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134 Comments

  • #1 by David Klinedorf on September 7th, 2013

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    War On Landlords Continues
    The City of Cudahy recently levied heavy fines on owners of “problem properties.” A letter to the citizenry was even published by the mayor congratulating themselves for doing a good job protecting the city. .Apparently a problem property is defined by Cudahy as any property that has 3 or more calls for the police etc. within a month, apparently for any reason .[ I am not sure how a similar situation has been handled in Milwaukee.] I wish such ordinances would eventually be challenged and over ruled by some court. In essence property owners are punished for the deeds of others that they have little or no control over. Did one of the landlords pour alcohol down tenant’s throats, or shoot them up with drugs, raise them poorly as children or pay them SSI so they can not work and stay up all night causing trouble? What did the one landlady do to cause the mental illness of a tenant who constantly needed police and ambulance service? It would really serve arrogant municipal leaders right to just have to live with society’s ills not having property owners as scapegoats.

  • #2 by Joan on September 16th, 2013

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    Can you tell me if a tenant can give notice in the middle of the month to vacate if the rent is due on the 1st of the month. Tenant is month to month & gave 30 day notice on June 19 & were out by July 19, thus I lost July rent..They want me to use security deposit of $600. towards rent but there were other expenses so they owe me $$994…They refuse to believe me that they had to give me notice by June 1 in order not to have to pay July rent..Am I correct?

  • #3 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on September 17th, 2013

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    Hi Jerry. Your question is really not legal in nature but more of a business decision. Personally, if I have a tenant that is trouble and may discourage future renters from renting my place, I would personally suspend showings until that tenant is gone. If your unit remains vacant longer than it would have been due to your inability to show the unit becasue of your tenant’s antics you may be able to hold the tenant responsible for additional rent depending on the other particular facts of your case.

    Good luck and stay safe from those fist-wielding tenants.

    T

  • #4 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on September 17th, 2013

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    David = your sentiments are the same as landlors in Milwaukee — be casue we have a simliar ordinance on the books here. I’m sure Cudahy got the idea from Milwaukee. It is very frustrating and these “nuisance ordinances” were the topic of several newapaper and television interviews as they predominantly affect minorities per a study conducted and recently published. So you are not alone.

  • #5 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on September 18th, 2013

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    Joan – As you are learning tenants can do whatever they want — and they often do. The law on the other hand provides some guidance on how to do it correctly. If you have a month to month tenancy, either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy by giving notice of at least 28 days (it could be more if agreed to in the rental agreement) and the notice must coincide with the end of a rent paying period. If rent is due on the 1st day of the month then the end of the rent paying period is the last day of the month.

    So if a tenant gave you notice to vacate on September 15th — that notice would not be legally effective until the end of October. Put another way, if the tenant gives notice on Sept 15th to be out at the end of September that would be an improper notice and legally the tenant would be responsible for rent for the month of October subject to the landlord’s duty to mitigate by making attempts to re-rent the unit.

    In your situation it appears as if the tennat may have given 28 days notice but it didnt coincide with the end of a rent paying period. Even if we were to ignore the above noted law, the tenant lived in your unit for 19 days of July and should’ve paid for that.

    I would suggest you consult with an attorney so that you can learn of your options in terms of trying to collect the money owed you. Good luck

    T

  • #6 by jerry on October 3rd, 2013

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    What is your suggestion on how to hold unauthorized occupants to rent and damages in a leased unit. We leased a big unit to 4 women and next thing you know we have 8 people living there. The Std WI lease(WI Legal Blank) says guests can stay 14 days. These tenants claim guest stay for 12 -13 days, go to IL for a few then come back. They have 8 beds, plus clothes and belongings in unit which we photo’d when we did repair. We try suing to evict and name 2 of the “men”, but court dismisses them as “not on the lease” How do we make claim against them for rent/damages? Is 14 day guest clause too long??
    Thanks for comments

  • #7 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on October 7th, 2013

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    Jerry — The 14 day language is not law — it is just a number that was chosen to not be too onerous with regard to visitors but not too long such that they overstay their welcome. I personally think 14 days is too long. In the rental agreement that I used for my tenants I changed theat number to 3.

