By Heiner Giese, AASEW Legal Counsel
Your AASEW Executive Board and I will have another meeting in early April with a team from the Medical College of Wisconsin on the topic of lead-safe housing.
A lot of financial resources are being dedicated to this topic so we want to give advice on how to spend the money effectively.
At the February membership meeting I gave an alert that WE Energies appeared to be improperly charging sales tax on residential gas and electric bills during the winter months. If you are paying for heat, hot water or lights for a residential unit or for an entire building check your billing since November.
Governor Evers’ Budget Proposals on Housing
Governor Evers announced a number of housing provisions in his state budget bill.
The Governor wants to eliminate landlord/tenant measures which were enacted since 2011, which the Republican leadership in the Assembly and Senate is bound to reject.
Other highlights of his program affecting rental properties are as follows:
Five million dollars to create a Housing Safety Grant Pilot Program for Milwaukee to support improvement of rental housing safety, including:
- A central, searchable database for renters that discloses the history of rental properties;
- More robust property inspection programs; and
- Funding to allow municipalities to help landlords remedy minor violations following inspections. [now that one is not so bad!]
There is $100 million in funding proposed for homeowners and for municipalities to rehab blighted properties. It’s unclear if rental owners would have access to those funds.
It’s proposed that localities could impose their own moratorium on evictions [with no mention of paying owners for their lost rent] .
Another new law would require landlords to disclose serious building code violations “regardless of whether the landlord has actual knowledge of the violation.” [Of course landlords should disclose serious defects but if they haven’t seen them how can they be disclosed?]
Most concerning to us is the proposal to spend “$60 million over the biennium to create a new civil legal assistance program for low-income individuals, focusing on establishing a statewide right to counsel for evictions.”
[So lawyers would earn millions in fees. Couldn’t that money be better spent providing rent relief for the over 90% of tenants in eviction cases who have fallen behind on their rent?]
Better Regulation of Storm Water Utility Charges
You are all familiar with the storm water utility fee which shows up on your quarterly water/sewer bills. Those fees vary widely between municipalities and are sometimes unfair.
For example, Wauwatosa charges duplex owners twice as much as the owner of a single family lot while in the city of Milwaukee the charge is the same for duplexes and singles because the lot size is usually the same.
Tell your State Senator and State Representative to support a change in the law (LRB 1576) which would let the Public Service Commission regulate the often extravagant storm water charges.