Who Pays for the Fire?

Happy Thursday everyone! Later this afternoon, the Dr Rent written version will give way once again to the live broadcast version as the Dr Rent show hits the radio airwaves at 5 PM on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM.

Part of tonight’s show will discuss the same thing covered in yesterday’s blog. I will look at the entire hearing process for conditional uses and zoning changes and go over the petition I witnessed earlier this week which could act as a case study as how it is supposed to be done.

I am then going to expand on that topic and take a look at some of the statements were made that are common misunderstandings when it comes to multifamily development. Statements were made by the developer that I would argue were not 100% accurate. However, arguments were also made by those opposing the project that were not 100% accurate either. So I will spend a little bit of time looking at some of the most common arguments heard in hearings like this and do a little bit of myth-busting.

We also have some interesting questions I will answer before getting to the show’s main topic.

Who can go to court? Does a landlord have to show up in person or can a friend of theirs on go their behalf? If you don’t own a property but only manage it, can you show up as the manager? This is a question that even I got wrong until speaking with an attorney friend of mine earlier this week.

A tenant who has been “wronged” by their landlord a while back now wants to have their day in court. But, is it too late?

Also, I want to make people aware that a legislative proposal backed by the Wisconsin Apartment Association that was proposed last year but never came to a conclusion is being proposed again this year. The issue: If tenants are responsible for the water bill and they don’t pay that bill, should landlords be required to pay it for them?

The questions from last week’s show stemmed around something that happened to a fellow landlord. A tenant, through their own admitted negligence, caused a fire in their apartment. Luckily it was caught early and the damage to the unit was minimal. Some smoke damage, some water damage, and of course some door damage where the fire department forced entry.

The tenant disputed being responsible for the cost of those damages because structural repairs are a landlord problem under WI SS 704.07 (2) (a) 3. However, this statutory provision doesn’t exactly apply unless the person making the complaint was a different tenant whose unit was affected by the fire. Under (2) (b), if one tenant causes damage to other units besides their own, the landlord still has a duty to those other tenants. And, under (2) (c), if the landlord didn’t cause the problem a different sub-section comes into play. Specially (3) (a) which in its simplest terms states – you break it, you buy it.

Under 704.07 (3) (a), if the tenant damages something, the tenant must repair it. However, the landlord can choose to do the repairs instead and then bill the tenant. (Based on personal experience with the quality of repair work done by the average tenant, this later method is normally the most prudent way to go.) This is a perfect example of where renter’s insurance comes in handy. Not only does it cover your stuff, more importantly it will most times cover your lapses in judgment.

The second part of the issue was the tenant wanted to break the lease because the unit was not habitable, which they are allowed to do under WI SS 704.07 (4). However, there are some exceptions to that particular rule. First of all, this entire subsection doesn’t apply if the tenant caused the problem. And, even if the fire had not been the tenant’s fault, the statute only allows the tenant to break the lease if the landlord doesn’t “proceed promptly to repair” the problem. In this case, the problem was fixed in a couple of days. Considering this was fire damage, that is pretty prompt.

The man topic of last week’s show was just information on lead based paint in general. I thought that would be a good background before going into a future show topic of some new lead based paint rules that take effect next spring. However, a summary of what I went over is a blog post in and of itself so I will probably write more about that early next week.

Until then.. HAPPY RENTING!

About drrent

Wausau, Wisconsin Landlord, past president of the Wisconsin Apartment Association, Host of the Dr Rent Radio Show on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM, Wausau, WI
This entry was posted in Fire, Questions, WAA, WNRB and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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