    It is always difficult to prove that a tenant has an unauthorized guest. I have prevailed on these cases nonethless at times. Usually I try to evict for something other than the unauthorized guest whenever possible. But if there are no other options then I have proven that the “guests: actually do live at the rental unit by showing recent traffic citations where the “guest” told the police they lived at my rental unit. they either are lygin to the police or lying to me — neither of which are looked upon favorably by a judge. I have also contacted the “guests” probation or parole agent — assuming they are “on paper” — and either confirmed that the agent has my rental unit address as the “guests” home address or if not advised the agent that their cleitn isnt being truthful with their residence.

    But these are not the easiest cases to prove. So sometimes you have to evict based on a different type of breach.

    I have never tried to hold a guest to rent and damages. If I dont have their application and their name is not on the rental agreement then I believe that evicting is better option that trying to recover increased rent or penalty fees.

    this is also another example of a situation where having tenants on a month to month rather than a lease is better — you just 28 day them.

    T

  • #8 by Stacy on October 30th, 2013

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    What laws are there that state how many unrelated parties we can rent to in a single dwelling, before it is considered a rooming or boarding house? Specifically a single family home with 3 bedrooms. I have 3 roommates wanting to add a 4th person. Thank you for all the information you provide to landlords!

  • #9 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on November 1st, 2013

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    Stacy — It is a convoluted reading of city Milwaukee Oridinances that arrives at the no more than 3 unrelated person in one rental unit. My freind, fellow landlord, and fellow AASEW board member, just wrote a blog post on this issue at http://www.justalandlord.com

    T

  • #10 by Laurie on November 14th, 2013

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    I was wondering if you’ve come across in court regarding bedbugs…what would fall under statute 704.07-unhabitability. I have a previous resident who told us she was getting bites the 19th of the month at 5 p.m. We had our exterminator here at 9 a.m. the next day to inspect. He found one bed bug in her closet and treated her unit (we paid for the service as a landlord) that same day. The resident moved out on the 27th of that same month claiming unhabitability. In your opinion or by what you’ve seen in court, does this constitute unhabitability?
    thanks!

  • #11 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on November 18th, 2013

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    Laurie – Please understand that I cannot give legal advice via this blog. cases involving bedbugs are very fact-specific and the decision made by the court really depends on those specific facts and also which court commissioner or judge you get.

    While there is always a chance that a court could deem a property uninhabitable becasue of bed bugs — there is no statute that directly addresses bedbugs. Also bedbugs are often brought in by th tenant which would affect a finding of habilitability. I would suggest you retain a lawyer that can learn your specific fact patttern and give you legal advice.

    Good luck

    T

  • #12 by Lorene Scheelk on April 2nd, 2014

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    If a couple, that is not married applies for a rental, are they protected under marital status. Do we have to combine their incomes for the minimum rent criteria. Our criteria states that if more than one applicant, one person must meet the minimum.

    Thank-you.

  • #13 by Jim on April 16th, 2014

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    What If your lease does not have an automatic renewal clause in it, and the resident is still occupying the unit after the lease expires. Is the new rent stated on the lease renewal letters sent to them still enforceable as well as a month to month fee.

    What if, when they moved in years ago, the month to month fee that was stated in their lease paperwork is say $30/month and this fee has since raised to $50/month. Can I enforce the current rate of $50.

    Or would they be considered a holdover tenant, in which case they could be subject to double rent???

    Lastly, for residents on a term lease…how much time/notice do I need to give them that their rent is increasing for their lease renewal?

    If you could post a blog regarding these topics – I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

  • #14 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on April 18th, 2014

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    Lorene — Please understand that I cannot give legal advice via this blog. Generally speaking, it is my opinion, that you cannot deny a couple rental just because they are not married – if you did so that would be discriminating against them based on marital status.

