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Milwaukee County Board Considering Ordinance on Rent Abatment

Posted by Tristan R. Pettit, Esq. in Legislation, Abatement / Comments

An important message for the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin:

The Milwaukee County Board is considering a proposal that would permit your tenants to abate rent for maintenance issues not addressed within 24 hours.

For example, your tenant calls on Friday morning to say the bathroom faucet is not working correctly. You go out and fix it on Sunday, 50 hours after the call came in. This proposal would allow that tenant to deduct $200 from the rent - Yes! Under this proposal, the tenant can deduct TWO HUNDRED dollars even though you made a timely repair of a minor item that does not affect health or safety.

You can read the whole proposal and list of proposed deductions here.

There will be a hearing on this proposal at 9:00 AM Monday, July 17th, 2017 at the County Board Committee Hearing Room at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, 901 North 9th Street, RM 201B, Milwaukee, WI 53233 Phone: 414-278-4222. Ironically this is two floors below the eviction courtroom where the legitimacy of each deduction will be decided.

I encourage you to attend. If you cannot attend you can still make an impact by reaching out to your County Supervisor and/or County Executive Chris Abele to let them know the potential negative impact of this proposal on both you as the property owner and on your tenants. If you live in one of their districts please make an extra effort to contact your supervisor and attend. Constituents of the supervisors make a bigger impact when in attendance.

Who represents me?

Here is the link to look up your County Supervisor:

Here is the link for County Executive Chris Abele:

Here are some talking points to help you get started when making your call.

  • How is maintenance even directly related to evictions?
  • Who will be responsible for verifying maintenance issues? At what cost? In what time frame?
  • What is the plan if the issues are deemed inaccurate?
  • Cost of these abatements and the court costs to fight them will be passed on to good tenants
  • There is a risk of tenants seeing these types of abatements as a means to avoid paying legitimate rent.
  • This proposed system is just another layer of cost to the city
  • There are already programs in place to protect tenants through the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS). Why add this? If the current system is not working, why not improve what we have rather than create a new layer of bureaucracy and cost.
  • Evictions are not a result of non-repair, but a result of non-payment
  • This proposal will increase evictions, not decrease them.

Many of the tenants featured in the news surrounding the Eviction Defense Project (Milwaukee) are serial evictees. This type of evictee increases the rents of good tenants; repeated court costs, employee time, and loss of rent cause rents to rise.

There are bigger issues to be addressed regarding evictions in Milwaukee. We need to be looking at ways for landlords to be better landlords and tenants to be better tenants. Many want to blame housing for all the problems in our communities. A better approach for both housing and for the tenants that find themselves in eviction would be to look at the underlying cause of the tenant's failure to pay rent and have both financial assistance and social intervention to make their future tenancies successful. Housing isn't the problem, it's part of the solution. Money would be better spent on education, neighborhood programs and increased police protection.

The AASEW applauds efforts to reduce evictions as they are time consuming and costly for the owners as well as negatively impacting the housing stock and the tenants.

Take action today; contact your supervisor or attend the meeting on Monday (7/17/17).

Ron Hegwood

President

AASEW

Tristan is a shareholder with the law firm of Petrie+Pettit and focuses his practice in the area of landlord-tenant law representing landlords and property management companies throughout Wisconsin.

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