Better to Do it Now than Do it Right??

Merry Christmas Listeners and Readers! And, Happy New Year as well!

Yes, I know we still have over a week to go, but tonight’s Dr. Rent Radio Show will be the last one for this year. There will be no Dr Rent Show on Christmas Eve, and there will also be no Dr Rent Show on New Year’s Eve either. After this evening, I will return to the airwaves again on Thursday, January 7th.

We have quite a few interesting topics to discuss on this last show of 2009. First of all, I want to just go over a continuing pet peeve that I have with the City of Wausau. If you remember, one of my biggest issues with their new ordinance on requiring registered agents for residential rental properties is that it wasn’t well thought out. One of my biggest concerns was that because individual property owners in county are treated differently than corporate property owners (who have full-time offices) in county, this ordinance has the capacity to backfire, making it actually MORE DIFFICULT to serve notices.

However, there was no time to take this ordinance back to committee and get input from stakeholders. Afterall, city staff interviewed other city staff, and a public hearing was held with almost 5 days notice – all of the statutory minimums were met. And, there was a deadline to be made. There was no time to make this ordinance better, or make it more reasonable, or make it make sense. This thing had to be passed in November so that an insert could be done with the property tax bills so that property owners knew about this new requirement.

Well, I have received my 40 or so property tax bills from the City of Wausau. I went through each of the 40+ envelopes looking. There was the tax bill, there was an envelope for my tax payments, there was a flyer on the 400 Block, and there was a letter with some useless information…. But no where did I see the notice of this new ordinance.

So, let me get this right??? This ordinance was RUSHED through the system, suffering from a case of “Get It Done NOW!” instead of “Get It Done RIGHT!” so that notice could be included in the property tax bills. AND THEN, the notice was NOT included in said bills? What the….?!!!! The City could have taken its time after all and done it right.

Speaking of doing things right. The Task Force that Weston created of stake holders (not village staff, but actual people who will have to live with the rule) who are drafting Weston’s new Chronic Nuisance Ordinance had our second meeting last night. On the show, we will discuss how far we have come in our two meetings, what consensus decisions we have come to, and what issues we will be looking at for our next meeting.

We also had a couple of questions come up in the last week. These include how you use a standard lease form if the rental term is going to be month-to-month. Also, at last nights meeting, there was some discussion on the laws that allow for a “quick evict” when drugs or gang activity are involved, and there was a question about how exactly that worked.

Finally, we will make you aware of another chance to Rent Smart coming up in January. Rent Smart is a program put on by the UW-Extension and here in Wausau is presented by Attorney Andrew Schmidt. This program will be offered in January, tune in for the specific information! (Don’t worry, I will also be blogging about it so you can stay tuned into my blog for information on this program as well.)

On last week’s Dr Rent Radio Show, we discussed a Top Ten List. Sometimes bad things happen to good landlords. Sometimes, these bad things are caused by bad tenants. Unfortunately, too often, the bad things that happen to good landlords are caused by things that those landlords do to themselves. I created this Top Ten List based on my years of giving advice to landlords – these are the most common mistakes that I see them make.

A summary of that list is…

No. 10 – Mailing the 5-Day. When serving an eviction notice, there are a number of ways it can be done according to WI SS 704.21. However, ONLY mailing it normal first class mail isn’t one of them.

No. 9 – Digging the Hole to Deep. I hear landlords complain that they have now gone 4-5 months without getting rent. WHY? Although evicting the first time rent is late is probably not a good business decision, letting the problem go on for months and months and letting the amount due get so high that the tenant will never be able to get caught up doesn’t help anybody either. If you are going to try to save the tenant, you have start taking action before things have gotten so far they cannot be saved.

No. 8 – Incomplete Applications. An application is more than a tool to qualify tenants, it is also a tool to prevent identity theft. And, it is a tool to assist in collections if things go south. The more information on an application, and the more that information is verified, the better decision you can make as a landlord. Plus, when information is left blank, you need to ask yourself – why?

No. 7 – Not Asking the Right People. One of the best indicators of the type of tenant someone will be is to talk to their current housing provider. Yes, they may have perfect credit, but was it the landlord that didn’t see the rent so that all of the creditors who report to the credit bureaus got paid? “Trust but Verify” really is a good philosophy in this business. And, it surprises me that we get housing reference calls from less than 1 in 4 of tenants who leave us.

