Archive for category Milwaukee County

AASEW MEETING: Eviction Court Essentials — Monday, August 19, 2013

The AASEW’s next meeting will be this coming Monday, August 19, 2013 at 7 pm at the Best Western in Brookkfield.

The Apartment Association of Southeastern WI welcomes Milwaukee County Circuit Court Commissioner Cedric Cornwall as our main speaker at our August meeting.  With all of the recent law changes in the landlord-tenant law arena, Commissioner Cornwall will speak to the group on the preferred procedures to follow in eviction court along with some of the common mistakes that he and his colleagues observe landlords making in court.  As always, there will be time for questions for the Commissioner as well.

This is a must attend event for every owner of rental property in Milwaukee County and beyond. All always this event is free to members and 25 dollars for guests.

When: Monday, August 19th, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

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

Who:  Eviction Court Commissioner Cedric S. Cornwall

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


About our speaker:

Cedric S. Cornwall has lived in Milwaukee County for 30 years and practiced law here for 27 years. A graduate of Marquette University Law School, he currently serves as a Milwaukee County Judicial Court Commissioner, where he presides over hearings in Children’s Court, Small Claims Court, Intake Court, Preliminary Hearing Court, and Traffic Court. Assigned to the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center, he also conducts settlement conferences, delinquency hearings, and permanency plan review hearings.

Commissioner Cornwall previously served as a Manager for the City of Milwaukee Equal Rights Commission and in the Trial Division of the Office of the Wisconsin State Public Defender, and was a partner in the Law Offices of Cornwall, Rhiel, and Yahahiro and in the small private firm he founded in 1999, where he gained extensive trial experience in criminal, juvenile, traffic, and supervision revocation cases. Commissioner Cornwall lives in Wauwatosa with his wife, Andrea, and their two daughters.



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5 Things This Landlords’ Attorney Wants For Christmas

With the coming of the holidays, comes list of gifts that people want for Christmas.  So I thought I would put together one of my own.  So here is a list of the top 5 things that this landlords’ lawyer would like for Christmas.


5.   That Tenants’ Requests For Reasonable Accommodations To Allow for the Keeping of  Companion/Comfort Animals Would Actually Be “Reasonable”

The past few years — and especially this past year — have seen a large rise in requests by tenants for a reasonable accommodation to landlords’ “no pet” or “limited pet” policies specifically to allow for the keeping of a companion/comfort animal.  A companion/comfort animal does not need to be specially trained and therefore can be any type of animal including the family dog, cat, gunea pig, or even a miniature horse.  A tenant can ask for a reasonable accommodation — and it should be provided — as long as the tenant has a disability (i.e. an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities) and the accommodation request has a “nexus” to the tenant’s disability and will allow them to more fully enjoy a major life activity.

However, somewhere along the line tenants seem to have forgotten about the word “reasonable” in “reasonable accommodations.”

It is not reasonable in my opinion to need 5 kittens as companion animals (which were recently born to a landlord-approved pet cat) just because the tenant thinks the kittens are cute and does not want to get rid of the litter.

It is not reasonable in my opinion for a tenant to request a pit bull dog as a reasonable accommodation just because the tenant’s relative recently lost their home to foreclosure and can’t find a place for their pet “pitty” to live.

It is not reasonable to have to allow a miniature horse as a companion animal because the tenant does not want to have a dog instead because dogs do not live as long as horses do,  and if the dog should die it would exacerbate the tenant’s mental health issues.  Whereas the miniature horse will outlive the tenant so her mental health will be unaffected.  Who cares what happens to the miniature horse after the tenant passes.


4.   That Tenants Who File Bankruptcy Be Required To Disclose To The Bankruptcy Court That They Are Renters and that the Bankruptcy Court Create A More Efficient Process For The Tenant To “Pay and Stay” or Vacate

If a tenant files for bankruptcy something called the “automatic stay” kicks in that prevents any creditors (yes, that includes landlords) from attempting to collect a debt or in the case of landlords – evict a tenant.  Now, tenant/debtors are supposed to disclose in their bankruptcy schedules that they file with the court whether or not they have any “executory contracts or unexpired leases.”  Without fail, tenants and there bankruptcy attorneys always check the box saying that they have no executory contracts or unexpired leases.  I have handled at least 30 of these situations for my landlord clients and not once has the tenant advised the court that they were under an unexpired lease.

