• 11/25/2023 11:30 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    By Gary D. Koch, Petrie + Pettit

    Evictions are typically matters handled exclusively through the state court system, in whichever county the property is located. Every now and then, though, we have to make a trip to federal court to assist a landlord. This most frequently arises when a tenant files for bankruptcy protection.

    Bankruptcy is authorized by the United States Constitution and is codified in Title 11 of the United States Code. There are 15 “chapters” of code, but the most common of those in this context are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. The bankruptcy protections provided by filing under either chapter are extremely powerful, and can stop an eviction in its tracks.

    Chapter 7 bankruptcies are relatively short-lived. The filing of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy creates an automatic stay of any action to collect on a debt, including past-due rent, or to continue any action to recover an interest of the “bankruptcy estate”, which includes the tenant’s right to continued occupancy of the rented premises.

    Chapter 7 bankruptcies are typically open for four to six months before the case is closed. If the case results in a “discharge,” most debts which existed at the time of the filing are wiped out. Rent incurred before the case was filed is generally discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    Chapter 13 bankruptcies usually run for a much longer duration. These bankruptcies may repay some amount of the existing debt to creditors, but do so over a 3 to 5 year period. The filing of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy also creates an automatic stay against collection or recovery.

    There are a few exceptions to the automatic stay. Most relevant to a landlord, is that if a judgment of eviction is entered by the state court before the bankruptcy is filed, the landlord can still execute the writ and remove the tenant from the property. Be aware, however, that there is an exception to this exception, so there are limited circumstances when even a previously granted judgment of eviction is halted by a bankruptcy filing!

    In all other circumstances, whether a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 is filed, in order to move forward with an eviction action, including serving a notice terminating the tenancy, the landlord will need permission from the Bankruptcy Court to do so. We obtain this permission by filing a Motion to Lift the Automatic Stay.

    For Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the process of obtaining a lift of the stay requires a specific basis to file and may take as long as the life of the bankruptcy itself, so doing so may be an exercise in futility. Once the Chapter 7 discharges, dismisses or closes, the landlord can proceed against the tenant for any debt incurred after the date the Chapter 7 case was filed. Lifting the stay may allow the landlord to begin the process a few weeks earlier than the end of the bankruptcy.

    For Chapter 13 bankruptcies, though, given their much longer duration, lifting the automatic stay is a viable option for the landlord. There need to be grounds for the motion, such as failure of the tenant to pay rent after the filing of the bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Court will also likely give the tenant a “second chance” with the first motion, and order that any rental arrears incurred after the date the case was filed be included in the repayment plan, but may also order that any future missed rent payments will result in an immediate lifting of the stay.

    Evictions are complicated enough, but when you add in a bankruptcy as well, navigating both the state AND federal courts becomes a minefield. Petrie + Pettit has shepherded may clients through both court systems and stands ready to assist you.

  • 11/21/2023 8:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    By Atty Heiner Giese

    The Rental Property Association of Wisconsin, Inc. held its annual membership meeting at the Sonesta Hotel in Wauwatosa on November 20, 2023. An election was conducted for positions on the Board of Directors with the following results:

    • Treasurer and Board Member (one year term): Tim Ballering (no other candidate - elected by acclimation).

    Out of four candidates, these three incumbent Board members were elected by majority vote for two year terms ending November 2025:

    • Noah Jacobson
    • Kurt Kasdorf
    • Steven Belter

    The new Board will elect a president and an executive committee at its next meeting.

  • 11/17/2023 8:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

  • 11/10/2023 1:30 PM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    The Marquette Lawyer magazine published a 10-page article in PDF form by Alan J. Borsuk and Tom Kertscher about evictions in Milwaukee.

    View the PDF here

    Some excerpts:

    In the longtime words of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (these being from 1979): “The decisions of this court have held that there are a very limited number of issues permissible in an eviction action.”

    Heiner Giese, a Milwaukee lawyer who has represented apartment owners for more than 40 years (and is the legal counsel for the RPA) is quoted in the article:

    “Often, the most that attorneys for tenants can accomplish is to delay an eviction.”

