Most people are fairly happy about the 4-day work week this week. However, being the “glass half empty” guy that I tend to be, I am not one of them. This weekend, I actually did take the weekend off. Saturday was spent working on my back shed. Sunday was spent boating on Lake Winnebago, and Monday was spent out of town also on non-landlord related stuff.
Although taking a few days off might be good for the soul, it means I come back to a four day work-week. However, there are still 5 days of work to do. That is why you haven’t seen me blog as much and haven’t seen me comment as much either. However, I have still found time to put together what I think will be a very informative Dr Rent Radio Show tonight on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM; which will air from 5 PM to 6 PM.
A question that came from a comment on one of my blogs was concerning winter clauses in leases and how enforceable they are. Last night was the Central Wisconsin Apartment Association meeting in Stevens Point, and two questions that came up at that meeting had to do pursing a judgment against someone who was in the military and how fair housing laws come into play if a landlord wants to turn down an applicant who is in this country illegally.
My main show topic will be discussing the new lead-based paint rules that will take effect in April 2010. This is a fairly long and complicated topic so it may take more than just tonight’s show to give you an idea of what the new changes are.
Last week, we had a question about if a landlord can keep the security deposit if a tenant dies in the middle of a lease term. The answer: probably, if they follow the proper steps. A lease is a contract between two parties for a set period of time. Both parties (and their estates) are locked into that contract unless there is a mutual agreement to end it early. This sounds cold and insensitive, but having a tenant die in the middle of a lease term is really (from a purely legal standpoint) not that much different than having a tenant vacate early and move out in the middle of the lease term. The tenant (or in this case their estate) is responsible for the terms of the lease through the end of the lease, however the landlord does have a legal obligation to mitigate the potential financial damage to the tenant (or their estate) by making reasonable efforts to find a new tenant and re-renting out the property.
Another question that came up last week talked about an application fee that was charged by a landlord. A tenant applied for an apartment and was required to submit $400 with the application. It was stated right on the application that if the tenant backed out before they were approved, $100 of that fee was non-refundable and by signing the application, the applicants agreed to that.
To the question as to whether that was legal, in Wisconsin it was not. Any money submitted with the application is considered “earnest money” under Wisconsin law. Earnest money is ALWAYS refundable. If a tenant is turned down, they get the money back. If a tenant rescinds their application BEFORE they are informed that they are approved, they get their money back. If the tenant is approved, it gets applied toward rent or the deposit (or they could get it refunded depending on the situation). The only way a tenant can lose an earnest money is if they are approved (and told they are approved) and THEN decide to back out. However, for the landlord to keep the earnest money, they have to be able to prove that they suffered damage (which could include lost rent).
The only time that money with an application is not refundable is if it is a “credit check fee.” However, there are certain disclosures that a landlord has to do if there is such a non-refundable fee, and steps that they need to follow. And even then, the maximum amount is the actual cost the landlord paid for a credit report from one of the big three agencies, not to exceed $20 per person.
I also made my listeners aware that the UWMC Continuum is out for Fall 2009. This is their catalog of classes being offered through their Continuing Education Department, and Dr. Rent is offering a few classes this session. I am doing a 1-night class which is a “Step-by-Step Guide to Evictions.” This class will be offered the evening of Wednesday, September 23rd and the title pretty much says it all. I will also offer this same class a second time on Wednesday, November 18th in case the September date doesn’t work for some people.
The class that has historically been my most popular is titled “Landlord/Tenant Law in Wisconsin.” This class is actually 4 sessions long. We hold it Wednesday evenings from October 7th through October 28th. In those 4 classes, we cover in depth WI SS 704, ATCP 134, and a number of federal rules including: fair housing, SCRA, lead-based paint, FCRA, FACTA, and others. Actually, there have been some recent changes in both State and Federal laws, so this class has been recently updated.
However, I don’t want people who have gone through that 4-week class to go through all four weeks again to get information on those new changes. So, I designed a class that only covers the recent changes in the laws. This one-session class is titled “Recent Changes in Landlord/Tenant Law” and will be held Wednesday, November 4th.
All of these classes are through the UWMC continuing education office. You can contact their office for more information or to sign up. I also have a pdf form on these classes along with the sign-up sheet at my other blog at http://www.citizenwausau.com/drrent. (Look for the post titled something like “Shameless Self-Promotion”.)
The main topic for last week’s show was the upcoming Wisconsin Apartment Association education conference in Neenah, but I will discuss that in a different blog entry this weekend or early next week.
As always, if you have additional information on these show topics or questions you would like to have my answer, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, until tonight’s radio show, HAPPY RENTING!