and created additional provisions that cannot be included in a Landlord’s rental agreement. If a landlord includes any prohibited provision in his/her rental agreement the lease will be void and unenforceable. I affectionately refer to these illegal provisions as the “10 Deadly Sins.”
Act 76 created the 10th Deadly Sin which is directly related to the DV protection language discussed above.
A rental agreement will be void and unenforceable if it allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant for a crime committed in relation to the rental property if it does not also include the new domestic abuse protection language set forth in sec. 704, 14, Wis. Stats.
This is huge. So hopefully any rental agreements that you have entered into since March 1st of this year contain this required language. If they do not, you should immediately create an Addendum to your rental agreement that includes the DV notice language and send it to your tenants immediately so that you are in compliance. If you are using pre-printed rental agreement forms you must insure that they have been updated to include this language. I can assure you that the rental agreement form that I draft for Wisconsin Legal Blank Co. has had this language added. Going forward you only should be using the WLB rental agreement form that has a publication date of 2/17/14 or later.
Act 76 also modified the 9th Deadly Sin which was created by Act 143 (which became law in March 31, 2012). The “old” 9th Deadly Sin stated that a rental agreement was void if it allowed a landlord to evict a tenant as a result of a crime committed in or on the rental property if the tenant could not have reasonably prevented the crime. This language was problematic for many landlords. As such the 9th Deadly Sin was modified in Act 76 to read:
A rental agreement will be void and unenforceable if it contains a provision that allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant based solely on a crime being committed if the tenant, or someone lawfully living with them, is a victim of that crime.
Hopefully there will not be any new Deadly Sins created in the near future. If there are, we will end up having more clauses that cannot be included in a residential rental agreement than can be included ; ).