Learning about Laws – Learning about Blight

Is it really Thursday already? Well, that means that I will be at the radio studio after work for another installment of the Dr. Rent Radio show, which can be heard Thursdays from 5 to 6 PM on 93.3 FM, WNRB-LP in the Wausau Area.

Before talking about show topics, let’s talk a little bit about education. The fall session of the UWMC Continuing Education program is in full swing, and I am offering four different courses there starting next week.

We start Tuesday, September 21st from 6:30 to 8 PM at the UWMC campus here in Wausau with “Top Ten Mistakes Landlords Make.” Many problems landlords face are caused by things that they do to themselves. Learn the ten most common mistakes landlords make and pointers on how to avoid them. Topics included are types of notices, carpet cleaning, types of rental agreements, and more. This has been my most popular class statewide for almost two years, and it is the first time it is being offered as part of the UWMC system.

My second-most popular class I have been giving across the state and will also be offered for the first time at UWMC is the following week. “Debt Collection Strategies” will be offered on Tuesday, September 28th, from 6:30 to 8 PM. Although there is no “silver bullet” on collecting past due accounts, there are many small things that can be done to increase your success. Although the focus is on helping landlords, many of the tips can by used by any small business.

The last two classes are offered almost every semester. On October 5th, I will be hosting my “Step-by-Step Guide to Evictions” class. Evicting tenants is the single most difficult thing landlords must do, both legally and ethically. This course is designed to help with the legal aspect, including defining a breach of lease, sending the proper notice, and covering Marathon County’s small claims court procedures. We end the fall semester’s offerings with “Landlord/Tenant Law in Wisconsin.” This class is four sessions long, and will run Tuesdays from October 12th through November 2nd. Learn about your rights and responsibilities under the law. This course will cover the laws that regulate landlords and tenants in Wisconsin and help you through the alphabet soup of federal regulations. It will include an in-depth look at WI Statute 704 as well as ATCP Rule 134 along with various federal law issues such as discrimination and fair housing. The course has been updated to include recent changes in the law that have to do with foreclosure actions, domestic violence, and the new Renovate Right lead-based paint rules.

So.. that all starts next week. For more information on my class offerings, or all of the great classes offered through UWMC’s continuing education system, you can visit their website at http://www.marathon.uwc.edu/continuing_education/

But, for tonight, we will see if we can get though the questions that have been backing up, so no main topic. The questions on my agenda are:

If there are multiple tenants on the lease, and you want to evict just one of them without evicting all of them.. can you do this?

Is it legal to charge for carpet cleaning?

The security deposit has to be returned in 21 days… but 21 days from when? And, does the deposit have to be mailed out within 21 days, or received by the tenant within 21 days? What if it isn’t?

A tenant needs to move before their lease ends, and is being told by their landlord they are going to be charged a re-renting fee… how legal is that?

Our main show topic last week was an update of the Wausau Housing Task Force’s most recent meeting. The topic of last meeting was defining blight. I was not the only one on the task force who had some reservations about a city-approved definition of blight. I mean really… we come up with a definition… but how does that solve it? Well, blight means different things to different people, and there are a number of things than can create blight. By taking the time to get a relatively specific definition of blight, we can break the problem down to its core elements, and then we can come up with solutions and policies to address each of those smaller, more specific issues. There is no “one size fits all” answer, so let’s break down this big problem into smaller pieces so we can address those pieces one at a time. Again, these problems are literally decades in the making, so any good solution is going to take some time as well.

So.. the task force looked at how the state defines blight for eminent domain cases, which most of us felt was too broad. We also looked at how a number of other communities define blight and our recommendation comes from combining a couple of them. Our definition will go to the Public Health and Safety Committee for input and suggestions.. and then after being refined out, will go to a public hearing to get public comment to see if this is how Wausau defines the elements of blight. If it is, we can then start coming up with specific solutions to each element.

We borrowed some of the items used by Stamford, CN, including: not adequately maintained; uncorrected building or health code violations; documented criminal activity; fire hazard; substantial risk of interference with lawful use and enjoyment or other properties within the neighborhood; factor that is seriously depreciating property values in the neighborhood; unauthorized outside storage or accumulation of trash or parking of inoperable vehicles/machinery; or has been vandalized or damaged to the extent is seriously depreciating property values in the neighborhood. There were also a couple of items in Colorado’s definition of blight we liked, including: environmental contamination of buildings or property; and existence of health, safety or welfare factors requiring high levels of municipal services.

As things progress, I will be sure to keep you all informed. And, if you have an interest in this, I encourage you to attend the public hearing on this once we have gotten it scheduled.

We also managed to get to two questions on last week’s program. Can a landlord change the terms of a month-to-month agreement? I am surprised how many tenants prefer the flexibility of month-to-month agreements versus leases for a term. That flexibility works both ways. As long as any change in the agreement is given in writing, delivered the proper way, with a month notice, YES.. the landlord can change the terms. Of course, because it is month-to-month, the tenant can choose to give notice to move rather than accept the new terms. HOWEVER, if the change in terms from the landlord is in retaliation to something the tenant did that they legally had the right to do, that would be illegal.

The other question had to do with an army worm infestation in the yard of a rental property, was that a tenant problem or a landlord problem. That is one of those “it depends” answers, as I don’t know enough about army worms. If a tenant is responsible for yard care in the lease, it could potentially be their problem to deal with. However, state law says that a residential tenant cannot be held responsible for something that they really have no control over. But a different law also says that if the repairs are minor in relation to the rent, that the tenant would be on the hook. So… who takes care of this problem? That depends on what it would cost to take care of the problem, and whether or not “routine” lawn care would have prevented the problem from occurring.

Hope to see many of you at my classes at UWMC in the next few weeks, until then.. HAPPY RENTING!

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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 Blight, Continuing Education, Housing Task Force, Month-to-Month, Questions, UWMC, Wausau, WNRB and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Learning about Laws – Learning about Blight

  1. I do duplicate blog posts over at the Wausau Daily Herald site… user “MostlyMalarkey” did a comment on my post that was CLASSIC…. he owned rental property many many years ago… and submitted his own top ten list mistakes make… and to be honest… I think his is TONS better than mine….

    1. Buying rental property in the 1st place.

    2. Shooting of unruly tenants.

    3. Taking “services rendered” in leu of rent.

    4. Believing “I will pay you next week”.

    5. Thinking rental fees will cover all expenses and provide additional
    cash-flow.

    6. Renting to a family of 8 who has been living in their car.

    7. Move in – before check clears and cash is in your pocket.

    8. Assuming that fixtures, carpeting, and plumbing will stay when unit is
    vacated.

    9. Failing to notice Narc Unit stakeout.

    10. Accepting $100 bills that have Washington’s face.

  2. John — Sounds like some great classes – hope you have a great turnout – wish I lived closer so I could attend.

    Love your reposted comment – hilarious. With your permission I would like to repost it on my blog as well

  3. Tristan…

    feel free to share

    (still have on my scheduled to come down to your neck of the woods next week for AASEW’s little shin-dig)

  4. Great – Looking forward to meeting you.

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