Archive for category Abandoned Property

Act 76 – Wisconsin’s New Landlord Tenant Law – Part 6: Alternative Disposition of Property During Eviction

Act 76, has amended sec. 799.45 Wis. Stats., and created new options for a landlord to dispose of a tenant’s abandoned personal property after the writ has been executed by the Sheriff and the rental unit has been returned to the landlord’s possession.

Under the old law, if the rental property was located in a county with a population greater than 500,000 people, a landlord was required to hire a moving company to remove any of the tenant’s property that was determined to be of value.  Under the old law, if the rental property was located in a county of less than 500,00 people, a landlord could remove the tenant’s abandoned property of value himself but was required to post a bond before doing so, which could be very expensive.

With the passage of Wisconsin’s new Landlord-Tenant law, Act 76, a landlord can now remove any of the tenant’s abandoned property himself, regardless of the size of the county in which the rental property is located, once the Sheriff has executed the writ and the rental property has been returned to the possession of the landlord, and assuming the landlord has complied with the other requirements of sec. 705.05(5), Wis. Stats.

Many landlords — as well as the press reporting on the new law — misunderstood the new law and believed that a landlord was no longer required to involve the Sheriff in the eviction.  That is not the case.  Act 76 did not remove the requirement of involving the Sheriff.  The Sheriff must still be hired to remove a tenant that has not voluntarily surrendered the rental unit and the Sheriff is still necessary to return the rental property to the possession of the landlord.

What Act 76 did was remove the requirement that a moving company be used in larger counties and remove the requirement that a landlord post a bond in smaller counties with regard to the removal and disposal of any belonging left by the tenant.

Under the new law a landlord now has three options to choose from when hiring the Sheriff to forcibly remove a tenant and return the rental unit to the possession of the landlord.

1.  The landlord can choose to operate under the old law  — and most of my clients are electing to do this — and still involve and pay for a moving company.  The Sheriff will then remove any tenant still on the premises and return the rental property to the landlord.  The moving company will then remove any tenant property of value left behind and take it to a storage facility.  The Sheriff will remain at the rental property until the moving company has completed its work.

2.  The landlord can choose to hire the Sheriff only.  Under this scenario, the Sheriff will remove any tenant still on the premises and return the rental property to the landlord.  The Sheriff will then leave.  The landlord can then dispose of any tenant property left behind as set forth in sec. 705.05 (5), Wis. Stats. (assuming the landlord has the required language in his rental agreement allowing him to dispose of the abandoned property  — see sec. 704.05(5)(bf)  – and abides by the exceptions to the disposal rules — see sec. 704.05(5)(am) and (b)).

3.  The landlord can opt to hire the Sheriff only but also elect to have the Sheriff stick around while the landlord disposes of the tenant’s property (assuming the landlord has the required language in his rental agreement allowing him to dispose of the abandoned property  — see sec. 704.05(5)(bf)  — and abides by the exceptions to the disposal rules — see sec. 704.05(5)(am) and (b)).  This option allows the landlord a greater sense of security as the Sheriff will still be present should the tenant decide to visit.  Please be aware however that under this option the Sheriff may have certain requirements that must be followed by the landlord, such as requiring the landlord to have a certain number of people assisting him with the removal of the tenant’s property, so that the Sheriff is not sitting around for hours waiting for a single landlord to remove and dispose of a tenant’s belongings.

Essentially those are the 3 options that a landlord now has to choose from if it becomes necessary to execute a writ of restitution with the Sheriff.  While many counties are still working out the details, the feedback that I have received from the various counties in which I practice, has been that things have been going much more smoothly then the press and tenant advocates had prophesized.

 

 

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What Can A Landlord Do With A Tenant’s Abandoned Personal Property Under Wisconsin’s New Law?

With the signing into law of 2011 Wisconsin Act 143, a landlord’s obligations with regard to a tenant’s abandoned property has just gotten much easier.

Prior to Act 143 a landlord had three options with respect to a tenant’s abandoned property.  The landlord could:

1.  Store the tenant’s abandoned property on or off the premises and take a lien on the property for the actual and reasonable cost of removal and storage of the property, or

2.  Dispose of the property if the tenant didn’t reclaim it within 30 days of the landlord sending the tenant written notice of the abandoned property, or

3.  Store the abandoned property without a lien and return it to the tenant.

Some landlords got themselves into trouble under the old law.  Some would forget to send out the abandoned property notice to the tenant.  Some would dispose of the abandoned property prior to 30 days after mailing the notice.  Others would refuse to return the tenant’s property unless the tenant paid up all past due rent (this is called distrain and was outlawed years ago).  If the tenant’s abandoned property had value sometimes these landlord would get sued.  In an effort to educate landlords about this law I even drafted an Abandoned Property Notice form that was sold at Wisconsin Legal Blank noting the 3 options the landlord had.

Wisconsin’s new law regarding tenant’s abandoned property is more simple.

As long as a landlord provides written notice to the tenant — at the time that the tenant enters into the rental agreement or renews the rental agreement — that the landlord is NOT going to store any of the tenant’s abandoned personal property, a landlord is allowed to immediately dispose of the abandoned property in any manner that the landlord, in his sole discretion, feels is appropriate.

There are two exceptions to the new law allowing a landlord to immediately dispose of a tenant’s abandoned property.

First, in the case of prescription medication or prescription medical equipment, a landlord must hold such items for 7 days from the date of discovery to allow the tenant time to retrieve those items.  If the tenant contacts the landlord within the 7 day period and requests the return of the medical items the landlord shall promptly return them to the tenant.  After the 7 days have passed, the landlord is allowed to dispose of the medical items in any way that he determines to be appropriate.

Second, if the tenant has abandoned a titled vehicle or a mobile or manufactured home, the landlord must give the tenant — and any secured party that the landlord has actual notice of — written notice of the landlord’s intent to dispose of the titled vehicle or mobile/manufactured home, personally or by regular or certified mail addressed to the tenant’s last known address.

So for those of you that want to avail yourself of this streamlined process of the key is to provide the required “notice” language to the tenant.  It makes the most since to simply include the required language in your rental agreement and any renewal agreement.

Below is the sample notice language that I added to the rental agreement that I draft for Wisconsin Legal Blank.

ABANDONED PROPERTY:  Landlord will not store any items of personal property that tenant leaves behind when tenant vacates, except for prescription medication or prescription medical equipment, which will be held for seven (7) days from the date of discovery.  If tenant abandons a manufactured or mobile home or a titled vehicle, landlord will give tenant and any other secured party that landlord is aware of, written notice of intent to dispose of the property by personal service, regular mail, or certified mail to tenant’s last known address.

Please be aware that if you fail to provide the required notice to your tenant then you will be required to abide by the old law and follow one of the three options explained earlier in this post.

It is important to note however, that this new law does NOT relieve a landlord of his duty to evict a tenant through the judicial eviction process if the tenant has not vacated.  A landlord should not just assume that the tenant’s property is abandoned and the tenant has vacated the unit.  A landlord still must make the very important (and sometimes costly) analysis on a case by case basis as to whether or not the tenant is still living in the unit or whether he has vacated and abandoned his property.  This new law does not prevent a tenant from suing a landlord for double damages and attorney’s fees for engaging in a self-help eviction.  All this law does is make it simpler and easier to dispose of a tenant’s abandoned property once the tenant has vacated the rental property.

 

 

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