Archive for category Property Management

AASEW Meeting: Is Property Management An Art or A Science? – June 17, 2013 at 7 pm.

Join the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin on June 17th  as we have masters of the craft present on Best Practices in Property Management along with the legal ramifications of failing to follow the rules.  SE Wisconsin is clearly a pro tenant district so educate yourself to the possible landmines that await you along with what some are doing to avoid them.  It will be an educational night with many real world anecdotes — that I am sure you will be able to relate to — and practical real world advice you can apply to your business to protect your assets and increase your profits!

When: Monday, June 17, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Where: The Best Western, 1005 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield 53005

Who:  Attorney Tristan Pettit and Professional Property Manager Stacy Hegg

Cost:  Free for current AASEW members, $25 for guests and expired members.

About our speakers

Attorney Tristan Pettit, drafts many of the standardized landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank.  Tristan is in eviction court nearly every week representing many members of the Association and other landlords.  Tristan presents Landlord Boot Camp for the Association twice a year.  He also presents similar courses for attorneys across the state.

Tristan R. Pettit is a shareholder with the Milwaukee law firm of Petrie & Stocking S.C. which has been in existence for over 115 years assisting individuals, families and businesses throughout the state.  He focuses his practice in the area of general civil and business litigation with an emphasis on landlord-tenant law.

Mr. Pettit handles both commercial and residential evictions and the accompanying damages claims for his clients throughout the state. He has also been involved in litigation dealing with lead-based paint, bedbugs, Fair Housing (discrimination) claims, building code orders, public nuisance lawsuits, and both the prosecution and defense of Wisconsin Administrative Code – ATCP 134 violations.

He assists clients with the drafting and interpretation of commercial leases and residential rental agreements and other rental documents and is the author of the landlord-tenant legal forms sold at Wisconsin Legal Blank Co., Inc., which are used throughout the state.

Mr. Pettit presents seminars on landlord-tenant law and related matters throughout the state and is a past president of the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc. and is currently serving on its Board of Directors. He also is the author of a popular Wisconsin landlord-tenant law blog that can be found at

Stacy Hegg is a professional property manager who has more than 20 years experience in multi-housing management in the Greater Milwaukee Area.

Stacy’s career commenced as a Leasing Consultant at a large market rate community in Glendale while attending Cardinal Stritch College. Upon graduation Stacy became a full time Property Manager on a unique, Section 42 renovation on 24th and Wells. Her extensive and varied experience extends from Section 42 and Section 8 communities to luxury developments. She has managed multi-family portfolios for professional realty companies such as: Ogden, Bielinski, and Bryce Styza Properties. She managed Cedar Square Apartments on the Marquette University Campus for 2 years and currently manages for Wellston Apartments where she oversees a 400 unit portfolio near UW-Milwaukee.


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Top 10 Pitfalls That Landlords Should Avoid

Those of you that missed the last AASEW membership meeting on Monday, April 15, 2013, missed a great meeting and a great presentation.  The featured presenter was John “Dr. Rent” Fischer, a Wausau-area landlord and rental property manager, who spoke to a packed house that Monday.  John’s presentation was dynamic, educational and at times pretty darn funny.

With John’s permission, I am providing you with a link to John’s handout from the meeting which was entitled “Top Ten Pitfalls That Landlords Should Avoid.”

Like any good Top 10 list (a la David Letterman), John presented these pitfalls in reverse oreder based on importance.  The pitfalls to avoid included:

10.  Mailing the 5 Day Notice

9.  Digging The Hole Too Deep

8.  Incomplete Applications

7.  Not Asking The Right People (about your rental applicant)

6.  Auto-Renewing A Lease

5.  14 Day Notice (or NOT)

4.  “Do-It-Yourself” Leases or Rental Forms

3.  Misuse of CCAP

2.  Carpet Cleaning

1.  That Lease is HOW LONG?

As John stated during his presentation, there are a lot of things that are beyond our control that make life as a landlord very difficult at times.  As such, we certainly do not want to make life more difficult for ourselves based on a lack of knowledge of landlord-tenant laws . . . unless we are masochists, that is.

The AASEW has another great meeting scheduled for May 20, 2013 at 7 pm at the Best Western Midway in Brookfield about “How To Finance Real Estate Transactions In The Current Economy.”


