More than a dozen tenants’ rights provisions in the city of Madison could be tossed out under a bill speeding through the Legislature.

The bill would prohibit communities from enacting laws more strict than state law when it comes to the various notifications landlords must give tenants.

Assembly Bill 183 also would make it easier for landlords to:

Evict tenants and dispose of their property.

Have vehicles towed.

Hold onto deposits.

Shield known defects from prospective tenants unless they’re documented by a building inspector.

Avoid liability if they give negative references on previous tenants.

Make a tenant responsible for eliminating an insect infestation if the landlord believes the cause is “acts or inaction of the tenant.”

The bill was introduced Tuesday and will have a hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday before the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate.

Tenants’ rights groups blasted the proposal, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, tried to downplay its effect, calling it a “continuing updating and reform of regulations” involving residential rentals.

“The bill does a number of things, all of which are to make the transactions between landlords and their tenants easier and more fair,” he said. “Nothing in this bill is all that much to get excited about.”

Ross Kinzler, executive director of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance, said the bill would “create more uniformity with landlord-tenant laws across the state.”

Kinzler cited the case of one landlord who owns seven properties in and around Madison who has seven different lease forms and follows seven sets of rules for dealing with tenants.

“That’s kind of crazy,” Kinzler said.

The bill also would make it faster and easier for landlords to get rid of property — ranging from clothes to aging mobile homes — that tenants leave behind when they’re evicted.

“Why should the landlord bear the expense of storing a person’s property for 30 days while they (tenants) decide whether to take it with them?” he said.

“We’re saying ... ‘You better not leave it behind.’ ”

But Brenda Konkel, executive director of the Tenant Resource Center in Madison, said the bill is a mish-mash that attempts to fix a hastily-passed law last session, and it also has new curbs on the rights of tenants.

A bill passed in 2011 that made changes in landlord-tenant law has been fraught with confusion, Konkel said.

“I am extremely, extremely concerned,” said Konkel, a former Madison City Council member. “There is so much confusion about what happened in the last bill, and this layers another level of confusion over that.”

She added, “It’s such a broad set of changes with no notice and no education. I don’t know who they’re getting input from, but they had a lot of unintended consequences last time, and I fear we’re headed the same direction again.”

Said Colin Gillis, an organizer for the Wisconsin Alliance for Tenants’ Rights: “The bill’s sponsors are fast-tracking this legislation because they don’t want it subjected to public scrutiny.”

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(27) comments


This better get passed. It makes perfect sense to have one set of laws for the state. Madison is once again way out in left field when it comes to a realistic approach. Evicting a tenant is nearly impossible and costs thousands of dollars. Meanwhile the dirtbag gets rent free living!


Nobody called the poor scum. The problem is the scum that is poor. I can tell you have never been a landlord to a dirtbag. You would have a whole different attitude. Being poor is no excuse for living in conditions that merit eviction. No landlord wants to get rid of a good tenant that may have trouble getting the rent in on time. Most are willing to work with a cooperative person. When the police are making one of their daily visits and the music goes on all night it drives out the decent renters.


Kriley, I was responding to your comment below:
"Landlords can make money with good tenants but can be exposed to bankruptcy when scum drives away descent people."... "You quickly loose your sympathy for the poor."

So when you say "nobody called the poor scum" you are proved wrong by your own comments...and you credibility is seriously undermined by your illiteracy.


Heh. I knew this article would bring out the Teabirchers in force.


Also signing a lease gives tenants more rights than many people here seem to understand. What makes people so regressive? Do we really yearn for the good old days of tenement housing where landlords could pack people into rodent infested shacks without utilities and tenants had to suck it up in fear of being evicted? Show a little historical perspective people.


powmda- I only hope you are trolling, it's hard to tell on the internet. Do you consider yourself a good Christian or do you just pray at the altar of Ayn Rand? (not religious myself, but I know a lot of people claim to be as they concurrently condemn the poor...hypocrisy at large)


powmda- I only hope you are trolling, it's hard to tell on the internet. Do you consider yourself a good Christian or do you just pray at the altar of Ayn Rand? (not religious myself, but I know a lot of people claim to be as they concurrently condemn the poor...hypocrisy at large)


It's about time! These trash have had way too much of a free ride in this state. The property belongs to the landlord, not the tenant. The tenant is allowed to use the property, only so long as he ponies up the geetus once a month, in full and on time! If he is not willing to comply with the landlord's terms, let him be cast out in the cold! Trash! All they do is wreck otherwise-good property!!