    In terms of how you analyze their applications — jointly or individually — that would depend on what your screening criteria is. Some landlords require each adult applicant to separately qualify, others do not. That is something that you will need to decide on and then follow going forward.

    Your screening criteria appears to only require that one person qualify.

    T

  • #15 by jerry on April 26th, 2014

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    I have a new tenant that just moved in april 1st 2014. When I went the next day to check on things I found she had a dog and I have a no pet policy which she knew about. She hadn;t signed the lease yet so I told her the pet needed to go or look for another apt. She must have thought about it but 2 days later she signed the lease saying she would get rid of the dog because she needed a place to live more than a dog, so her sister took it. Now 3 weeks later she got a note from her doctor that she could have an emotional support animal, do I legally have to accept that, it seems to me that the dog was really a pet when she moved in because she had no paperwork to indicate otherwise and agreed to sign the lease with the no pet policy and now wants to have a dog after the fact, plus she never disclosed ahead of time any indication of a pet. Any advice helpful Thanks, Jerry

  • #16 by Xeng on May 1st, 2014

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    My family which include (my wife, and 4 children under age 12) were denied a 1950 square feet duplex. The duplex had 3 bed room and 2.5 bath. What is the minimum square footage per person and per child for housing act?

  • #17 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on May 2nd, 2014

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    Different municipalities have different square footage requirements. It is a very fact specific analysis that often depends on size of rooms also. So a straight simple answer cannot be given.

  • #18 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on May 2nd, 2014

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    Jerry — You are probably going to want to hire a lawyer to assist you with this as I can not give legal advice via this blog. I have written a post on companion animals – so I would direct you there.

    There are many things that you should have done differently. Why does a tenant have a key to your rental unit if there is not a signed lease? No one should have access to your rental unit until a signed agreement is in place and a security deposit is received and the first month’s rent is paid. to do it otherwise may require you to file an eviction against someone that hasn’t paid you a dime.

    Getting back to your main question, the law regarding companion animals deals with “reasonable accommodations” and as I mention in the post on companion animals the threshold that the person has to meet is quite low. You will need to evaluate your situation and the specific facts with someone that knows this area of the law and which you have been retained, so that you can be given specific legal advice for your situation.

  • #19 by jerry on May 3rd, 2014

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    Tristan, I guess my bottom line is she agreed to sign the lease stating no pets saying she needed a place to live more than a dog, can I evict for breach of contract.

  • #20 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on May 12th, 2014

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    Jerry — I cannot give legal advice via this blog. Depending on the specific facts — which I do not know — the answer could be yes or no.

    T

  • #21 by Rhonda on May 13th, 2014

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    I have two unrelated people renting an approx. 750 square foot apartment in Washington County from me. They asked me if a 3rd friend could move in. Am I required to allow this? There are 2 bedrooms and they use both. One bedroom is 10×12 and the other is 10 x 11. I use the residential rental agreements from WI Legal Blank. They are 10 months into their twelve month agreement. Thank you.

  • #22 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on May 20th, 2014

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    Rhonda — thank you for your question. Please understand that I cannot give legal advice via this blog.

    generally speaking however, you have a signed lease with 2 tenants that continues for 2 more months. Neither party is allowed to unilaterally amend a lease that is still in effect. So just like a landlord can not unilaterally increase the rent during a lease term a tenant cannot unilaterally change the terms of the lease.

    Practically speaking however, tenants will just move the person in unauthorized in many cases. So be aware of that.

  • #23 by jerry on May 23rd, 2014

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    We have a tenant who left apt due to heating issues, and has a valid position. However, we refunded Security deposit and remaining unearned rent within 21 days. Tenant never picked up letter and it was returned to us. Then sued us for double damages and further rent abatement. She hasn’t gotten her check from us as its still in sealed & returned envelope. We met our responsibility–are we at risk for not taking check out and resending to her at new address(she never provided forwarding address)

  • #24 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on May 23rd, 2014

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    Jerry — Please understand that I cannot give legal advice via this blog. Take your unopened mailing with date stamp on it and show that to the court. Hopefully that will resolve the issue.

