New Ordinance Improves Tenants Rights in Dane County

This past month, the Dane County Board of Supervisors approved a new ordinance to require new protections for Dane County tenants applying for a lease. The measure has two major effects: 1) Require landlords to notify tenants in writing for why leases are not being renewed and 2) Require landlords to notify applicants of the reason they are being rejected for a lease, upon request. These requirements, brought to the Health and Human Needs Committee by Progressive Dane Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, will help to protect renters from discriminatory practices in the application process.

"There is a lot of subtle discrimination going on, particularly against Section 8 voucher holders," said Supervisor Wegleitner. "Housing applicants and advocates have observed extreme challenges to people securing housing... this amendment will make it easier for people to verify the reasons they are being denied, dispute erroneous information, pursue remedies for illegal bases for denial, and resolve housing barriers."

Prior to the Wisconsin State Legislature's moves to make local housing rules illegal, there were several protections for renters in Dane County. Now, landlords are able to discriminate against tenants based on income levels, reluctance to provide personal information on lease applications, and criminal history.

For more information about Tenant Rights, visit the Tenant Resource Center - http://tenantresourcecenter.org/pc/ or (608) 257-0006

Below is the full text of the Amended Ordinance:

ORD. AMDT. 11, 13-14

Amending Chapter 31 of the Dane County Code of Ordinances, Requiring Written Notice of Denial or Non-Renewal of a Tenancy

The County Board of Supervisors of the County of Dane does ordain as follows:

ARTICLE 1. Unless otherwise expressly stated herein, all references to section and chapter numbers are to those of the Dane County Code of Ordinances.

ARTICLE 2. Section 31.24 is amended to read as follows:

31.24 Written Reasons for Denial of or Non-Renewal of Tenancy.

(1) All applications for residential tenancy shall contain the following question in writing in a prominent place on the application: "Do you wish to receive a written explanation of the denial of tenancy? Yes____ No_____."

(2)(a) Unless the applicant has indicated on the application that s/he does not want to receive a written explanation of a denial of tenancy, the lessor or any person authorized to enter into rental agreements on behalf of the lessor, shall provide any applicant who is denied tenancy with a written statement of reasons for the denial of tenancy as required by sub (4).

(b) If the applicant has indicated s/he does not want to receive a written explanation, the applicant may request a written explanation of a denial within 30 days and the lessor shall provide the statement as required by sub (4).

(3) A lessor that decides not to renew a tenant's lease at the expiration of the lease term or terminates a periodic tenancy or tenancy at will, shall provide the affected tenant with a notice of non-renewal as required by sub (4). The notice shall be served at least 60 days prior to the expiration of the lease term unless the term is shorter than 60 days, which shall require a notice compliant with WIS STAT 704.19.

(4)(a) In denying an initial application for tenancy or non-renewal of a lease at the expiration of a lease term of tenancy period or terminating a tenancy at will, the lessor shall furnish the applicant or tenant a written statement of the reasons tenancy was denied or terminated.

(b) The statement shall include the reason(s) for the action, a description of the information supporting the decision, and identification of all sources of the relied-upon information. The lessor shall also furnish the applicant with a copy of the lessor's tenant selection process.

(c) The written notification required by sub (a) shall be personally delivered or mailed to the applicant within 3 days of the denial of tenancy.

(d) An application is deemed denied for the purpose of this section if no determination is made by the lessor within 21 days of the date the completed application is received by the lessor.

[EXPLANATION: This amendment requires a Lessor to provide written notice of denial or non-renewal of residential tenancy.]

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