It’s Thursday and my cold-medicated haze continues. There will be a Dr. Rent Show on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM at 5 PM tonight. After that, at 6:30 PM, I will be at UWMC giving my class on Evictions. Although I am not at 100%, I am no where near in the fog I was during the radio show that Dino and I are discussing in the comments section of yesterday’s blog entry on Citizen Wausau. So, if your only purpose for tuning in was to catch the “Loopy Rent” show, I am sorry to disappoint.
No real questions came up in this last week, but two short topics we will discuss before getting into the main topic of the show has to do with crime of absconding and the financial disclosure requirements after you have a judgment.
Absconding is when a tenant “skips out” on a landlord owing them money and not giving them any forwarding address, and it is an actual crime in Wisconsin. Yet, it is not often prosecuted. Watching Channel 7’s piece last night about what crimes in Lincoln County don’t get prosecuted because of lack of resources brought up this old pain in my side.
My main topic tonight will be addressed to home owners who have been trying to sell in this market and have been having a hard time. Some are thinking maybe they should rent the home out for a while instead, to at least generate some revenue to help pay the bills. There are pros and cons, and that is what we will cover.
Last week we talked about Weston’s proposed nuisance ordinance. Weston created a task force of stake holders to draft it after their original version met with a lot of criticism last fall (and yes, much of that criticism came from me). Unlike Wausau, who when they formed a “task force” to address the housing situation in town, had the task force made up of three council members and three city employees, and this task force met with other city employees, and then came up with a whole page of useless recommendations to make the situation better (I say useless because had they included some stake holders, they would have gotten better ideas), when Weston created their task force, it was made of people who were actually going to have to deal with this law once it was on the books. There was an owner of large multi-family units, an owner of a number of duplexes, an owner of a mobile home park, and an owner of a single family home. Although three city staff people where also on the task force, they were there as a resource only.
I think we came up with a pretty good proposal. It just needs to have a few small tweaks made and it is scheduled to be presented to the Weston Public Safety Committee. It is the recommendation of our little task force that before the new rule is passed, they hold a public hearing on it.
Basically, to be declared a “chronic nuisance”, a residential property needs 3 or more enforcement actions within 2 months (non-residential properties have different guidelines). Each unit is considered individually when I say “residential property”. These actions are not limited to police actions, they can also be code enforcement violations or other issues that result in citations of some kind. A police call doesn’t count, something has to happen… an arrest, a citation, etc. Also, certain actions don’t count toward these “3 strikes”. Any police call that has to do with domestic violence doesn’t count (that is a state law), any call that originates from the property owner doesn’t count (because if they are making the call, they are trying to take care of the problem), and actions that have nothing to do with the property don’t count (there was a foot chase and they just happened to catch the guy in your front yard).
After this threshold is met, the appropriate dept head can declare the property a chronic nuisance. The property owner does have the ability to work with the department head to do an abatement plan. The label of “chronic nuisance” doesn’t apply as long as an abatement plan is in place. However if the property owner and department head just cant seem to come to some type of agreement to a solution, the issue of whether the property is a “chronic nuisance” goes to a hearing before the Village Board.
What does this label of “chronic nuisance” mean? It means that you are using more than your fair share of the public resources, and the Village will now start billing you for those resources. And, because this is a service being provided, these bills for service can be added on to the property tax bills if they go unpaid (where unpaid fines cannot).
This is a very over-simplified summary of the ordinance, but once we have the final draft done that is going to committee, I will make sure to post it on my blog. There are also provisions for chronic nuisance landlords. Most of these times, these problems are an isolated incident. However, if the same landlord seems to have more and more of their properties fall into this category, the Village can declare them a Chronic Nuisance Landlord. This identification will be made public at Village Hall and other places, however to avoid this label, mitigation plans that include education, better screening, etc. will be allowed to try to address the problem first.
Although I am never a fan of having the landlord having to pay for when the problem is actually the tenant… I think we came up with a piece of legislation that addresses the concerns of property owners as well as gives the Village power over those property owners who do actually contribute to the problems created by the tenants by their apathy.
So… if this blog post is coherent… the radio show probably will be as well… until then..