A landlord is then required to pay a filing fee, file a motion to lift the automatic stay, wait 14 days for the tenant to object, and if so participate in a hearing before the court, to present evidence that the tenant isn’t paying their rent and the landlord should be allowed to proceed to evict the tenant.  This process can be expensive and time consuming for a landlord whose hands are legally bound from doing anything until the bankruptcy court says he can.

It would be nice if the court or the bankruptcy trustee would confirm whether or not the debtor is a tenant and whether or not they are up to date with rent and if not, determine if the tenant can get caught up so s/he can stay, or advise the tenant/debtor that they must vacate the landlord’s property.

To require a landlord jump through all of these hoops in order to remove a non-paying tenant from his rental property is just another financial drain on landlords.  A landlord will spend at least one month (if not more) trying to lift the stay in bankruptcy court.  Once that is completed, he then needs to serve the tenant with the appropriate notice, and after that time has elapsed, pay more money to file the eviction, and then wait another 2 weeks or so until the initial appearance in eviction court.  As you can see, this process can  delay things at least 2 months.  So I would like to expedite this somehow.  Wishful thinking I know . . .  but hey, this is my wish list : )


3.   That Tenants Stop Using Jury Trial Demands To “Buy” More Time In Evictions

In my 17+ years of law practice I have probably encountered somewhere between 10-15 requests for a jury trial by a tenant that I am evicting.  Not one of those cases have ever resulted in an actual jury being selected.  Instead the demand is often made just because it will prolong the case.  In Milwaukee County when a jury trial demand is made, the case is tabbed to a large claims judge who often has a very busy caseload and is unable to even get the case into court for a Scheduling Conference for 2 months.  Oftentimes, a trial isn’t scheduled for months after the Scheduling Conference.  On the other hand if a jury trial is not made, the small claims judge in Milwaukee County can hear the eviction within a week in most cases.

I have had jury trial demands filed in failure to pay rent cases where the tenant has no legal defense.  Tenant didn’t pay rent, notice was properly served, tenant didn’t pay past due rent within cure period, and an eviction lawsuit was field.  Tenant doesn’t deny any of it but wants a jury trial.  Now my client gets to sit for months with a non-paying tenant before obtaining a judgement of eviction.  And no, landlords rarely ever see those rent amounts from the tenant even if they obtain a money judgment against them later because many tenants are not collectible.

I have had jury trial demands filed in cases where the tenant is being evicted for engaging in criminal activity that is scaring (and at times injuring) fellow tenants and neighbors.  Yet, with the jury demand having been made, the landlord, along with the law-abiding tenants and neighbors, have to deal with the scofflaw tenant for months, unless they by chance would get arrested.

The law needs to be changed in this regard.  While jury trials are an important part of the judicial system this practice that I am seeing more and more of is clearly an abuse of the system.  Perhaps requiring that all jury trials must be held within so many days of the initial appearance or in failure to pay rent cases requiring that all past due rent must be paid up and future rent continue to be paid or the tenant loses his/her right to the jury trial.  Something needs to happen to stop this frivolous practice.


2.   That All Courts Follow the Law with Regard To Granting “Stays” in Eviction Actions

Sec. 799.44(3), Wis. Stats., is very clear that before a court is allowed to “stay” a writ that the tenant must pay all rent and other charges due as well as any rent that will become due during the period of the “stay.”  This law is often ignored by the courts to landlords’ detriment.

I understand that it is difficult to tell a tenant that you are ordering them to immediately vacate the rental property even when the cause of their non-payment of rent is due to no fault of their own – such as losing a job due to downsizing or health issues — but that is what the law says.  If it is a bad law (and I am not saying that it is) then it can and should be changed through the legislative process.

Let me put this in another context.  A tenant that has lost their job or that has encountered a serious medical issue may also not have money to buy food for their family, but that doesn’t mean that they are allowed to shoplift food from the grocery store.  If they did that they would be arrested.

So why is a landlord required to provide housing for a tenant who’s tenancy has been properly terminated and after all proper legal channels have been followed?  What makes a landlord so special that s/he gets this special treatment that places them in a different category than any other creditor.  Why is a landlord required to house the non-paying tenant to the landlord’s financial detriment and risk their ability to continue to provide housing for their paying tenants.  Again, for those non-landlords that may be reading this post, most tenants are not collectible, so saying that the landlord will be made whole when they obtain a money judgment against the tenant is not realistic.


