The Dr. Rent Radio Show preview blog post is a little late this morning because I attended a class to start out the day. The seminar was put on by a local attorney, Sarah Ruffi, and covered some of the protections given tenants under the new foreclosure laws that were passed not that long ago.
I had added these laws to my Landlord-Tenant Law classes that I offer through UWMC, but I normally teach these laws from the tenant end of things. This seminar was aimed at letting banks know, so it was a really interesting to hear about this law from the other side of the coin. Personally, I actually feel that the protections granted to tenants were a good thing and a needed thing. However, Attorney Ruffi pointed out that when this law was passed, they got the concepts down on paper but left out a lot of the specifics. And of course, and as we all know, the devil is always in the details. So, even though I still believe that this new law has more good things in it than bad things, I will concede that some of the details needed are either unpractical, or missing completely. And vague laws opens the doors for unscrupulous attorneys to find loopholes. As time permits, this will be the main topic of the radio show. A brief discussion of what the tenant protections are, and what areas of the law could stand to be improved.
Most of tonight’s radio show will be devoted to questions that came up during my visit to the AASEW in Brookfield (Milwaukee). They will include problems that arise when giving a 5-Day notice for a non-rent breach in a month-to-month rental agreement; how can landlords get away for charging for extremely minor things; what can a landlord do when an applicant refused to give out their social security number; and what type of provisions will make an entire lease null and void?
Also, my first class for the semester is coming up very soon at UWMC. “Five Most Asked Landlord Questions” will be offered next Tuesday evening, 1/25, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. This class costs $24 and covers some of the most common questions I get asked over and over again. 1) The 5-Day Notice, 5 days from when? 2) Getting the security deposit back in 21 days, 21 days from when? 3) When does a month-to-month agreement REALLY end? 4) The tenants are gone but their stuff is not, now what? And, 5) Are you actually sure the tenants are gone? There is still time to sign up for this class, more information can be found through the UWMC Continuing Education Office at www.uwmc.edu/continuing_education.
Last week we had a number of questions that we answered. First was from a landlord who found a past tenant who owed them money and went to their new address and paid some personal visits to collect the debt. The tenant told them to stop coming over or they would call the police. Can the tenant do that, afterall, they owe the landlord money? Yes, the tenant can. Once you start collections on a past due account, in addition to landlord-tenant laws, you must also follow many of the debt collection laws. And, coming onto private property after being told not to is, in fact, trespassing. This is where contacting an attorney or an agency that specializes in debt collection is often not a bad idea.
Another question that was asked where I really couldn’t give a good answer other than recommending seeking out an attorney had to do with getting a money judgment or an eviction from someone on active duty in the military. Those serving our country have certain protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). One of those protections is that a “default” judgement cannot be taken against them. That is not to say that a landlord cannot sue for money or eviction, just that they can not win by default because the tenant didn’t show up, also the tenant will have certain legal rights giving them additional due process. In the specific instance where I got the question, the service member was on active duty, but serving here locally. Based on my time in the military, it was important to commanders that their troops were good citizens as well as good soldiers. When a commander found out that one of their troops was not meeting some of their civilian obligations, they would take matters into their own hands and make sure the situation was remedied. Because this landlord didn’t really want to evict, they only wanted their rent paid on time, my suggestion was to call the person’s commanding officer, explain the situation, and see if that helped.
Finally, we had a landlord ask for some ideas on how to convince a tenant to pay rent to avoid eviction. Isn’t that the million dollar question? Each situation has to be taken separately. First and foremost, is the reason for lack of a rental payment caused by lack of priorities, or lack of resources. If there is literally no money to pay the rent, then there is no money to pay the rent. On the other hand, if there is income coming in but other things seem to take priority, there may be things that can be done. If they have never been evicted or taken to court, then the prospects of a court action could set their priorities a little better. On the other hand, if they are no strangers to the legal process, they probably know that the eviction will take 3-5 weeks after you file the paperwork, so they can basically live rent free until you finally get around to doing that.
When we have a tenant who is having trouble paying the rent, we take the time to meet with them and learn about their situation and the circumstances. Often times, something can be worked out. From time to time, tenants are not willing to share their financial information with us, which to be honest they have no obligation to do. However, I personally feel that if you expect me to work with you, you have to understand I am going to expect you to work with me. If you refuse to let the communication be a two-way street, I have no problem filing the eviction action.
Again, the Dr. Rent Radio Show can be heard on Thursdays, from 5 to 6 PM on WNRB-LP. In the greater Wausau area, that is at 93.3 FM on your radio dial. For the entire world, the live stream is up and you can tune into the Dr. Rent show using your computer by going to http://22.214.171.124:88/listen.pls.
(NOTE: To listen to the live stream, you must have software such as WinAmp, Real Player or I-Tunes installed on your computer, all three of these programs can be downloaded for free.)
Until later this evening…. HAPPY RENTING!