SHORT ANSWER: Yes . . . and No.
LONG ANSWER: The newly passed law referred to as the Landlord’s Omnibus Law (Act 143) adresses this issue but provides contradictory answers.
In newly created sec. 704.02 of the Wisconsin Statutes, the law states quite clearly that the provisions of a rental agreement or lease are severable. Specifically, it states that if any provision of a rental agreement is rendered void or unenforceable by reason of any statute, rule, regulation or judicial order, the invalidity or unenforceability of that provision does not affect the other provisions of the rental agreement that can be given effect without the legal provision.
So according to sec. 704.02, the answer to question posed in the title of this blog post would be a resounding “Yes.”
BUT . .
In the very same law, the legislature also decided to create a new section 704.44 that copies a regulation from ATCP 134 entitled (Residential Rental Provisions), specifically ATCP 134.08 entitled “Prohibited Rental Agreement Provisions,” which sets forth 7 things that cannot be included in a Wisconsin residential rental agreement – which I affectionately refer to as the 7 Deadly Sins.
The legislature also decided to add an 8th and 9th provision that cannot be included in residential rental agreements in Wisconsin. So now I have to refer to the outlawed provisions as “The 9 Deadly Sins” which just doesn’t have the same ring to it. : (
The 9 provisions that if included in a residential rental agreement will render the agreement void are:
1. Any provision that allows a landlord to do any of the following because a tenant has contacted an entity for law enforcement services, health services, or safety services: (a) increase rent, (b) decrease services, (c) Bring an action for possession of the premises, (d) refuse to renew a rental agreement, (e) threaten to take any action under pars. (a) to (d). This is one of the new clauses added by the legislature is Act 143.
2. A provision that authorizes the eviction or exclusion of a tenant from the premises, other than by judicial procedures as provided under ch. 799.
3. A provision that provides for an acceleration of rent payments in the event of tenant default or breach of obligations under the rental agreement, or otherwise waives the landlord’s obligation to mitigate damages as provided in s. 704.29.
4. A provision that requires payment by the tenant of attorney fees or costs incurred by the landlord in any legal action or dispute arising under the rental agreement. This subsection does not prevent a landlord or tenant from recovering costs or attorney’s fees under a court order under ch. 799 or 814.
5. A provision that authorizes the landlord or an agent of the landlord to confess judgment against the tenant in any action arising under the rental agreement.
6. A provision that states that the landlord is not liable for property damage or personal injury caused by negligent acts or omissions of the landlord. This subsection does not affect ordinary maintenance obligations of a tenant under s. 704.07 or assumed by a tenant under a rental agreement or other written agreement between the landlord and the tenant.
7. A provision that imposes liability on a tenant for any of the following: (a) personal injury arising from causes clearly beyond the tenant’s control, (b) property damage caused by natural disasters or by persons other than the tenant or the tenant’s guests or invitees. This paragraph does not affect ordinary maintenance obligations of a tenant under s. 704.07 or assumed by a tenant under a rental agreement or other written agreement between the landlord and the tenant.
8. A provision that waives any statutory or other legal obligation on the part of the landlord to deliver the premises in a fit or habitable condition or to maintain the premises during the tenant’s tenancy.
So according to sec. 704.44, the answer to question posed in the title of this blog post would be “yes . . . unless it is one of the 9 deadly sins which if included in a Wisconsin residential rental agreement or lease would not be severable and in fact would render the entire agreement void.”
Why can’t the law be more simple and clear?