Posts Tagged Rental Agreements

Revised Wisconsin Legal Blank Forms Will Be Available on Monday, February 17th

As I hope most of you are aware, Wisconsin passed a new law that will great affect landlord-tenant law – Act 76.  Whenever the law is changed, there is usually a need to revise and/or update your rental documents to comply with the law.  That is definitely the case with the changes from Act 76.

As such, I have had to update many of the rental documents that are sold at Wisconsin Legal Blank.

The new law becomes effective March 1, 2014.  So for those of you that use the WLB forms you will want to use these revised forms for any new tenancies that commence on or after March 1, 2014.

The following Wisconsin Legal Blank forms have been revised:

 

1.   Residential Rental Agreement (#19)

The changes made to this form are very important.  As of March 1, 2014, it will be required that all residential rental agreements include certain language that provides notice of domestic abuse protections.  Act 76 states that a rental agreement will be void and unenforceable if it allows a landlord to terminate a tenancy for a crime and the rental agreement fails to include the domestic violence notice language.  As a result of having to add this additional language verbatim the Residential Rental Agreement form will be much longer.

Several other changes and modifications were made to this form as well including:

a.   Revision of the “Extermination Costs” section

b.  Addition of a “Non-Waiver” section

c.  Addition of a “Criminal Activity Prohibited” section

d.  The “Notice to Vacate” section was modified to clarify the law better regarding terminating a lease for term.  The 30 day notice required to terminate a month to month tenancy was changed to 28 days to coincide with Wisconsin statutes.

e.  The “Abandoned Property” section was modified to comply with the law changes in Act 76

f.  Additional language was added to clarify that operating a business or providing child care services are not allowed in the rental unit.

g.  Additional language was added in the section entitled “Security Deposit” to state that if the repair costs for tenant damages are not known in time for the sending of the security deposit transmittal letter that a “good faith” estimate may be used.

f.  Clarifying language was added to the “Breach and Termination” section.

 

2.   Residential Lease Renewal or Notice To Vacate (#970) — Was updated to comply with Act 76′s changes regarding abandoned property.

 

3.  Notice of Rent Increase (for Month to Month Tenant) (#332) – Was updated to comply with Act 76′s changes regarding abandoned property.

 

4.  Check-In / Check-Out Sheet (#997 and #993) — Was updated to to comply with Act 76 with regards to the title and the “When To Use” explanation as well as some stylistic changes.

 

5.  Rental Application (#996) – Eliminated some sections that were not needed and could possibly cause problems for landlords, added some additional instructions for applicant, restructured the layout of the form, and reworded much of the language at the bottom of the signature page.

 

6.  Nonstandard Rental Provisions (#984) — Rewrote the “When To Use” section to better explain the purpose of a NSRP document, removed the “Miscellaneous Matters” section of the form, revised the statutory references, and fixed some grammatical issue.

 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to use updated/revised forms when they become available.  I still see landlords using the Residential Rental Agreement that was drafted over 10 years ago.  There are important reasons that rental documents are updated: (1)  To comply with law changes, (2) To eliminate problem language that has caused landlords problems.  Each new version of these forms are supposed to make your life easier.  Using old forms is just an invitation for problems.  Effective, March 1, 2014, failing to use the revised Residential Rental Agreement may result in your Agreement being declared void and unenforceable.

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So Are Illegal Provisions In Wisconsin Residential Rental Agreements Severable Or Not?

 

 

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.

9.  A provision that allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy of a tenant if a crime is committed in or on the rental property, even if the tenant could not reasonably have prevented the crime.  This is the other new clause added by the legislature in Act 143.

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?

 

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Newly revised Landlord-Tenant Law Forms Available at Wisconsin Legal Blank on April 2 and April 3, 2012.

Wisconsin’s Landlord Omnibus Law (Act 143) went into effect today – April 1, 2012.  As a result of the new law it was necessary for me to update many of the landlord-tenant law forms that are sold at Wisconisn Legal Blank.

 

As of Monday, April 2, 2012, the following revised forms will be available:

1.   Residential Rental Agreement  (Form #19)

-  Added language required in order for landlord to be able to dispose of tenant’s abandoned property immediately after they vacate.

-  Added language about any illegal clause in the rental agreement being severable from the n9on-illegal clauses.

-  Correction of some grammar and punctuation mistakes.