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Next AASEW Meeting: Dr. Rent’s Top Ten Landlording Pitfalls To Avoid – April 15th

The AASEW’s next meeting will feature Dr. Rent’s TOP TEN Landlording Pitfalls to Avoid

When: Monday April 15th, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Where: The Best Western, 1005 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield 53005

Who: John “Dr. Rent” Fisher

Cost: This meeting is free for current AASEW members, $25 for guests or expired members

Bad things happen to good people.  When a good landlord falls victim to a bad tenant, we all know the results. Dealing with bad tenants is already hard enough, but too often good landlords fall victim to their own mistakes as well.  Dr. Rent will discuss the 10 most common mistakes that he has seen in over two decades as a landlord in Wisconsin. One of the best things that we can all do is learn from our mistakes, but Dr. Rent has found it wiser to learn from others.

About our speaker: John H. Fischer is a Wausau, Wisconsin area landlord.  He started working part-time with Emmerich & Associates, Inc. in 1993 and since then has worked in nearly every aspect of the real estate investment field.  He has been involved with residential, commercial and industrial rental properties as well as vacant land sales and condominium development.

Observing a number of old and new landlords going to court and having a hard time because of their not understanding Wisconsin’s complicated laws and procedures, Mr. Fischer has been making an effort to educate Landlords on the proper way to do things for over a decade, and has taught classes on everything from accounting, to proper management procedures to Landlord-Tenant law. He has provided training sessions through Lorman and Sterling educational services.  He has also presented seminars to a number of local apartment associations as well as the Wisconsin Apartment Association.  He offers a series of courses in real estate investing through the University of Wisconsin Continuing Education program.

Mr. Fischer holds a real estate Broker license and is past president of the Wausau Area Apartment Association and Wisconsin Apartment Association.  He is a member of Wausau’s Housing Code Task Force.  He has degrees in International Business Management (with Honors) as well as Human Resources Management (with Honors) from the University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Business. He is also a graduate of the Bryce Harlow Institute for Business and Government Affairs, Georgetown University, Washington, DC.


You will not want to miss this meeting!!

Hope to see everyone there.



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2011 Wisconsin Act 143 (Landlord Omnibus Law) Also Applies To Commercial Landlord-Tenant Law

While this blog primarily focuses on residential landlord-tenant law, on occasion I also touch on issues applicable to commercial landlord-tenant law.  This is one such instance.

Commercial landlord-tenant is more straightforward than residential in my opinion because commercial tenancies are less regulated than residential.  Typically what a commercial landlord and tenant agreed to and placed into their lease agreement is what governs.  The Wisconsin Administrative Code’s ATCP 134 does not apply to commercial leases and most of Chapter 704 of the Wisconsin Statutes does not apply to commercial leases unless (1) the parties had no written lease, or (2) the lease was silent as to certain issues (see sec. 704.03 and 704.05 respectively).

Well, that has all changed now with the passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 143 which was signed into law last week and will take effect on March 31, 2012.

While almost all of the attention paid to the new law surrounded its effects on residential landlord-tenant law, the law also impacts the commercial arena as well.  I too was caught up in the effect Act 143 would have on residential landlords and missed the applicability of this new law to commercial landlords initially  — thanks to Bob Anderson of Legal Aid of Wisconsin for redirecting me : )

As I have mentioned in prior posts, this legislation was fast-tracked for some reason and rushing new laws through the legislative process is never a good thing.  In fact it is a recipe for disaster.

It appears that the legislators did not realize that Senate Bill 466 — the precursor to Act 143 — was written in such a way as to encompass commercial landlord-tenant law.  When it was brought to their attention, a quick amendment was made to exclude one portion of the new law (the section that makes a rental agreement void if it contains certain prohibited language) from the commercial arena, but apparently there was not enough time to deal with the other sections of the new law, which now will apply to both commercial and residential tenancies.

So what do we have?

The following provisions of Act 143 apply to both commercial landlord-tenant law as well as residential:

1.  Moratorium on evictions

2.  Severability of rental agreement provisions

3.  Disposition of abandoned property

4.  Requirement that landlords receive an award of holdover damages when appropriate

5.  Acceptance of past due rents

6.  Withholding from and return of security deposits

7.  Making any violation of chapter 704 a possible unfair trade practice

If you are unfamiliar with the above sections of the new law you should read my prior post summarizing the new law.