    The article explains more about this statement in the following two paragraphs:

    But several property owners’ attorneys said that proceedings often are slower because more attorneys are involved and those attorneys use strategies for delaying outcomes. Some noted also that more property owners are calling on attorneys to represent them than in the past.

    Several attorneys said that delays in concluding cases can mean increases in lost rent for owners, and extra costs for owners to pursue cases can mean higher rents or increased security deposit requirements for all tenants, including those who pay their rent steadily.

    Tristan Pettit, an RPA board member, is also quoted in the article:

    Tristan Pettit is executive vice president of the law firm of Petrie + Pettit and head of the firm’s landlord–tenant team. He said that the substantial increase in the percentage of eviction cases involving lawyers for the tenants has slowed down many proceedings. But, he said, it has also had benefits. “If you have a difficult tenant, having an advocate [for the tenant] can make things much easier,” he said.

    The article also questioned the money going to attorneys who may delay the eventual eviction, rather than provide those funds to help tenants pay rent:

    In the Stanford Law Review Online in July, two law professors questioned giving legal representation of tenants priority over what they regarded as the bigger need of tenants: rent money.

    Here’s their view, as summarized by the law review: “Most low-income tenants facing eviction do not need a lawyer. They need rent money. . . . If we want to reduce evictions, tenant lawyers are not the best tool. Rental assistance could resolve, or even avoid the filing of, most eviction cases.” The authors said that the $46 billion in federal funds made available during the height of the COVID pandemic to help people who otherwise would have been facing eviction showed how much increased rental aid could reduce eviction problems. They called the movement to provide every tenant a lawyer in eviction proceedings “misguided.”

    The article also covers the current trend in "redacting" or sealing of eviction records, by sharing Judge Cynthia Davis experience.

    The number of requests in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to redact names of defendants in eviction filings has skyrocketed. In 2011, according to the clerk of the court, there were 63 such requests. In 2022, there were 1,959. “These have flooded our system,” Davis said. She was spending two mornings a week on such requests while she was on the small claims bench.

    Generally, Wisconsin law strongly favors—indeed, requires—the accessibility of public records. Among other provisions, the legislature has provided (Wis. Stat. § 19.31) that “[t]he denial of public access generally is contrary to the public interest, and only in an exceptional case may access be denied.”

    Tim Ballering is an RPA Board Member and the current Treasurer. He is quoted in the article as well:

    Ballering said that new tenants who have had an eviction in the prior year fail to fulfill their lease obligations (to pay their rent) at significantly higher rates than other new tenants. By three years post-eviction, the track record is about the same as that of tenants without eviction records. Preventing landlords from seeing names of people who have been evicted is not only a problem for landlords, he said, but also for people who are better candidates to be reliable renters yet who may lose out in getting an apartment to someone with a past eviction.

    Tim is further quoted in the article when the topic of mediation is covered, specifically highlighting Mediate Milwaukee (one of the organizations the RPA has had as a speaker at general meetings and who had a booth at our recent Trade Show).

    Property owner Tim Ballering said, “Mediate first is a concept that we were unaware of in our industry.” The impact of COVID-19 accelerated efforts to mediate, he said. “A lot of people knew mediation was available mid-process, but to do it upstream is best for everyone.” He said mediation efforts overall have been “very successful.”

  • 11/08/2023 11:30 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    By Dawn Anastasi, RPA Board Member

    In our previous blog article, we mentioned how HACM is now starting to hold Virtual Sessions with its housing providers. 

    Here are some notes from the first session.

