Wow, can you believe it’s Thursday already? I have really been bad at blogging lately. I fell a little bit behind the week of the 4th of July, and have been playing catch up ever since. There was no radio show last week, but I am back on the air tonight, from 5 to 6 PM on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM.
The first thing I am going to cover on the show has to do with a phone call I received yesterday from Barbara Smith from the State Division of Energy Services. She called asking me about any properties I might have that would qualify for one of their programs. Although I don’t have any, I did promise I would share the word, so I will blog about it here, talk about it on the radio, and share the information with the various apartment associations.
The program is to make apartment buildings that serve low-income individuals more energy efficient. This program will look at everything from heating systems to light bulbs. There is no co-pay by the property owner – in other words the owner can have these energy improvements done with no out-of-pocket costs. To qualify for this program, the apartment building has to have 20 or more units. Two-thirds of the occupants of the building have to be low income (low income for this program is the same standards as that for people who apply for energy assistance, which is 60% of the median income). In the case a number of units are vacant, those can count as low-income units if the landlord does some type of agreement to only rent them to low income tenants. There is more information on this program at their website, http://www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov, on the right side of the screen, go to the link for special projects. Barbara can be contacted directly at (608) 266-5549.
Also this week we will cover questions that have come up since my last show. Does the landlord have rights to go to the tenant’s new address to try to collect amounts owed? What can a landlord do if the tenant doesn’t pay the last month’s rent? What can a landlord do if the tenant doesn’t pay the water bill? And, even if the last month’s rent wasn’t paid, what happens if the landlord doesn’t send a tenant a statement about their security deposit?
The main topic will be a brief discussion on what is known in landlord circles as the “Maryland Arms” case, which was just recently heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In this case, a tenant left a hair dryer plugged in and this hair dryer started a fire. The landlord wanted to hold the tenant responsible for the fire because it was their hair dryer. The courts have sided with the tenant saying that although it was their dryer and they had control over it to plug it in or unplug it, the tenant was not actually “negligent” by having it plugged in and therefore was not responsible for the fire. We will discuss both sides of the issue.
In our show last week, the main topic was my recommendation for the make up of Wausau’s Housing Task Force. This was already covered in my blog post of June 22nd, and I did share my thoughts in the public comment section of the city council meeting earlier this week. In talking with some people at City Hall, it sounds like some of my suggestions are being taken to heart. I will share more as I know more.
We had a number of questions on that last show two weeks ago. We had a tenant who was confused about a non-refundable pet deposit a landlord wanted to charge them. There is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit in Wisconsin. Any money received that is more than 1 month’s pre-paid rent is defined as a “Security Deposit” under ATCP 134.02 (11). So, no matter what you call that deposit (pet deposit, pre-paid carpet cleaning fee, etc.), but law it is security deposit and has to be treated as such.
We also had a question from a landlord that heard that the federal health insurance reform that was passed recently established a “sales tax” on rental revenue. After doing some research, I found the best information on a report put out by the National Association of Realtors. Starting in January 2013, there will be not a sales tax, but a Medicare tax on “unearned” income; which includes rental income, capital gains, etc. This will only apply to individuals with an adjusted gross income of $200,000 per year ($250,000 for married filing joint). If you meet that threshold, the NET income (not gross income, but net AFTER expenses) from unearned sources would be subject to a 3.8% tax, which would go toward Medicare.
So, never a dull moment on the Dr. Rent Radio Show. One last thing, I hate to do this, especially after missing the show last week, but there will also be no show next week, July 22nd. I will need to take off my Dr. Rent hat and put on my President of the Wisconsin Apartment Association hat and will be representing our industry at a fairly large housing conference in La Crosse next week Wednesday and Thursday.
So… I suppose I need to get to work, pay some bills and finish some other things so I can be on the air at 5, and to the ballpark after the show – Woodchucks double header tonight. Until then, HAPPY RENTING!