Number 1-5 above actually benefit commercial landlords.  However numbers 6 and 7 are problematic

By adding ATCP 134.06, which focuses on the withholding from and the return of security deposits, to chapter 704, the new law has now made these requirements applicable to commercial landlords as well.  Prior to Act 143 being passed, there was no law addressing what a commercial landlord could withhold from a commercial tenant’s security deposit, nor was there any law regarding when that security deposit (or an itemization as to how the security deposit was applied) had to be returned to the commercial tenant.  Well thanks to Act 143, now there is.

Act 143 allows a commercial landlord to only make deductions for the following items from a commercial tenant’s security deposit:

704.28 Withholding from and return of security deposits.  (1) Standard withholding provisions.  When a landlord returns a security deposit to a tenant after the tenant vacates the premises, the landlord may withhold from the full amount of the security deposit only amounts reasonably necessary to pay for any of the following:

(a)  Except as provided in sub. (3), tenant damage, waste, or neglect of the premises.

(b)  Unpaid rent for which the tenant is legally responsible, subject to s. 704.29.

(c)  Payment that the tenant owes under the rental agreement for utility service provided by the landlord but not included in the rent.

(d)  Payment that the tenant owes for direct utility service provided by a government-owned utility, to the extent that the landlord becomes liable for the tenant’s nonpayment.

(e)  Unpaid monthly municipal permit fees assessed against the tenant by a local unit of government under s. 66.0435 (3), to the extent that the landlord becomes liable for the tenant’s nonpayment.

(f)  Any other payment for a reason provided in a nonstandard rental provision document described in sub. (2).

So if a commercial landlord would now like to deduct anything other then the items listed in (a) – (e) above, then that landlord needs to start using a separate written document entitled “Nonstandard Rental Provisions” which must list the additional fees/costs that can be deducted from a commercial tenant’s security deposit.

Additionally, Act 143 now requires a commercial landlord to either (1) return the tenant’s security deposit to them, or (2) send them an itemization explaining how that security deposit was applied, within 21 days of the following:

(4) Timing for return.  A landlord shall deliver or mail to a tenant the full amount of any security deposit paid by the tenant, less any amounts that may be withheld under subs. (1) and (2), within 21 days after any of the following:

(a)  If the tenant vacates the premises on the termination date of the rental agreement, the date on which the rental agreement terminates.

(b)  If the tenant vacates the premises before the termination date of the rental agreement, the date on which the tenant’s rental agreement terminates or, if the landlord rerents the premises before the tenant’s rental agreement terminates, the date on which the new tenant’s tenancy begins.

(c)  If the tenant vacates the premises after the termination date of the rental agreement, the date on which the landlord learns that the tenant has vacated the premises.

(d)  If the tenant is evicted, the date on which a writ of restitution is executed or the date on which the landlord learns that the tenant has vacated the premises, whichever occurs first.

Commercial landlords never had to worry about that 21 day time frame before — now they do.  Needless to say it is much more difficult and time consuming to do a walkthrough of a giant commercial space and itemize any damages or cleaning charges than it is for a 500 square foot residential rental unit.  I’m not exactly sure how commercial landlords will be able to comply with this time frame, but they will need to find a way, or else they may have to to their tenant double damages and attorney’s fees.  Which leads me to the next concern . . .

Act 143 now makes any violation of chapter 704 a possible violation of unfair trade practices, which pursuant to sec. 100.20, Wis. Stats. allows a tenant to sue a landlord for double damages and attorney’s fees.  Prior to Act 143 a commercial landlord was not in this predicament because unfair trade practices were set forth in ATCP 134 which only applied to residential tenancies.  But now that Act 143 incorporates some provisions of ATCP 134 into chapter 704 — and chapter 704 applies to commercial landlord-tenant relations — things are different.

Here is the language of the new law:

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 under this chapter.

I guess the only positive is that the new law says “may constitute” instead of “shall constitute” however to a commercial landlord that never had to worry about anything they did constituting an unfair trade practice and subjecting themselves to being sued for double damages and attorney’s fees, I’m sure this will be of little consolation.

So not only will Act 143 require commercial landlords to make some modifications to the language in their leases, but it will require them to completely change how they run their commercial proeprty management businesses starting March 31, 2012 —- 2 DAYS FROM NOW!!!!!


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You Will Not Want To Miss AASEW’s Fourth Annual Landlord Boot Camp on Saturday Feb. 25th

Landlording can be pretty complex, with a seemingly never ending myriad of paperwork, rules, landlord-tenant laws and simple mistakes that can cost you thousands of dollars.

The Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin’s Fourth Annual Landlord Boot Camp can help you navigate these treacherous waters and teach you how to run your properties with greater profit and less hassles.

I have given similar landlord-tenant law seminars to fellow attorneys, landlords, and property manager organizations throughout the state for other state-wide semianr companies that charge attendees $300-$400.  This is your opportunity to learn all of the same information at a huge discount through the Apartment Association.


Who:   Taught by Attorney Tristan R. Pettit (who drafts the landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank)

When:    Saturday, February 25th, 2012. 8:30 am – 5 pm

Where:   Clarion Hotel 5311 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee [Map]

Included:  100 plus page manual/outline to help you put what you learn into practice plus helpful forms.

Cost:  $159 for AASEW members and $249 for non-members.  If you are not a member of AASEW but are a member of another landlord/apartment association the cost to attend will be $199.

Specials: Not a member?  Pay just a dollar more and enjoy a 2012 AASEW membership.

Wisconsin landlord-tenant laws are constantly changing.  To help keep you up to date we offer prior attendees a $50 discount.

Sign up by going to the AASEW’s Landlord Boot Camp landing page where you can sign up online and pay via PayPal.


What you will learn at the Apartment Association’s 2012 Landlord Boot Camp

Landlord Boot Camp covers everything that you need to know about residential Landlord Tenant law in Wisconsin, including:

  1. How to properly screen prospective tenants.
  2. How to draft written screening criteria to assist you in the selection process and protect you from discrimination complaints.
  3. How to comply with both federal and state Fair Housing laws including how to handle with “reasonable modifications”  and “reasonable accommodations” requests.
  4. How to legally reject an applicant.
  5. What rental documents you should be using and why.
  6. When you should be using a 5-day notice versus a 14-day notice, 28-day notice, or 30-day notice and how to properly serve the notice on your tenant.
  7. Everything you wanted to know (and probably even more than you wanted to know) about the Residential Rental Practices (ATCP 134) and how to avoid having to pay double damages to your tenant for breaching ATCP 134.
  8. When you are legally allowed to enter your tenant’s apartment.
  9. How to properly draft an eviction summons and complaint.
  10. What to do to keep the commissioner from dismissing your eviction suit.
  11. What you can legally deduct from a security deposit.
  12. How to properly draft a security deposit transmittal / 21 day letter.
  13. How to handle pet damage.
  14. What to do with a tenant’s abandoned property and how this may affect whether or not you file an eviction suit.
  15. How to pursue your ex-tenant for damages to your rental property and past due rent (and whether it is even worth it to do so).

. . .  and much more.  There will also be time for questions and answers.

You get all this for less than you would pay for an hour of an attorney’s time.

Last year’s AASEW Landlord Boot Camp was filled to capacity and we even had to turn a few people away.  So call early to reserve your spot.

Call the Association at (414) 276-7378, email or go to our Landlord Boot Camp landing page to sign up online and reserve your spot.

Remember that “landlording” is a business — so take the time to educate yourself on how to better manage your business and avoid costly errors!

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AASEW’s New “Mentor’s Corner” to Debut on June 21st

At the next membership meeting of the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin (AASEW), to be held on June 21, 2010, the AASEW will be debuting its new “Mentor’s Corner” for all AASEW members.

The “Mentor’s Corner” will be held at 6:30 pm prior to the general meeting.  The “Corner” will be staffed by one or more “seasoned” landlords who will be ready to answer your non-legal questions about any aspect of landlording.  This is the place to be to get “street-smart” answers from landlords that have already “been there and done that.” 

Come and ask all those nagging questions that you have been afraid to ask such as how to deal with such as the tenant that pays rent lat every month, how to deal with parking problems, intra-tenant disputes, what to do when tenants fail to mow the lawn, chronic complainers  . . . .

The “Mentor’s Corner” will be held at 6:30 pm before every AASEW membership meeting (which are always held on the 3rd Monday of each month) at the Best Western Hotel located at 1005 S. Moorland Road in Brookfield.

Hope to see you there.

Is It Time To Hire A Property Management Company?

I would like to state at the outset that this particular post is very different from my past posts.  In the past I have tried to educate readers about various aspects of landlord-tenant law.  I will not be doing that this time.  My goal with today’s post is to generate a discussion and to have you, the reader, provide me (and the other readers) with your thoughts and concerns regarding the topic of professional management companies and when a landlord should consider hiring one to handle the daily management of rental property.

