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Sep 25, 201308:13 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Madison liberals, Republicans are trying to help you by helping landlords

(page 1 of 2)

There are signs, albeit evanescent, that Madison’s leaders are pushing back against the progressive crusade to create more rights without responsibilities. Downtown businesses are mobilizing against the hostile atmosphere created by the vagrants inhabiting the misnamed “Philosophers’ Corner” at the intersection of State and Mifflin streets on the Capitol Square.

Mayor Paul Soglin is pushing back against his city’s role as a human refuse bin, although he wrongly blames the Department of Corrections instead of Madison’s own liberal policies. The latest outrage: The armed robbery and shooting last week that momentarily cleared out the downtown campus of Madison College.

Let’s say it again: Madison cannot address its number one quality-of-life issue (the safety and peace of mind of its law-abiding citizens) without addressing the underlying problem (the rights-intoxicated progressive mindset).

To the rescue comes an unlikely ally: that Great Satan, the Republican state Legislature. It proposes strong medicine: a thorough revamp of laws governing the landlord/tenant relationship. The rewrite will strengthen the hands of landlords, much to the chagrin of progressives like Brenda Konkel, who makes her taxpayer-supported living by pillorying housing providers.

The Squire of the Stately Manor remembers the lament sounded at the many crisis neighborhood meetings here on Madison’s southwest side: Landlords must do more to screen and police their tenants. Pretty hard to do when city ordinances tilt the playing field against the property owner. It is almost more difficult to evict a gang-banging renter in Madison than to present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that would convict him in criminal court.

“We took a look at the greatest abuses and addressed them,” said Rob Kovach, a legislative staffer for Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, co-sponsor of Substitute 1 to Senate Bill 179, which would reform Wisconsin’s rental housing policies. Frank is a stalwart conservative, but his Senate co-sponsors are moderate Republicans Dale Schultz and Luther Olsen.

Holding tenants responsible

“The common theme to almost all provisions of the bill is they try to make it easier for the person who is responsible for problems or damage to be held responsible,” Kovach told me. He put it this way:

  • If someone parks illegally, the landlord should be able to tow the car.
  • If someone is found responsible for an infestation, they should pay to have it remediated.
  • If a tenant damages the property, they should fix the damage.
  • If a tenant abandons their property after they are evicted, the landlord shouldn’t be responsible for storage of the tenant’s belongings.

Substitute 1 to Senate Bill 179 would also:

  • Allow landlords to evict tenants if a crime is committed on the rental property
  • Speed up court hearings on eviction notices
  • Hold landlords harmless for references given to previous tenants (in other words, they can tell the truth)

“Our language makes it very clear that an eviction against criminals is okay, but against victims of crime is not,” Kovach told me. “We also include a new disclosure so that potential victims of domestic violence know they have protections against evictions if they call the police for help.”

Furthermore, the legislation states: “No city, village, town, or county may enact an ordinance that requires a landlord to communicate to tenants any information that is not required to be communicated to tenants under federal or state law.”

(Continued)

Old to new | New to old
Sep 25, 2013 09:03 am
 Posted by  uwbiz96

As both a landlord (I've owned two two-flats near campus for 15 years) and a tenant (I rent a townhouse on the west side), I am both encouraged and discouraged by this legislation. There are plenty of landlords who are irresponsible business people and end up victimizing their tenants AND their fellow landlords, particularly those who own adjacent properties. Not all are prudent. In this town, too many are not.

It would be nice if a business publication like IB explored these issues with a mind toward education and information, as opposed to the standard issue political sniping found above.

Sep 25, 2013 09:30 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

You know what else would be nice, Biz m'man? A specific or two instead of the usual sniping. To what do you object in particular? How would you fix it?

Sep 26, 2013 02:34 pm
 Posted by  mark

As a long-time Madison landlord (27 years), I learned pretty quickly when a resident took advantage of me. Having said that, I've never felt particularly hamstrung by the City of Madison's regulations. Although I will concur with Mr. Blaska about the regulation requiring me to distribute voting registration...that felt like a big overstep, even though I did dutifully comply.

I do take exception with this statement: "Legislation is on the books to seize troubled properties." Having shared a parking lot with a neighboring building and it's uncaring, irresponsible landlord that allowed their building to become a drive through drughouse...after 8 years of working with the police and then finally the DA, the building was finally sold to another more responsible landlord. The process was painful, long and, even after invigorating the City and Police with a publicity stunt...still took 3 years to force the sale. And who suffered the most during this time: my residents! I give the Police and the DA credit, but the process of getting rid of a bad landlord is much worse than evicting a bad tenant.

Sep 26, 2013 06:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Note I post anonymously just because I can't get the log in to work properly. The rental legislation has good and bad aspects. Having lived in rural Dane for 22 years - part of our plans were to move in probably as renters when we could no longer handle the 5 acres. Not sure I would feel comfortable renting under the current legislation (and I was a landlord for a few years before moving here)- end result is we may remove our profits and skills from Wisconsin and relocate elsewhere. An interesting aspect of the current "business" driven state government is that they and the lobbyists are ignoring the markets they need to attract- the most extreme example of this is a lot of the DNR regulations/proposals related to park use which meet the needs of the born heres and locals but if ever explained in detail to the tourists will drop that market in many areas like a rock- but the rule making tends to occur with minimal input or hearings (much less market studies that any of us would do in the private sector before making a decision) This is currently a major problem with the right but can occur often with the left. End result is landlord legislation geared towards (noting Blaska's examples) high crime areas which may play really differently in areas in Madison and elsewhere in the state with potential renters/ investors (and skilled workers with resources are as much investors as the banks) in the state who are savvy and check rules before signing leases. It only takes a well thought out website to caution people on the issues to have a boomerang effect.

Sep 27, 2013 12:18 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

UWBIZ96: You condemn "standard issue political sniping" before doing exactly that. If you are "both encouraged and discouraged by this legislation" are you able to explicate as to why? I offered specifics; you have not. Time to put that UW business degree to use (if that is what your username implies). Time to Stand and Deliver!

Sep 30, 2013 10:44 am
 Posted by  mickeymost

They could find a reporter at the local middle school to write in this style. Slightly unprofessional? Yes, I hope they"re paying this guy.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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