2.   Nonstandard Rental Provisions (Form #984)

-  Added langauge required in order for landlord to be able to dispose of tenant’s abandoned property immediately after they vacate.

-  Revised language as to when landlord must return security deposit or supply security deposit itemization letter when tenant vacates prior to end of lease term.

-  General revisions to the language of each nonstandard rental provision to comply better with the holding in the Tschantz case.

3.  Notice of Rent Increase in Month to Month Tenancies (Form #332)

-  Added langauge required in order for landlord to be able to dispose of tenant’s abandoned property immediately after they vacate.

4.  Residential Lease Renewal or Notice To Vacate (Form #970)

-  Added langauge required in order for landlord to be able to dispose of tenant’s abandoned property immediately after they vacate.

5.   Tenant Inspection Sheet (Check-In – Check-Out Form)

-   Revised the title of this form to comply with the title used in the new law.

NOTE:  It is now required that a landlord give this document to tenant’s upon occupancy.  So if you have not previously used this document you need to start doing so now.

 

As of Tuesday, April 3, 2012 the following revised forms will be available for purchase at Wisconsin Legal Blank

6.   5 Day Notice To Pay Rent or Vacate (Form #328)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled to holdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

-  Added a line for “Total Amount Due”

7.   5 Day Notice To Correct Breach or Vacate (Form #330)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled toholdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

8.  5 Day Notice To Vacate – Nuisance (Form #329)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled toholdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

9.   14 Day Notice To Vacate for Failure To Pay Rent (Form #768)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled toholdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

-  Added a line for “Total Amount Due”

10.   14 Day Notice To Vacate For Breach of Rental Agreement (Form #767)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled toholdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

11.   28 Day Notice Terminating Tenancy (Form #327)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled toholdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

12.  30 Day Notice To Correct Breach or Vacate (Form #325)

-  Changed the word “may” to “shall” when advising the tenant that landlord is entitled toholdover damages of, at a minimum, double the daily rent for the holdover period.

 

Sometime in the near future the following revised form will be available at Wisconsin Legal Blank:

13.   Rules & Regulations (Form #994)

-  Will inlcude major revisions including language, organization and format.

-  Will include revised language regarding a tenant’s responsibility for the actions of their guests, invitees and family members that will comply with the law and not run afoul of “Deadly Sin #8″ created by the new law.

 

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New Rental Agreement for Self-Service Storage Units Now Available at Wisconsin Legal Blank

I have recently drafted a Self-Service Storage Unit Rental Agreement that is now available and being sold at Wisconsin Legal Blank Co., Inc.  Additionally I have drafted two seperate default notices that should be sent to the tenant who has breached the rental agreement for the self-service storage unit.  The two default notices contain differernt language as required per Wisconsin’s new law regarding self-service storage facilities and units.

Self-service storage facilities in Wisconsin are governed by sec. 704.90, Wis. Stats., which is the chapter that deals with landlord tenant relationships.  While a self-service storage unit involves a landlord tenant relationship, the laws governing these facilities and units is very different than the laws governing an apartment unit or other rental property.

Sec. 704.90 is specific to self-service storage facilities and units.  It does not apply to storage units that are incidental to the rental of a apartment unit.  For example, sec. 704.90 (and the new forms that I have drafted) would not be used if a tenant is renting an apartment unit that includes the use of a storage unit in the basement.

The laws regarding self-service storage units were significantly changed by 2009 Wisconsin Act 380 (2009 Assembly Bill 707) which is the reason that I decided to draft the new rental agreement and notice of default forms.

Some of the changes in the new law include the following:

1.     The new law makes current statutory provisions governing self-service storage facilities also apply to self-service storage units.  A self-service storage units include a box, shipping container, or trailer that is leased by a tenent primarily for use as a storage space whether the unit is located at a facility owned or operated by the owner or at a locations designated by the tenant.  This change in the law was made to address the new PODS type units that are being leased to people who store the units off-site from the self-service storage facility.

2.   The new law requires that if a self-service storage facility rental agreement includes a provision that limits the value of the property stored, that the clause must be printed in bold or underlined type of the same size as the rest of the agreement.  The limit listed in any agreement is presumed to be the maximum value of the property stored in the unit.

