Controversial landlord-tenant bill packs public hearing room - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Controversial landlord-tenant bill packs public hearing room

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Tenant-rights advocates are upset over a fast-tracked State Assembly bill that would loosen a number of regulations on landlords.

Opponents say AB 183 strips tenants of crucial rights, but its supporters say it contains needed reforms.  Landlords say the eviction process in Wisconsin currently takes too long.

"I've had an eviction for failure to pay rent, simple issue, have not gotten to court in six months," said Tristan Pettit, an attorney and landlord who was one of more than 20 people to speak in front of the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate Thursday.

AB 183 speeds up that process and also allows landlords to dispose of a tenant's property once the eviction is final.  Current law forces landlords to keep the property for 30 days and if they choose store it elsewhere, they must use bonded moving companies authorized by the local sheriff.

"And most all of it gets thrown away after 30 days.  The landlord has to pay for it," said Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth.

"I first heard about this bill on Monday.  On Tuesday it was added to the agenda for this committee.  Today is Thursday.  That is not very much time," complained Colin Gillis of the Wisconsin Alliance For Tenant Rights.

Several tenant advocates believe landlords were the only ones consulted on the bill prior to its introduction, because legislators knew it would cause outrage among renters.  One provision says landlords no longer have to disclose building code violations unless a local housing authority has filed a written notice on them.

"Even though the landlord does know, they don't have to tell the tenant.  They're allowed to keep it secret," said David Sparer, a Madison-based tenant attorney.

Another section allows landlords to hold tenants liable for pest or insect infestations if it can be proved they caused them.  And landlords could also evict a person if a crime is committed in their rental unit, even if they had no ability to stop it.

"Domestic violence is, almost by definition, a crime that occurs in the home," said Tony Gibart of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  "And when these provisions allow for summary eviction when simply a crime is committed on the premises, that means that a lot of crime victims are going to be evicted."

Another major provision of the bill says a property owner can have illegally parked vehicles towed away without consulting the owner of the vehicle or police.

Right now, a property owner must first call police, who have to write a citation before authorizing a tow.

You can read AB 183 in its entirety by clicking here.

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