Posts Tagged Landlord-Tenant Law

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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Act 76 – Wisconsin’s New Landlord Tenant Law – Part 5: Domestic Violence Notice Langauge & More Prohibited Rental Agreement Provisions

Act 76 has made many changes to Landlord-Tenant law in Wisconsin, some of which I have explained in prior blog posts.  One of the biggest changes, which I have not yet blogged about, is the requirement that a landlord include language notifying tenants of certain domestic abuse protections in all rental agreements or addenda as of March 1, 2014.

The required language is set forth in sec. 704.14, Wis. Stats. and must be included verbatim in the rental agreement - it cannot be modified or summarized.

The language that must be included is:

 

NOTICE OF DOMESTIC ABUSE PROTECTIONS

(1) As provided in section 106.50 (5m) (dm) of the Wisconsin statutes, a tenant has a defense to an eviction action if the tenant can prove that the landlord knew, or should have known, the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking and that the eviction action is based on conduct related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking committed by either of the following:

(a) A person who was not the tenant’s invited guest.

(b) A person who was the tenant’s invited guest, but the tenant has done either of the following:

1. Sought an injunction barring the person from the premises.

2. Provided a written statement to the landlord stating that the person will no longer be an invited guest of the tenant and the tenant has not subsequently invited the person to be the tenant’s guest.

(2) A tenant who is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking may have the right to terminate the rental agreement in certain limited situations, as provided in section 704.16 of the Wisconsin statutes. If the tenant has safety concerns, the tenant should contact a local victim service provider or law enforcement agency.

(3) A tenant is advised that this notice is only a summary of the tenant’s rights and the specific language of the statutes governs in all instances.

 

Unfortunately many landlords are not even aware of this new requirement.  Others complain that this will make their rental agreements 1/2 page longer.  Depending on formatting – this very well may be true.  Nonetheless, any rental agreements that are entered into or renewed as of March 1, 2014, must include this language.  If your rental agreement does not contain this language you your rental agreement will be declared void and unenforceable.

Why is that you ask?  Keep reading.

Act 76 also modified and created additional provisions that cannot be included in a Landlord’s rental agreement.  If a landlord includes any prohibited provision in his/her rental agreement the lease will be void and unenforceable.  I affectionately refer to these illegal provisions as the “10 Deadly Sins.”

Act 76 created the 10th Deadly Sin which is directly related to the DV protection language discussed above.

A rental agreement will be void and unenforceable if it allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant for a crime committed in relation to the rental property if it does not also include the new domestic abuse protection language set forth in sec. 704, 14, Wis. Stats.

This is huge.  So hopefully any rental agreements that you have entered into since March 1st of this year contain this required language.  If they do not, you should immediately create an Addendum to your rental agreement that includes the DV notice language and send it to your tenants immediately so that you are in compliance.  If you are using pre-printed rental agreement forms you must insure that they have been updated to include this language.  I can assure you that the rental agreement form that I draft for Wisconsin Legal Blank Co. has had this language added.  Going forward you only should be using the WLB rental agreement form that has a publication date of 2/17/14 or later.

Act 76 also modified the 9th Deadly Sin which was created by Act 143 (which became law in March 31, 2012).  The “old” 9th Deadly Sin stated that a rental agreement was void if it allowed a landlord to evict a tenant as a result of a crime committed in or on the rental property if the tenant could not have reasonably prevented the crime.  This language was problematic for many landlords.  As such the 9th Deadly Sin was modified in Act 76 to read:

A rental agreement will be void and unenforceable if it contains a provision that allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant based solely on a crime being committed if the tenant, or someone lawfully living with them, is a victim of that crime.

Hopefully there will not be any new Deadly Sins created in the near future.  If there are, we will end up having more clauses that cannot be included in a residential rental agreement than can be included ; ).

 

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AASEW Meeting: Come Learn About The New Landlord-Tenant Law (Act 76) on Feb. 17th

As many of you know I have been blogging over the past month or so about aspects of the new Landlord-Tenant law that goes into effect on March 1, 2014.  Well, I will continue to blog about the new law in the future, but if you would prefer to learn all about Act 76 in its entirety you should plan on coming to the next AASEW monthly meeting on Monday, February 17, 2014 at 7 pm at the Best Western in Brookfield.

Atty. Heiner Giese and myself, both of whom were actively involved in the drafting of this new law, will be presenting the new law in its entirely at this meeting.  I will be handling out my outline/summary of the new law as well and Heiner will be handing out copies of the new language that MUST be included in all residential real rental agreements as of March 1, 2014.