1.   That All Landlords Join a Landlord Association (such as the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin – AASEW) 

There are more private landlords in Wisconsin than there are teachers but landlords’ voices are not anywhere near as powerful as are teachers.  The reason for this is that landlords are not organized.  Landlords tend to be an independent type that enjoy being their own bosses.  That is well and good but landlords need to set that independent spirit aside on occasion for the betterment of themselves and all landlords.  Only when landlords unit can positive change occur for them as there is strength in numbers.  It is very difficult to survive financially as a landlord these days.  But by joining a landlord association,  a landlord’s life can become a little easier.  First, through landlord associations, landlords can create a united voice to challenge bad legislation or champion new legislation.  Secondly, landlord associations provide educational opportunities for their members on changes in the law so landlords can stay out of legal trouble.  Third, there is camaraderie in joining a landlord association which allows members to rub elbows with other landlords may be facing, or have previously faced, the same struggles that you are having.

If all landlords joined a landlord association and became active in them, we have the money and the numbers to create change that would assist our industry.


Oh by the way Santa – if you cant give me any of my wishes on this list, I will settle for a new toy bike with red and white streamers dangling from the handlebars : )

Happy Holidays everyone!




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Milwaukee Co. Eviction Court Closure Dates Through End of Year

Milwaukee County just advised many of us that  Eviction Court (room 400 only) will be closed the following days:

– Friday, November 2, 2012

– Friday, November 23, 2012

– Friday, December 14, 2012

– Monday, December 24, 2012

– Monday, December 31, 2012


Note:  These closures do NOT apply to Judge Kuhnmuench’s courtroom in room 409.

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Judge Mary Kuhnmuench Will Be New Small Claims/Eviction Judge in Milwaukee County

In Milwaukee County we get a new small claims/eviction judge each year around August 1st or so.  Most judicial rotations are three years long  but for some reason — possibly the high volume, tediousness, pro se litigants, stress level — the small claims judge rotates every year.

Milwaukee County’s new small claims/eviction judge effective July 27, 2012, will be Mary M. Kuhnmuench.  Judge Kuhnmuench is currently completing her rotation in criminal misdemeanor court.

Judge Kuenhmuench was elected in 1998, and re-elected in both 2004 and 2010.  Prior to being a judge she was an Assistant City Attorney in Milwaukee, an in-house corporate attorney at A.O. Smith and and adjunct professor of business law at Alverno College.

Milwaukee County Releases Dates That Eviction Court Will Be Closed in 2012

Milwaukee County recently released all dates that Eviction Court will be closed in 2012.  Most of them are obvious closings for holidays but there are a few that are not holiday-related.

So make sure you don’t schedule a return date in eviction court for any of these days:

May 4, 2012

May 28, 2012

July 4, 2012

September 3, 2012

November 2, 2012

November 23, 2012

December 24, 2012

December 25, 2012

December 31, 2012

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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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Don’t Miss the 2nd Annual East Side Landlord Think Small Conference on Wednesday November 9, 2011

I will be the featured speaker at the upcoming East Side Landlord Think Small Conference on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 from 3 pm – 6:30 pm at UW-Milwaukee, Chapman Hall located at 2310 E. Hartford Avenue, in the Regent’s Room on the 2nd floor.

This conference is FREE to any and all interested landlords, with a special focus on Milwaukee’s East Side landlords.

This conference is composed of 3 componants:

1.   Featured Speaker – I will be speaking on the issues of “Causes for Eviction and Termination of Tenancy” and “Notices Terminating Tenancy.” You will learn about the 4 basic notices that can be served on a residential tenant in Wisconsin (5 day, 14 day, 28 day and 30 day notices) and when you should be using each notice and why.  While no one wants to have to evict a tenant . . . sometimes it is necessary.  At the very least, landlords need to become comfortable with the various notice that can be served on a tenant when a tenant breaches his/her rental agreement or the landlord wants to terminate the tenant’s tenancy.  I will also discuss the proper way to serve a tenant with one of these notices.  I will be handing out a detailed 11 page outline on this topic that attendees can take home to refer to when needed in the future.  Examples of properly drafted 5 day, 14 day, 28 day, and 30 day notices will also be distributed.

2.   Round Table Discussion – This discussion will include a panel of UW-Milwaukee staff, City of Milwaukee staff, myself, and others and will focus on local topics and common problems that East Side landlords encounter.

3.    Panel of Experts – The panel will be comprised of members of the Milwaukee Police Department, Campus Police Department, Department of Public Works, Department of Neighborhood Services, and UW-Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Housing and who will field any questions that you may have.

There will also be time to network with other landlords.

If you are interested in attending please RSVP to Heather Harbach, UW-Milwaukee Neighborhood Relations Liason at (414) 229-4451 or  You can also register for the event by clicking here.

I hope to see everyone there!!

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