No. 6 – Auto-Renewing Lease. Residential leases do not automatically renew. Even if the lease says it does, it does NOT unless a reminder of the automatic renewal clause was provided to the tenant in writing.

No. 5 – 14-Day Notice (or not). There many different kinds of eviction notices, at least six of them. When you use which one depends on the type of rental agreement AND the type of breach. One key difference between the 5-Day and the 14-Day is the 5-Day has a right to cure. Fix the problem and you can stay. The 14-Day does not, you MUST leave. However, if you repeatedly issue a 14-Day but then cancel it if the tenant cures, based on past actions, if you at some point don’t allow the right to cure on the 14-Day, a court may disagree because you allowed it in the past.

No. 4 – Do It Yourself Leases/Forms. This is just a bad idea, and getting a one-size fits all legal form packet that is not specific to Wisconsin is almost as bad. Wisconsin has some pretty unique laws that have to do with automatic renewals, that have to do with application fees, that have to do with carpet cleaning, and that have to do with attorneys fees, just as examples. Not only is having an illegal provision in a lease not valid, depending on which illegal provision it is, it could make the entire lease null and void.

No. 3 – Mis-Use of CCAP. CCAP is a GREAT underwriting tool. But you need to understand how to use it. First, make sure the John Doe you are looking at on CCAP is the same John Doe who applied for an apartment. Next, understand that when charges are dismissed, they play no role in underwriting. The same is true of pending charges, as people are innocent until proven guilty.

No. 2 – Carpet Cleaning. The cost for “routine” carpet cleaning can never be deducted from a security deposit. If the carpets needed to be cleaned because of damage, or excessive wear, than it can. As to whether or not you can charge for routine carpet cleaning as long as it is a separate billing and in no way associated with the deposit, I have seen court cases rule both ways and have talked to different attorneys who see it differently – so the firm answer is maybe.

No. 1 – That Lease is How Long? Most landlords are familiar with the 5-Day and 14-Day forms for evictions. However, if a lease is longer than a year in length, those notices can no longer be used. Instead, the only notice available for normal breaches is a 30-Day notice with a right to cure. Sometimes these long leases are done on purpose (a new lease is done on January 1st, but the landlord doesn’t want it to end in winter, so they make it a 15-Month lease), sometimes they are done on accident (it is a 1-year lease but the tenant wants to move in early, so you list as a lease term from 12/15/09 to 12/31/10, which is longer than 1 year). If you have a lease longer than a year, and issue a 5-Day notice and then end up having to evict, your case can get dismissed because of improper notice based on lease term.

So… that is a preview of the last Dr Rent Radio Show of 2009 and a summary of last week’s program. The Dr. Rent Show can be heard on Thursdays from 5-6 PM on 93.3 FM, WNRB-LP in the Wausau area, or now online at

So, until the next broadcast – 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 14-Day Notice, 5-Day Notice, Chronic Nusiance, Questions, Registered Agent, Top Ten List, Wausau, Weston, WNRB and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Better to Do it Now than Do it Right??

  1. Hi John – Great top 10 list – I readily agree with most of them.

    In case a landlord makes the mistake that you mentioned in #1 (entering in a lease for more than 1 year) – I wanted to point out a subsection of the Wisconsin Statutes that might help them – Sec. 704.17(5).

    This section states that even if you entered into a lease for more than 1 year, if your lease has language in it that sets forth a different notice term (other than the 30 day notice period which is the default) then the landlord can use that notice period rather than being forced to use the 30 day notice.

    An example of this contrary language can be found in the form lease that is sold at Wisconsin Legal Blank Co., Inc. at lines 132 – 141.

    I have been able to assist several landlords from having their eviction dismissed by instructing the court about this subsection. Some landlords inadvertantly enter into a lease for more than 1 year and others do it on purpose. Either way, if they have the “contrary” language in their rental agreement they will not be forced to give a 30 day notice. More importantly, if they already served a 5 day or 14 day notice – this subsection (and the use of the proper language in their lease) could save a current eviction from being dismissed.

    You never want to be stuck with a lease greater than 1 year and have to use a 30 day notice. Every 30 day notice gives the tenant the opportunit to cure the breach within that 30 day period. Technically a tenant could pay rent 30 days late every month for the term of the lease and there is nothing that a landlord could do about it under such a scenario. Not a position that any landlord wants to be in.

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