In my opinion, this will be the single most important AASEW meeting of the year.  So you will not want to miss it.

Attendence at the meeting is free for current AASEW members or $25 per person for non-members (if you join the AASEW at the meeting the $25 fee will be credited to your membership).  If you would like to join the AASEW ahead of time so that you can more quickly find a seat for the meeting you should call Betzi at 414-276-7378 prior to the meeting.

I look forward to seeing everyone there.

T

 

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ACT 76 – Wisconsin’s New Landlord-Tenant Law – Part 3: Speeding Up the Eviction Process

Several of the provisions of Wisconsin’s New Landlord-Tenant law, Act 76 (SB 179), were created or amended to speed up the eviction process.  Evictions are supposed to be summary proceedings and per the Wisconsin Supreme Court (Scalzo v. Anderson, 87 Wis. 2d 834 (1979)) there are very limited number of issues permissible in an evictions action.  Nonetheless, tenants were finding ways to delay the process.  Hopefully Act 76 will resolve much of that delay.

First, Act 76, amends sec. 799.12, Wis. Stats. to allow circuit courts in the various counties to decide via local rule whether or not to allow service of an eviction summons via certified mail. Current law does not allow service of an eviciton by mail and requires that an eviction summons be served personally, or after reasonable diligence has been made, via substituted service or posting and mailing.

If a county allows service via mail, then the clerk shall mail a copy of the eviction summons to each defendant at their last known address.  Service of the summons will be considered completed when mailed, unless the envelope enclosing the summons has been returned unopened to the clerk prior to the court date.

I personally think that service of an eviction summons via mail will cause logistical problems.  I can tell you right now that Milwaukee and Dane counties certainly will not agree to service by mail in eviction actions but possibly it will work in smaller counties.

Second, Act 76 amends sec. 799.05(3)(b), Wis. Stats. and states that the return date (initial appearance) in court can be no less than 5 days and no more than 25 days after service is issued (i.e. the tenant is served with the eviction summons).  Current law requires the return date be held no less than 5 days and no more than 30 days after service.

It will be important that landlords make sure that their process servers are aware of this law change starting March 1, 2014 otherwise it could result in their evictions being dismissed if the return date/initial appearance is scheduled more than 25 days after service is effectuated.

Third, sec. 799.206 and sec. 799.20(4), Wis. Stats,  have been amended to require that all contested hearings in small claims actions (evictions, garnishments, replevins etc.) must be scheduled within 30 days of the return date/initial appearance.

Even more important to landlords is that all residential evictions trials on the first cause of action (i.e. return of the premises) must be held and completed within 30 days of the return date/initial appearance.  This law new law applies to both trials to the court and jury trials.

I personally feel that this change is the most important part of Act 76 in terms of speeding up the eviciton process.  While many evictions are not contested and the landlord obtains a default judgment, those that are contested can take a long time to get to trial.  Many tenants and their advocates have been requesting jury trials on eviction matters.  By doing so – at least in Milwaukee county – these cases are rotated to a large claims judge handling civil matters (as the small claims judge does not handle jury trials) and result in a lengthy delay.  In some of my contested eviction cases, it was taking 2 months to even get before the judge for a Scheduling Conference and the jury trial itself was not being scheduleded until 6 months after the return date.

While tenants are entitled to their day in court – which includes a jury trial if they wish — they should not be given a 6 month reprieve just by requesting a jury trial.  During those 6 months the landlord often is not receiving any rent payments and/or the “good” tenants in the building are stuck putting up with the actions of the breaching tenant.  In my opinion, requesting a jury trial in an eviction action is nothing more than a delay tactic.  Tenants and their advocates have been successful in buying more time and in making the eviction process more expensive for the landlord by driving up his/her costs and fees.  Of all the jury trials requested by tenants in eviction cases that I have been involved in (which number over 20 – most of which occurred this past year) not one of them actually went to trial.  So I am very happy to this new law hopefully put a stop to this abuse of the system.  Tenants will still get their trials but they can no longer stretch it out for months and months.  How the courts will assimilatate these jury trials within the 30 day time limit will be the key issue moving forward.

 

If you missed my prior posts on Wisconsin’s new landlord-tenant law you can click on the links below

Part 1 – Background and Overview

Part 2 – Restrictions on Local Ordinances

 

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Governor Walker Signed 2013 Wisconsin Act 76 (SB 179) Into Law Today

Bill Signing 121213 91

 

2013 Wisconsin Act 76 (SB 179) was signed into law today, December 12, 2013, by Governor Scott Walker in his office at the Capital building.