    • Last month, HACM issued 250 vouchers to first-time voucher holders.
    • In the last 2 months, HACM hired 2 new inspectors.
    • Vouchers last 120 days from the date they are issued. This means that once a tenant obtains a voucher, they have 4 months to find housing with that voucher that meets their needs.
    • If a rental property owner fills out the voucher, but for whatever reason the lease doesn't move forward, the tenant can get the voucher paperwork re-issued.
    • Why is HACM limited to only 12 month leases and won't support month-to-month? HUD says that the 12 month lease provides housing stability for the landlord and tenant.
    • Rental property owners who have Rent Assistance tenants should make sure they are signed up for the HACM portal. No rent ledgers will be emailed anymore. The information can only be downloaded on the portal.
    • If you didn't get your registration email for the new HACM portal (you need it to become registered on the site), email Steven Fendt and he will make sure it gets to you.
    • All leases are set to automatically renew unless:
      • A 60 day notice is received from either the landlord or tenant saying a party wants out of the lease at its end date
      • The unit required an annual inspection, failed the annual inspection, and then failed the re-inspection
      • The tenant failed to recertify in a timely manner -- all section 8 tenants have to prove their eligibility each year

    Link to HACM's Housing Portal

    RPA's previous blog article on How to Sign up for the HACM Portal

    The process for a voucher household:

    • Applies to the program
    • Selected off the waiting list
    • Passed the background check
    • Provided income and household membership documentation
    • Attended briefing
    • Given voucher
    • Searches for housing that meets their needs that fits the voucher
    • Applies to a rental
    • Rental property owner and applicant fill out voucher paperwork
    • Voucher paperwork is sent into HACM
    • HACM performs a "Rent Reasonableness" check based on the rental unit
    • HACM collects documentation from the rental property owner if they are new to the program (ownership verification / W9)
    • HACM inspects the property (expect a call from HACM within 2 days of submitting the RFTA -- blue form)
    • The tenant signs the lease with the rental property owner and moves in
  • 11/03/2023 5:00 PM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    From HACM:

    Thank you for your continued partnership with the Housing Authority City of Milwaukee (HACM) to provide over 6,000 low-income individuals and families safe, quality, and affordable housing in Milwaukee! At HACM, we are continually looking for more efficient and effective ways to work together, both in serving our existing Section 8 participants and expanding our support for additional families in need.

    Today, we are thrilled to introduce a new initiative that we believe will enhance our partnership: a monthly, virtual drop-in session for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Housing Providers. Starting this coming Wednesday, November 8 at 10 AM, we invite you to join us online for this valuable opportunity to stay up-to-date on our Section 8 - Housing Choice Voucher program and to share your insights with us.

    If you did not get an email from HACM with your registration link, contact Stephen Fendt via email.

  • 11/01/2023 9:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    Link to Full Article Here

    This year, Berrada Properties gave out two $5,000 scholarships, 10 $1,000 scholarships and a laptop to every student who applied.

    “The management team and the ownership team are very conscientious people who have warm hearts, and you don’t hear that a lot,” said Archie Blunt, the director of community outreach with Berrada Properties. “And I wouldn’t associate with anything that was less than . . . I hope what I can bring here is to show this other side and create more positive impacts.”

  • 10/30/2023 8:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    By Dawn Anastasi, RPA Board Member

    If you attended this year's RPA Trade Show, then you're aware of how amazing it was! If you didn't, you certainly missed out!

    We had hundreds of attendees, and over 60 booths. The speakers were so amazing we had lines out the door to hear them speak!

    We also had resources for rental property owners from Mediate Milwaukee and the Rental Housing Resource Center / Community Advocates.

    Attendees of the trade show got a free pen from RPA and important legislative information. Many of the vendors gave out bags, candy, as well as an impressive amount of information!

    The buffet lunch, casino games, and happy hour were fun additions to the event for members and guests to socialize.

    If you couldn't make it out this year, mark your calendars for next October! The trade show for 2024 is sure to be even better!

    See This Link for Pictures of the Event

    Did you attend the Trade Show this year? If so, what did you think? Tell us in the comments!

  • 10/26/2023 8:00 AM | Dawn Anastasi (Administrator)

    By Breck Dumas, FOXBusiness

    Despite warnings from economists, rent control is becoming more and more popular in progressive strongholds. Oregon led the charge in 2019 when the state imposed a cap on older units, and California followed suit in 2020. Since then, municipalities in Illinois, Colorado, Massachusetts and elsewhere are considering similar moves.

    Many states had various forms of rent control in the 1970s, another time of high inflation. However, several banned rent control after that, when there was a consensus that price controls were destructive policies.

    Read the full article here

  • 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.

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

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