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What you need to know about the “Tenant Protection Package” Being introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature

10/24/2023 8:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

By Atty Heiner Giese

A group of Legislators are presenting a package of 20 separate bills affecting landlord/tenant laws. If enacted these would dramatically affect your leases and how you operate your rental properties. They would reverse legislation passed between 2011-2018 which created statewide uniformity in rental regulation.

Here are some of the key changes proposed:

  • The 5-day notice for nonpayment of rent is extended to 30 days.
  • If you have accepted late rent payments in the past the tenant can now use this as a “waiver” argument to negate a termination notice.
  • Municipalities can impose an eviction moratorium. Did the COVID-era moratorium cause you any problems? There’s not even a health-related requirement under the proposed law – it could be imposed for any reason.
  • There would be a 60 -day notice requirement if you’re refusing to renew a lease. And you’ll have to have just cause for nonrenewal of a lease. True, nonpayment or harassing other tenants would be just cause. But the tenant who you’d like to replace because they were consistently paying late – but who is current right now – has the right to stay another year.
  • All tenants in an eviction case get a free lawyer at taxpayer expense regardless of their income! Plus, this “free lawyer” provision will delay the court case because the tenant can first appear in court without a lawyer and then ask for one to be appointed resulting in a delayed hearing. Rental agreements must inform tenants of this right to counsel.
  • The 10-day time limit for tenants to get approved for State emergency rental assistance is removed. Some of the proposed bills in this “tenant protection” package also require landlords to apply for any possible rental assistance program and to hold an eviction in abeyance while the landlord and tenant are considered for aid. There is no time limit on how long that vetting process can hold up an eviction.
  • Stipulations for “pay and stay” or for an agreement by the tenant to vacate by a certain date in exchange for a dismissal are often used and are beneficial to both tenants and landlords. But if the stipulation is not complied with one of the bills now requires notice and an evidentiary hearing before a writ or money judgment can be entered. This leads to the ridiculous result where a landlord might agree to dismiss if the tenant moves out in 7 days but if the tenant doesn’t move the landlord would have to give the tenant another notice and go back to court to get the writ confirmed.
  • Numerous other changes to landlord/tenant law are proposed such as: creating a “rent abatement schedule”; allowing the tenant to withhold the entire monthly rent if only a minor defect hasn’t been repaired; giving outside “tenant organizers” access to your building; voiding a nonpayment notice which has a typo in the amount due; making a mailed notice effective after the 5th day instead of the 2nd day.

Does this potential legislation concern you? If you aren’t yet a member of the RPA, join NOW so you can keep informed through our member programs. The most effective way to fight slanted, misguided legislation is through your dues which support our lobbying and legal efforts on behalf of rental property owners.

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Rental Property Association of Wisconsin, Inc. (Formerly AASEW)
P.O. Box 4125
Milwaukee, WI 53204-7905
Phone: 414-276-7378

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