Many people attended the signing, including myself.  It was the first law signing that I have ever attended and was very intersting.  I was able to get a photograph with the Governor, had him sign a copy of his new book (a Christmas gift for my mother) and even received a pen that was used to sign a portion of the new law.

I learned after the signing that the pens that are handed out to the attendees at a law signing are each used to sign at least some part of the new law.  So for example one pen is used by the Governor for his signature.  Another pen is used to write the “D” in the date “December”.  Another pen is used to write the “e” in “December” and so on and so on.  It was humorous watching him pick up each pen and write something then put it down and pick up another pen, write something, put in down . . .  and so on and so on.

So Act 76 (I’m so used to calling it SB 179 that it will take some time to get used to the new name) was enacted today (Dec. 12, 2013) and will be published tomorrow (Dec. 13, 2013).  The law will become effective on March 1, 2014, except for the section on towing which will become effective on July 1, 2014.

Congratulations to everyone that worked on this new law!  Here is a link to Act 76.

T

 

 

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ACT 76 – Wisconsin’s New Landlord-Tenant Law – Part 2: Restrictions on Local Ordinances

As I mentioned in Part 1, the soon to be new law contains new provisions as well as some corrective provisions (which will correct unintended consequences from last year’s new law Act 143).  In this blog post I will talk about one of the new provisions of the law which will restrict a local municipality from creating and/or enforcing certain local ordinances.

The new law will creates sec. 66.0104(2)(c) and (d), Wis. Stats., which says that a municipality may not enact or enforce an ordinance that:

a.   Limits a residential tenant’s responsibility, or a residential landlord’s right to recover for damage, waste or neglect of the premises, or for any other costs, expenses, fees payments or damages for which tenant is responsible under law or under the rental agreement.

b.  Requires a landlord to communicate to a tenant any information that is not required to be communicated under federal or state law.

i.e. City of Madison’s ordinance that requires landlords to distribute voter registration information to new tenants will not be enforceable under this new law.

c.  That requires a landlord to communicate to a municipality any information regarding the landlord or tenant unless:

(1) Information is required under federal or state law.

(2) Information is required of all residential real estate owners (not just landlords!)

(3) Information will enable a person to contact the owner, or agent of the owner.

Note: This subsection does not apply to an ordinance that has a reasonable and clearly defined objective of regulating the manufacture of illegal narcotics.

So what will the net effect of this new provision of the law curtailing local municipalities from enacting and enforcing certain ordinances?  According to one tenant advocate SB 179 will eliminate over 20 Madison ordinances.  SB 179 should also eliminate Milwaukee’s Residential Rental Inspection (RRI) pilot project in the UW-M and Lindsay Heights neighborhoods.

It should be noted however that the new law will not eliminate “rental recording” in various municipalities as earlier versions of SB 179 had.  Under the final version of the law, landlords will still have to provide their ownership and contact information to the municiaplity since doing so would fall under the above exception since the information will enable a person to contact the owner or agent of the owner.

To learn more on the background and overview of Wisconsin’s new Landlord-Tenant Law read my prior post.

 

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AASEW’s Landlord Boot Camp On October 26th To Address New Landlord Tenant Law Soon To Be Passed

Be the first on your block to learn about the new Landlord-Tenant law which is expected to be passed later this month!

The AASEW’s popular Landlord Boot Camp will address the ins and outs of the new law (currently referred to as Senate Bill 179) on Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm at the Clarion Hotel located near the airport.  You will not want to miss this seminar.

Besides teching you about the new law, Attorney Tristan Pettit will also address numerous other of topics that will help you navigate Wisconsin’s complex landlord - tenant laws.  Learn how to run your properties with greater profit while staying out of trouble.  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.

 

Some of the other topics that will be covered include:

1) How to properly screen prospective tenants

2) How to draft written screening criteria to assist you in the tenant selection process

3) How to comply with both federal and state Fair Housing laws including how to comply 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 or judge from dismissing your eviction lawsuit

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)

There will also be time for “Q&A” and Lunch is included!

If that is not enough you will also receive a manual that is over 100 pages that includes all of Tristan’s outlines on the various topics and various forms.

 

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

When:       Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM —- Registration opens at 7:00 AM

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

Price:        AASEW Members only $159 .  Non AASEW Members  – $249       Sorry, no registrations accepted after 5 PM on October 23rd, 2013

Register:    Go to www.LandlordBootCamp2013.com and you can register online and read prior attendees testimonials.

 

I hope to see everyone there.

T

 

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