A Tale of 2 Cities (OK, 1 city and 1 village)

As you have probably assumed from seeing practically no new blog posts since last Thursday’s radio show preview post, it has been quite the week. My sister got me tickets to Saturday’s Badger game in Madison. The nice weather on Sunday resulted in a full day of outdoors work getting done. Monday evening the Public Health and Safety Committee met to discuss changing Wausau’s housing codes. My Junior Achievement classes started up again on Tuesday. Yesterday morning I discovered one of the front tires on my plow truck was flat and yesterday evening was the first Weston Chronic Nuisance Ordinance task force meeting. Of course, tonight is the Dr Rent Radio Show from 5-6 PM which can be heard on the air on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM or online at http://wausauhmong.org/WNRB.htm.

Such a busy week took more out of me than I thought. My university classes are over and with the Weston meeting I attended, it was not practical for me to go down to Waukesha for my Corvette Club meeting, so I instead decided to watch the new episode Mythbusters at 8 PM, a guilty pleasure I have not done in some time. However, I was asleep in my chair in the living room before it came on and was woke up by the dog about midnight when he wanted to go outside.

Speaking of tonight’s Dr Rent Show, our main topic will be an update on the two proposed ordinance changes I mentioned above. Plus, we will have an interesting comparison on how the City of Wausau has decided to go about making these changes versus how the Village of Weston is doing things. How the procedure for creating the ordinance can be so similar and yet so different at the same time is simply amazing to me.

Before getting to that main topic, we will discuss some questions that came up during the last week. Actually, there is only one question, but it is complicated and therefore I have broken it down into three different issues: 1) How do you terminate a residential tenancy when it is a long term “holdover” agreement? 2) Can the security deposit be used as the last month’s rent? And, 3) What are the repercussions to a tenant for leaving before the end date of the lease agreement?

Last week we had a question that was really difficult to answer. When the landlord won’t fix problems, and there is no “inspections department” (maybe this is in the country), who does a tenant notify? If the problem results in things that could be health issues, the county health department is a good option. Also, filing a complaint with the State Dept of Consumer Protection is a way to go (assuming you have contacted the landlord in writing and given them a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem). Of course, contacting an agency doesn’t always fix the problem. WI SS 704.07 (4) does have provisions for tenants to either move and break the lease, or PARTIALLY abate the rent if they decided to stay. However, in either case, I would recommend contacting an attorney before you do either thing because the problem has to affect the “tenantability” of the place to take these actions. And if you are going to partially abate the rent for diminished use, it would be prudent to get a legal opinion to determine just how much of the rent can reasonably be abated. This statute does NOT allow you to withhold all of the rent if you continue to live there.

Last week we also answered a question that I had. I went to the Central Wisconsin Apartment Association meeting in Stevens Point last week and their speaker was an attorney who covered the topic of risk management and insurance. My question was, although landlords have a duty to provide a safe premises from a structural/maintenance point of view, does that extend to tenant underwriting? In other words, if CCAP was taken away and we could not ensure that your neighbor was not a convicted felon, and something happens, could we be found at fault for putting in someone like that. The answer I was given was that the law that covers safe premises ONLY applies to the structure of the property. However, although there is no law about “negligent renting”, that does not mean that a landlord may not be found liable if something like that would happen. There may be civil liability for negligence. The standard is whether the landlord did what would be considered “normal”. So, if no one has CCAP and no one can make decisions based on past criminal activity, then NO – the landlord would have done what is normal and could not be found negligent. However, if it is common practice to check criminal background and the landlord either did not follow this common practice, or did and ignored the results, and they put someone in who they should have reasonably known created a safety issue for other tenants, then there might be a case for negligence. However, this would be decided in court with each instance taken on a case-by-case basis.

Our main topic last week talked about the new Carbon Monoxide Detector laws that will be affecting residential rental properties. New apartment construction have fallen under this law since October 2008, however for existing apartments, duplexes, homes and other residential rentals, they must come into compliance by April 1st, 2010.

This new law affects residential rentals with “fuel burning appliances”, which includes natural gas, LP, fuel oil, wood, and any other source of fuel that creates Carbon Monoxide (CO). If there are no such appliances (which include furnaces, water heaters, ovens, etc.) AND there is no attached garage, then there is no need for CO detectors.

However, if the unit is not “electric only”, then you probably will require CO detectors. In existing buildings, they do not need to be hardwired or interconnected. They can be though. They can also be the plug in kind or the battery operated kind, as long as they have the proper Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification.

The rules on numbers and placement of the detectors can be quite confusing, I will try to summarize the placement guidelines as best I can.

IF THE FUEL BURNING APPLIANCE IS IN THE BASEMENT – A detector is needed in the basement.

ANY ROOM THAT HAS A FUEL BURNING APPLIANCE – Needs a detector in that room, no farther than 75’ away from the appliance.

SLEEPING AREAS – There must be a detector within 15’ of any bedroom.

ADJACENT UNITS – If there is no gas appliance in a unit, but a unit that is adjacent to it (on the same floor, sharing a common wall) does have a gas appliance, the adjacent unit also must have CO detectors within 15’ of any bedroom.

COMMON AREA HALLWAYS – Have to have a CO detector no farther than 75’ from the front door of each unit.

SINGLE FAMILY RENTAL HOMES – A confusing part of the law is that if the property is single-family in nature, it only requires one CO detector, however of those placements listed above, the law does NOT say which of those detectors is that one.

EXCEPTIONS – If all fuel burning appliances are sealed combustion and are all under warranty, you don’t have to install the CO detectors. Also, if all of the appliances are sealed combustion and have been inspected (the new law sets out the inspection criteria), there is also no need for CO detectors.

As I said, this is only a quick summary. If anyone is interested, I have received a presentation that the Madison Fire Department prepared on these law changes. One problem is that when looking at the placement guidelines, those that I gave here are what the law dictates. However, the law also says that the detectors must be placed according to the manufacturers directions. The law says put one in the basement but some CO detectors should not be put in a basement per the manufacturer. Also, the law says a detector needs to be in the same room as an appliance, but some detectors say they need to be at least 20’ away from any appliance. Clear as mud.

So, I hope you all tune in later today to the Dr Rent Show for this week’s questions and for our main topic – a tale of two cities. 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 Badgers, Chronic Nusiance, CO Detectors, Corvette, Housing Codes, Questions, Wausau, Weston, WNRB and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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