By Heiner Giese, AASEW Legal Counsel
We will shortly learn which state legislators are to serve on committees dealing with housing. Chairpersons in both the Senate and Assembly will be Republicans because of their majority control. We are monitoring and working with both the Legislature and Governor Evers’ office because the Governor will surely have a number of housing-related items in his budget bill to be announced early next year.
On the federal level a report has just been put out by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which attacks the work of tenant screening companies. It says:
Tenant screening reports present summary information regarding filed evictions, often without any accompanying explanatory information as to the basis of the eviction filing. Landlords may choose to file evictions against tenants for a range of reasons, which may not necessarily be relevant to a different landlord, even if the filing ultimately results in an eviction.
Sure, evictions can be filed for a “range of reasons” but the report does not recognize that well over 90% are for nonpayment. So, that means that tenant screening reports are accurate for over 90% of the tenant records they report on.
Secondly, if the eviction was dismissed it is still fair to mention it in a screening report because a dismissal is seldom because the tenant “won” their case; it’s usually because the tenant paid up arrears and continued the tenancy or moved out voluntarily and the landlord consented to dismissing the case (or simply dropped it).
Let’s compare tenant screening to screening an application for a credit card. If someone has a track record of often paying their credit card bills late, or maybe they got sued for an unpaid bill and then paid up and got the lawsuit dismissed it is certainly legitimate for a credit issuer to consider that pattern of behavior when deciding whether to accept them as a customer (compare: accept them as a tenant).
Another hot issue is the allegedly harmful effect of investors buying up single-family properties as rentals. Supposedly this results in prospective homeowners being outbid. But an article in Vox says preventing investment in single-family rentals “will only reduce the availability of single-family rental housing while making it more expensive — ultimately hurting the very people for whom access to affordably priced rental housing is so Essential.”
The City of Racine is doing a mailing to tenants encouraging them to call building inspection for an inspection of the “systems” in their unit. This runs afoul of the state statute requiring that a blanket inspection program can only be directed toward a blighted neighborhood; otherwise an inspection must be based on a complaint by a tenant about an existing defective condition.
If you are a Racine landlord, and receive an inspection that is not based on a complaint, please contact AASEW Attorney Heiner Giese at firstname.lastname@example.org.