Archive for category Reasonable Modifications

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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“Reasonable Modifications:” What A Landlord Needs To Know About This Important Topic

The term “reasonable modifications” is used throughout the federal Fair Housing Act as well as Wisconsin’s Open Housing law (which for the most part adopts federal law).  Requests for reasonable modifications by tenant are on the rise. 

The Basics:

Wisconsin’s Open Housing law, which can be found at sec. 106.50, Wis. Stats., states that a landlord cannot refuse to permit, at the expense of a person with a disability, reasonable modifications to the housing by a tenant, if the modifications are necessary to afford the disabled tenant the full enjoyment of the housing.  Sec. 106.50(2r)(3), Wis. Stats.

Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to the interior of the property or the exterior of the property.  Reasonable modifications can be made to common areas and public use areas of the property as well. 

The tenant is responsible for paying for the reasonable modifications to the property. It is also the responsibility of the tenant to maintain the modification if it is used exclusively by the tenant.  If the modification is in a common area and other tenants also use the modification, the upkeep would be the responsibility of the landlord

Requesting A Reasonable Modification

A tenant is not entitled to a reasonable modification unless the modification is requested.  The request can be verbal or written. 

A tenant must obtain the landlord’s approval before the tenant can move forward with the modification.

A landlord cannot condition the approval of the modification on the tenant obtaining special liability insurance.

There Must Be A Nexus Between the Disability and the Reasonable Modification

There must be an identifiable relationship or “nexus” between the requested modification and the tenant’s disability.  For instance an identifiable nexus would exist if a tenant using a wheelchair requests that a ramp be installed leading up to the apartment’s front door.  There would not be an identifiable relationship if a tenant that is mobility impaired requests that the landlord permit him to change the roofing from shaker shingles to clay tiles and fiberglass shingles becasue he believes the original shingles are less fireproof.

Examples of Reasonable Modifications:

– Installation of a ramp for a person using a wheelchair.

– Widening of the doorways in an apartment so that a tenant’s wheelchair can pass through.

– Installing grab bars in a shower for a person with with mobility/balance issues.

– Allowing a tenant with a hearing disability to install a peephole and an extra loud doorbell.

– Replacing doorknobs with levers for a tenant with severe arthritis who has difficulty turning a doorknob.

What Is Reasonable?

There is not a clear “black and white” definition of what is reasonable in terms of a tenant’s request for a reasonable modification.  What is “reasonable” is a very fact intensive question and depends on the specific situation.  Asking a landlord to tear down a wall dividing the two lower rental units in a 4-family so that the tenant using a wheelchair would have additional space, would most likely not be found to be reasonable as such a modification would greatly affect the landlord’s rental property by changing it from a 4 family to a 3 family.  But asking a landlord to lower the light switches throughout a unit as well as the counter tops in the kitchen, to allow a person using a wheelchair to enjoy full enjoyment of their apartment, would more than likely be found to be reasonable.

In the end, what is “reasonable” will be determined on a case by case basis by a Circuit Court Judge or an Administrative Law Judge, should a tenant file a discrimination complaint against a landlord for denying a request for reasonable modifications.

What Information May A Landlord Request From A Tenant To Support A Request For Reasonable Modifications?

A landlord can request that a tenant provide him/her with reliable disability-related information that: (a) is necessary to verify that the person meets the Act’s definition of a “disability,” (b) describes the needed modification; and (c) shows the relationship between the person’s disability and the need for the requested modification.

I hope it goes without saying — but I will say it anyway — that a landlord must keep any requested information confidential. 

Additionally, if a person’s disability is open and obvious or otherwise known, and the need for the requested modification is also readily apparent or known, the landlord may not request any information from the tenant.  An example of such a situation would be a tenant that has cerebral palsy who uses braces to walk, makes a request that the landlord replace the doorknobs with levers to assist the tenant with opening the doors.

The Tenant Must Pay For The Reasonable Modifications

In case you missed this very important point in the definition above, I wanted to reiterate it.  The number one comment/question I receive from landlord’s on the topic of reasonable modifications is “This is not fair. I can’t afford to pay for these modifications. Why do I need to pay for this?”  You don’t have to pay for it.  The law clearly states that it is the tenant’s responsibility to pay for any reasonable modification that is requested.

Restoration Agreements

A landlord may condition permission for a reasonable modification — to the inside of the property — on the tenant entering into an agreement to restore the interior back to the condition that it was in before the modifications were made.  Sec. 106.50(2r)(3), Wis. Stats.

Restoration Agreements cannot apply to the outside of the property.  So a landlord cannot require a tenant to pay to uninstall a wheelchair ramp that leads to the front door, for instance.

It is improper for a landlord to require a larger security deposit from a person with a disability to cover the cost to return a unit to its original condition, but it is perfectly legal to require a tenant to place the monies to return a unit to its original condition under a restoration agreement.

A Practical Matter

I would strongly reccomend that a landlord be involved in the process of determining who is hored to make the reasonable modifications.  It is the landlord’s property after all and s/he needs to protect it from damage and protect the tenant from shoddy workmanship. 

While it is probably not reasonable for a landlord to require a tenant to use a specified contractor to make the modifications, I would argue that it is also not reasonable for a tenant to require a landlord to allow the tenant’s little brother’s best friend, who is not insured or bonded, and has failed to pull the required permits, to do the work.  The landlord and tenant should work together to find a contractor that is qualified and reliable and meets both the tenant’s and the landlord’s needs.

A Great Resource:

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have issued a Joint Statement on Reasonable Mondifications Under The Fair Housing Act.  This March 2008 publication is a great resource to turn to on the topic of reasonable modifications.

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