Tenants’ rights under attack in Wisconsin ... round four!

By Brenda Konkel (re-posted with permission from Forward Lookout, http://www.forwardlookout.com/) — Wisconsin’s state legislature is at it again! Good ol’ Sen. Frank Lasee has a new buddy/puppet Rep. Robert Brooks ... and the first hearing on the bill we have not yet seen til yesterday will likely be this Thursday (December 10) at 10am in 400NE at the Capitol. 26 pages of a Legislative Reference Bureau draft (not the final bill), and analysis is murky at best — it’s poorly drafted yet again, which is sure to lead a fifth round if they don’t fix it. It appears AB 568 does the following:

[Warning, this is a quick (and sloppy) analysis, the full bill is here. Expect it to be added to this agenda if they follow the same process they did the last three times.]

1. Eliminates written initial (5- and 14- day) eviction notices and the process to deliver them. It seems to eliminate written (5- and 14-day) initial eviction notices for leases less than a year (but not month-to-month leases). Eliminates clear process by which to deliver initial eviction notices. Or it might be written poorly, or a mistake may have been made.

2. Allows 5-day notices for with no right to cure for criminal activity. This one may sound familiar, as its the third attempt. This one allows a landlord to evict, without a right to fix the problem, for any alleged criminal activity by a tenant, a member of their household, or their guests or invitees if it threatens the health or safety of other tenants, people living in the “immediate vicinity”, the landlord, their agents or employees; or threatens the right to peaceful enjoyment of other tenants or people living in the immediate vicinity; or engages in drug-related activity (manufacture, possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance) on or “near” the property. The 5-day notice must notify the tenant of their right to go to court. If the tenant appears in court the landlord has to prove by preponderance of the credible evidence (more likely than not) of the allegation. Provisions in the lease contrary to this provision are invalid.

3. Allows landlords to tell police your guests or sublettors are trespassing if you’re not “lawfully on the premises”. The law appears to allow “property owners” to make the decision about if someone is trespassing in your apartment. It also then REQUIRES law enforcement to remove the person from the property if they have a reason to arrest for a violation of state law. This also changes the definition of criminal trespassing. On the bright side, at least it requires landlords to keep any property of the alleged trespasser for 7 days, which would allow the person to post bail or get out of jail and hopefully return to the property (of course, a condition of bail would probably be you can’t return to the property and maybe have no contact with the victim).

4. Random towing of your car with only a “good faith effort” by towing companies to notify police about where your car went. Removes requirement that towing companies notify law enforcement about the make, model, VIN, plate number and location they are taking the vehicle to before towing, otherwise they can’t charge for the tow. Under this law they only have to “make a good faith effort” and if they don’t reach the police and let them know where the car went, you’ll be calling towing companies trying to figure it out.

5. Allows a landlord to evict a tenant for repairs or if there is a building code violation caused by the tenant, even if you’ve fixed them. This only applies to leases less than a year (not month-to-month or more than a year). This also includes if there are bed bugs in the property.

6. Pre-empts local governments from passing laws about building inspection, landlord licensing and registration, rules about sprinklers and municipal utility deferred payments. Most important here, building inspectors won’t be able to do scheduled inspections unless there is a tenant complaint.

7. Allows landlords to appoint people who are not attorneys to represent them in small claims court.

8. Prohibits municpalities from declaring a property a landmark without the owner’s consent, prevents tenancy and occupancy fees, and regulations about signs based on their content.

9. Creates new rules about transferring property and occupancy requirements.

Add these changes to the changes that went into effect December 2011, March 2012, March 2012 (WI, Dane/Madison)... I’d expect some changes to happen before it finally passes, which I’m guessing it will, and then we can add the March 2016 changes ... expect more in March 2018 when they have to go back and fix their screw ups — again.