What a week, huh? I am still recovering from yesterday’s snow and Mother Nature couldn’t have planned it at a worse time for me. In between plowing, shoveling and blowing I had to take two breaks in the action, one for court at 10 AM and the other one to take Mrs. Rent to an appointment (even though she now has a shiny new 4 wheel drive vehicle, driving during the snowstorm still not on the list of things she likes to do). Also, I was down one maintenance employee so we were short-staffed.
However, that was then and this is now, and it is Thursday so time for another installment of the Dr Rent Radio Show on WNRB-LP, which can be heard from 5-6 PM on 93.3 FM or online at http://wausauhmong.org/WNRB.htm.
We don’t have any new questions to discuss so after the forecast and the Public Service Announcements, I can get right into my topic of the day. Although I am still looking for suggestions, I have decided that I will go over one of my most popular classes that I do for landlords, which is the Top Ten Mistakes that Landlords Make.
Last week we covered a number of issues, the first thing was what the new registered agent ordinance in Wausau means for residential rental property owners. Although there was a great deal of discussion as to how this impacts the out-of-county owners, ALL residential rental property owners need to have their contact information (name, street address, and phone number) on record with the inspections department. Below is a summary of who needs what:
CORPORATE PROPERTY OWNER
If it has a full-time office within the City of Wausau, the business entity can be the registered agent.
If it has a full-time office that is NOT within city limits (even if it is in Marathon County), or if it does NOT have a full-time office, it needs to have an individual that resides within Marathon County be the registered agent.
INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY OWNER
If the owner lives within Marathon County, they can be the agent for their own property and they just need to get their contact information to the Inspections Department.
If the owner lives outside of Marathon County, they need to have an individual that resides within Marathon County be their registered agent.
A question that I did get from two different people did actually tie in with this registered agent thing. I had questions on how you figure out who someone’s landlord is.
The methods that I use are to contact the County Treasurer’s office to get the name and address of the property owner. If the property owner is a corporate entity, I will then go to the Wisconsin State Dept. of Financial Institutions website to see who that corporation’s registered agent is. However, now that this new ordinance has passed in Wausau, soon there will be another way of learning who the landlord is to a property. If that property is in the City of Wausau, you should be able to contact the Inspections Dept. to get information on the registered agent. I have to assume since tax records and assessment records are all subject to open records laws, these registered agent contact records will also be subject to this law.
We also had a question that talked about letting a dead person out of their lease. Something that most people don’t realize is that a rental contract is just that, a contract. Like almost any other contract, it is binding on the estate. Although a property owner can look at the estate, and seeing it has no assets, just cut their losses and release the estate from the terms of the contract, they have no legal obligation to do so. There is a bill floating around in Madison that would terminate a rental contract upon the death of a tenant, but is that really fair? Let’s look at this from the other side of things. Let’s say in the rental contract it isn’t the tenant who died but it is instead the landlord. You signed a 1 year lease and 3 months later the landlord dies. Should the family be able to come in and say that you must now vacate the property? Or, should the estate of the landlord have to honor that contract?
One of the easiest questions I have ever had to answer relates to the court venue when filing a small claims action resulting from a lease. In commercial rentals, the venue is addressed in the contract. However, in a residential rental (or a commercial rental where it is not addressed in the contract), the county you need to file your action is the county where the rental property is actually located. So, for example, if the landlord lives in Marathon County, and rented out a property in Portage County, and the tenants left owing money and moved to Wood County. If the Marathon County landlord wants to sue the Wood County tenants, they have to do so in Portage County because that is where the property was, and that is where the debt was incurred.
The two main topics discussed last week were also City of Wausau issues, one was a garbage weight restriction, and the other was a water disconnect policy.
With the new City of Wausau contract with Veolia, if you are going to put garbage in your own can in the City of Wausau, for the safety of those that pick up those cans, those cans cannot weigh more than 50 lbs. That does not say that you are limited to 50 lbs of garbage per week, as there are no limits to the number of cans of trash that you can have, only what the weight of each one can be. However, if you rent one of those fancy cans that can be picked up by the truck, this 50 lbs weight limit does not apply.
Finally, I discussed water disconnect policies and why it would be a good idea for the Wausau Water Works to at the very least research putting one into place. As it stands right now, no matter how high your water bill is or how long you go without paying for it, the City will not cut off this utility. Although this is a landlord-tenant issue because as these bills are put on the property taxes, landlords end up paying for these bills that tenants run up, it also affects everyone as foreclosures continue. If you look at a house that is on the foreclosure list, you will probably see a couple of years of back taxes and a couple of years of unpaid water bills. Yes, the City will eventually get the water bill paid when the bank finally takes over, but some of those bills could be 3-4 years old. In these tight economic times, people need to rob Peter to pay Paul. If you want your money, you need to be Paul. Turn off the water when it is 9 months past due, and I will think that would help cash flow, you would see payments made much quicker.
And, state law actually does allow municipally owned water utilities to have disconnect policies. As a matter of fact, of the 7 water utilities in our area, 5 do have some kind of disconnect policy. Those 5 where not paying a water bill COULD (not will, but could) result in the water being shut off are: Weston, Schofield, Rothschild, Kronenwetter and Mosinee. When I checked last fall, Wausau and Rib Mountain did not have disconnect policies. Because it has been over a year since I checked, I do not know if anything changed with Rib Mountain.
So, that summarizes what you missed if you didn’t tune in last week, and tells you what you have to look forward to for tonight’s program. As a reminder, there will be no Dr Rent Radio show on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve. Until this evening, HAPPY RENTING!