You may be curious as to why I am writing a different type of post.  The reason is quite simple and straightforward — in the last month or two I have received several phone calls from landlords that are frustrated with dealing with their tenants and the daily management issues.  My response to these calls is often along the lines of  “welcome to being a landlord,” but I have refrained from such comments lately as I have noticed that these are not just the usual rants about irresponsible tenants.  Instead I am noting real frustration and a wish to get out of “landlording.”  Many of the individuals that I have spoken with have been very upfront in telling me that if they could afford to sell their rental properties that they would but since they cannot they have decided that they want to hire someone else to take over the management.  They then ask me if I can provide them with the names of some professional property management companies that I would reccomend.

After giving the caller some names of property management companies, I make a point of explaining to the caller that hiring a management company does not make all of their problems disappear.  I explain to them that there are a lot of different management companies out there.  I point out to them that just like landlords, property management companies have different styles and ways of running their respective businesses. 

Giving up the daily management of your rental properties is a big decision.  The decision should not be made lightly.  A landlord needs to find a company or manager that s/he feels confident in and comfortable with.  It is important that you interview any managment company that you are considering hiring.  You will be trusting this company with the care of your real estate investment — take the time to get to know them and learn how they will handle their job.  Some management companies are more “hands on” then others.  Some are more “service oriented” then others.  Some follow applicable landlord-tenant laws more than others.

Most management companies will handle everything that you can possibly think of if you want them to, such as:

–  Finding tenants for your vacant units

–  Showing the units to prospective tenants

–  Screening applicants and vetting their applications

–  Fielding complaints and maintenance requests

–  Accepting rent

–  Hiring contractors to make repairs or making the repairs themselves

and much more.

If you find the right property management company, it can be the best decision that you ever made.  The exact opposite can be true if you choose the wrong company. 

Even if you hire a company to manage your properties for you, it is important to understand that you — the owner — may still be held responsible/accountable if the management company does something wrong.  If the management company does not understand fair housing laws and runs a discriminatory advertisement for your vacancy, both the management company and the owner could be sued.  If the management company doesn’t make adequate and timely repairs and as a result a tenant is injured, there is a strong chance that both the owner and the management company could be on the hook.

Some landlords wish to retain some level of control even after they hire a management company.  I know of landlords that still choose to be involved in the tenant selection process but leave everything else to the management company’s discretion.  I have met other landlords that want to personally approve every repair that is made to their income properties.  There are no “typical” situation.  It all depends on what the owner wants and what the management company is willing to do.

Some management companies consist of 1 person.  Others have hundreds of employees.  Some offer their services on an a la carte basis while others offer various packages that the owner can choose from (kind of like a trim package for cars).  Some only manage apartment complexes; others may take on the management of duplexes and single families.

I personally do not feel that there is a “right” time for each and every landlord to give up the daily management of their rental properties and turn it over to a professional management company.  Its not like there is a certain “cashflow magic number” that dictates the hiring of a property management company.  The best time to make that change — or even if the change should be made in the first place — depends on the specific landlord and his/her situation. 

I believe that there are three issues that often casue the topic of hiring a property manager to the forefront for landlords.  First, the landlord no longer has the time to properly manage their rental properties.  Second, the landlord realizes that they are not “cut out” to handle daily management of rental properties.  Third, a landlord gets “dinged” by a tenant.  This could run the gamut from having an eviction action dismissed because of improper service of a 5 Day Notice, or getting sued by a tenant for making an improper deduction from their security deposit, or any other number of situations.  These situations often arise becasue the landlord does not know th ebasics of landlord-tenant law for one reason or another.  We have all met landlords that don’t have a “clue” what they are doing . . . they usually are the ones that are not members of an apartment association, do not attend seminars, and don’t read my blog : ) 

In my years as a landlord-tenant law attorney I have read many good articles that discuss what you should consider when hiring a property management company.  One recent article that I came across is entitled What To Consider When Hiring A Property Management Company.  Another article adressing the topic is entitled Should I Hire A Property Management Company For My Rental Property?  What are the 10 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring A Property Management Company?  There are many more articles on the web that discuss this issue.  I would suggest that you take the time to read these articles and others as they are very good at raising issues that you should consider when making this important decision.

If you have just finished reading the above paragraph and have now realized that this is the end of the post and are about to click away . . . DON’T.  Please post a comment.  If I don’t get any comments on this post then I will be forced to just go back to the boring old lecture format.  Nobody wants that, do they : )