Drastic Changes Coming to Landlord-Tenant Law
A Candlewood sign, advertising a house for lease on 4th Ave. Photo by Emily Hoffman.

Drastic Changes Coming to Landlord-Tenant Law

The State Senate has recently approved assembly bill 183, which makes numerous changes to both the landlord-tenant law and the eviction actions available to landlords.

The bill is not law yet, but Governor Walker is expected to make it so when it comes across his desk in the near future.

Student Legal Services lawyer Jan Roberts talked about how these changes could affect students.

“Put it like this,” Roberts said. “I’ve been working in landlord-tenant law for over 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The biggest change in the bill is what landlords can do with an evicted tenant’s property. Under the current law, landlords must have any property left behind by tenants removed and stored in a safe location.

The new bill, however allows landlords to dispose of any property left behind, except prescription drugs, in any way they see fit. This could include selling, keeping or throwing property away.

“This is my main problem with t​he bill,” Roberts said. “If the property is valuable the landlord can just keep it.”

The bill also expedites the process of eviction by 10 days by cutting down the time it takes for the eviction action to make it through the court system.

Additionally, tenants can be evicted for having committed a crime on the rented property if such a provision is in the lease, even if it was found that the tenant could not reasonably have prevented the crime from happening.

The bill also makes several changes to the law that are not related to eviction, but are still important for anyone who plans on renting in Wisconsin to know.

One is that if a property becomes infested with pests and needs to be decontaminated the landlord can either have the tenant do it and pay for it, or the landlord take care of the problem and then bill the tenant afterward.

“In order for the tenant to be billed, the infestation must be due to the action or inaction of the tenant,” Roberts said. “It’s a complicated issue, and I can’t say for certain whether atenant will have to pay, but I can tell you that judges aren’t going to be happy about enforcing it.”

Another change the bill would make is the way security deposits are returned to tenants. Currently, a landlord has 21 days after the tenant is evicted or has informed the landlord that they have vacated the premises to return a security deposit. The bill would change this and allow landlords to keep security deposits until the lease is up or renewed.

“So if a tenant is evicted months before theirlease is up, the landlord can hold onto the security deposit for all that time, or until he re-rents the property,” Roberts said. “It can be a huge strain on people without a lot of money saved up.”

When asked what students could do to avoid suffering from these changes, Roberts was firm in her answer.

“Students need to read the lease, they need to take these things seriously,” Roberts said. “It’s a huge financial commitment, and if you aren’t on top of things it can really ruin your credit score.”

Students can arrange to meet with Jan Roberts to discuss any legal questions or issues through Student Legal Services, which can be accessed on myPoint.


Nathaniel Dalton

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