3.     After the termination of the rental agreement, an owenr may deny the tenant access to the personal property remaining in the leased space until the tenant redeems the property by paying the owner any rent and other charges that are due. 

4.   The owner may sell the property after providing two notices to the tenant, and if the tenant does not redeem the property within fourteen days after the date of the second notice. 

5.   The new law provides that the second notice of default may be sent via certified mail or by first class mail with a certificate of mailing.

6.   If the tenant does not redeem the property, then an owner who wishes to sell the property, must publish an advertisement of the sale once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation where the self-service storage facility is located.

6.     The new law eliminates the old requirement that an owner’s advertisement of the sale of the abandoned property include the nubler of the space where the property was located.

7.     The old law required that any sale of the abandoned property be conducted in a “commercially reasonable manner.”  The new law states that the sale must meet one of the following requirements: (a) the property is offerred as a single parcel or multiple parcels at a public sale attended by three or more bidders, (b) the property has been offerred to at least three persons who deal with the type of personal property offerred for sale and is sold in a provate transaction, or (c) the property is sold in another manner that is commercially reasonable.

8.   The new law allows the owner or operator of the self-service storage facility to do the following with the property if they do not want to sell the property, if the value of the property is less than $100 and proper notice is provided: (a) donate it to a non-profit organization, (b) dispose of it in a solid waste facility, (c) recycle it, (d) remove it in another reasonable manner.

9.   The old law allowed “any person” to bring a civil lawsuit for a violation of the self-service storage facility laws — this resulted in a very well known 2008 lawsuit entitled Cook v. Public Storage Inc., in which the owner/operator was sued by the parents of a tenant, who happened to also store some of their belongings in the tenant’s self-service storage units.  The new law allows only the “lessee” (tenant) to bring such a lawsuit.

For those of you owning and operating self-service storage facilties and units I hope the new rental agrrement, Notice of Default #1, and Notice of Default #2, prove helpful in assisting that you follow the applicable laws.

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TIME TO REVIEW YOUR RENTAL DOCUMENTS

With the new year already upon us, I encourage all property owners and managers to spend some time reviewing their current rental documents so that any needed changes can be made before accepting new applicants.  Below are some questions and ideas that may assist you in your review.

Is the rent amount that you are charging your current tenants in line with the what other similar properties are being rented for in the same neighborhood? If your monthly rental price is “under market” then you should consider increasing your rent. Have your costs of doing business increased over the past year? If so, then you have yet another reason to increase your rent amount as long as the rental market in which your rental property is located can accomodate such an increase.

Does your residential lease contain an automatic renewal clause whereby at the end of the lease term it automatically renews for another lease term or even reverts to a month-to-month tenancy? If the answer is yes, then insure that an automatic renewal or reversion is what you actually want. Many landlords are now opting to have their lease agreements cease at the end of the term. By doing so, the owner or manager now has the inclination and reason to review his/her tenant’s behavior and payment history over the past year and determine whether or not they want that tenant to remain in their property for the next year. It should also be noted that owners using automatic renewal provisions in their leases must also provide written notice of that renewal to the tenant in order for the provision to be enforceable.

In light of your interactions (both good and bad) with your tenants this past year is there a need to add any additional restrictions to your Rules and Regulations? If you have encountered any problem behaviors from your tenants this past year then consider amending your Rules & Regulations to include a new provision addressing the unwanted behavior.

Has your written screening criteria changed during the preceding year? If so, then you will need to update your screening criteria, specifically noting the changes made, and do this is writing. Be sure and save your old screening criteria and also record the date when you stopped using it. Remember, having written screening criteria and applying it consistently is the #1 best defense to any discrimination/Fair Housing complaints.

Have you incurred any additional costs or fees this past year (other than “normal wear and tear” to your property) that you would like to pass on to your tenants? If so, consider adding these costs to your Nonstandard Rental Provisions. By adding the new charges or fees to your NSRP, reviewing those charge with your tenants, and obtaining your tenantss signatures on the NSRP, you will be able to legally deduct these charges from your tenant’s security deposit if needed.

Are you utilizing the Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards form Did you provide a copy of this important document along with a copy of the E.P.A.’s free pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” to all of your new tenants this past year? If you are not providing these two documents to all tenants that reside in any of your pre-1978 properties then you are in violation of federal laws and subject to large fines, regardless of whether anyone incurs lead poisoning or not.

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