  • #25 by jerry on July 17th, 2014

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    In a situation where we feel tenants pet damaged carpet, while they insist NO, we could withhold from SD for cleaning and replacement. If we are found wrong, we are likely going to get stuck with double damages & atty fees, as tenant has had atty write a letter at vacating demanding all of SD back. Are we better off refunding all of SD, then suing for damages (to avoid Double issue). Also if we do so , how do we specify damages in 21 day letter if we are claiming but not withholding for them??
    Thank you for comments..

  • #26 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on July 28th, 2014

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    Jerry — I cannot give legal advice via this blog. So I cannot tell you what to do. Generally speaking however, if you are unsure of your security deposit deduction or do not want to take a chance of the tenant being awarded double damages and actual atty. fees, one way to avoid that is to return the security deposit and then sue for the damages. By doing so, if a court would disagree with you, you would just lose your lawsuit and that is it. You would not end up owing a tenant double D’s and atty. fees.

    If you are returning a security deposit in full then you would not even need to do a security deposit transmittal letter specifying damages because you are not withholding any of the security deposit.

  • #27 by julie noffke on August 7th, 2014

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    I have a renter whose lease is up Nov. 1. She wants a room mate
    to move in this month. Should I do a seperate 1yr lease for the person who wants to move in August and leave the current tenant on her lease which will be month to month in Nov. I would have one with year lease with one tenant and one with month to month or should I do a new lease with both of them on it. They would like it month to month.

  • #28 by James on August 7th, 2014

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    Tristan, in regard to a landlord increasing a tenant’s rent, how much advanced notice does the landlord need to give the tenant?

  • #29 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on August 25th, 2014

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    It depends on the type of rental agreement. If the tenant is under a lease then the rental amount cannot be increased during the term of the rental agreement. If it is a month to month tenancy then the default notice period per WI. statutes is 28 days. But some month to month tenancies require a larger notice period if both parties have agreed to it in writing.

  • #30 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on August 25th, 2014

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    Julie — I cannot give legal advice via this blog. Generally speaking however you only want to have one rental document for a rental unit so that everyone is under the same terms and conditions. Having a different rental agreement for each tenant in your rental unit can (and most likely will) cause lots of problems.

  • #31 by Brandy Weltzien on October 3rd, 2014

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    I have a question on reasonable accommodations requests. If a resident is on long term disability, and the insurance payments come mid month, is this a reasonable accommodation that should be granted to change their rent due rate, and or waive late fees each month. I have been looking for more information on this topic, however most articles talk about people who get SSI benefits. Thanks in advance for any guidance. I want to make sure to respond in a fair and consistent way.

  • #32 by Paula on October 14th, 2014

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    Hi,

    First, I attended your Boot Camp a couple of weeks ago and it was very good and informative. Secondly, I have been exterminating a lower duplex unit since late July, (when the tenant moved out) for bed bugs. My exterminator said he believes I should be ok to list the unit for rent in November , after he applies the final treatment next week. Do you recommend or do I have to disclose this issue to the new renters? Or do you suggest I add an addendum to my rental agreement to protect myself, just in case there not all gone?

    Thank You.

  • #33 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on November 4th, 2014

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    Paula – I am glad you enjoyed the BC. I am not aware of any law that requires you to disclose to a prospective renter that a rental property previously had bedbugs as long as the infestation is completely resolved. See ch. 704.07(2)(bm), Wis. Stats.You would be required to disclose that fact if the infestation had not been eradicated. Having said that, nothing prevents you from disclosing the fact that you once had bedbugs to a prospective renter if you choose to do so.

  • #34 by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. on November 18th, 2014

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    It might be. I am not aware of any case law on that specific issue but it is something that you should discuss with the tenant if they have made such a RA request.

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