Wow there is a lot of hate on this article right now. Calling the poor scum? This is kind of scary and you should be ashamed of writing this way.
Property rights are obviously important and if Madison values protecting it's citizens from certain abusive landlord tactics more than Waukesha, it certainly seems like Madison's right. Our democratic process shouldn't be subverted because people from other cities want to punish ?those animal" poor.


Let's also change the rule that the security deposit can't be more than one month's rent. Tenant damage can easily exceed that amount. Landlords should be able to ask whatever amount they see fit and if the prospective tenant thinks it's too steep he can rent somewhere else.


Long overdue. Madison is kooky left when it comes to private property rights.


How bout the landlords auction off property like in storage wars?


Chairman Mao executed a million landlords. Apparently the lefty dirt bags in Madison want to emulate him in 2013. What's wrong with uniform landlord tenant legislation! Landlords are not the enemy. They pay property taxes and keep the character of the city intact. Besides stereotyping landlords sounds like an hate crime.


Now stop it - there is no room for common sense here. Landlords are not people are they?
Oh yea... not the right kind of people ... I forgot for a second.


Landlords in pre-revolutionary China were not guys renting a an apartment. They were feudal property owners who were instrumental in maintaining a centuries old regime.


For every slumlord there are hundred dirtbags that that destroy property. There are many low income tenants that take care of their apartments but they seem to be vastly outnumbered by animals that have no respect for property. Just because you are poor doesn't mean you can't sweep or scrub the floor once in a while. If low income renters with subsidized housing took a little care there would be an abundance of places to live. Landlords can make money with good tenants but can be exposed to bankruptcy when scum drives away descent people. Having worked in low income housing all over the city for various landlords really opened my eyes. Many places are so filthy that I'm amazed that we aren't in the midst of a Hantavirus or plague outbreak. I've worked in many apartments that were so thoroughly destroyed by the time the eviction process was completed, they had to be stripped to the studwalls, windows replaced and floors refinished and sealed with Kilz to cover the soaked in pet droppings and urine. You quickly loose your sympathy for the poor.


And have you noticed the people at the Tenant resource Center and the affordable housing blabber mouths NEVER show up to help clean those places up?
Nope - they just peek their head in the front door a little and conclude the landlord is horrible.


How many slumlords will this benefit? All of them?

Billie many slumlords are there in Madison? How many combined units do they own? Until you know the answers to these questions, you are showing off your ignorance.
But Hey, nice try!


The bill does nothing to make it any easier to evict tenants. The reporter is misinformed. Nothing new if you talks to Ms. Konkel.

This bill seeks to hold those people who drive up the cost of housing for everyone accountable for the damage that they cause. 2 of those costs, are removal and storage of property for those that have been legally evicted and the cost of a tenent bringing in bedbugs and infesting a building. Currently, you pay for these costs as part of your rent. Cockroaches were never the issue. Its somewhere betwen 5-8% of your monthly rent.

This bill does nothing to change the owners responsability to treat the infestation. It only allows the owner to charge the tenant that causes the infestation by their actions; like, bringing in infected furniture or inaction; like, not reporting the problem. Owners of multi unit buildings have to use licensed professionals to treat infestations. Professional exterminators can tell where the infestation comes from by examining the pattern of how it spreads. They are smart enough to figure out who caused the infestation.

In many parts of Madison, cars are routinely abandoned when people leave. Most are Junk. All do not run, or the tenent would have moved it off of the property. All of them are taking up your parking spots. Some South side complexes have 20-30 abandoned cars a year. Yes, the good tenants pay for those too.

But The Tenant Resource Center wants you to pay those costs for irresponsbile tenants. They like to blame the owners of the property. Thats how the get funded.

The law currently says an owner is responsible for the consiquences of a defect if they "should have known" that it exisited. Like what??? Look into a crystal ball? The tenant has a responsibility to notify the owner of a defect, or call the building inspector if the owner doesn't correct it. Nothing in this bill changes that.


Well put Billy
The problem with your post is that you assume the folks that work at 1202 Willy st (and who get a bunch of money from the city every year ) are able to understand such extremely complicated cause/effect dynamics you proffered in your post.
The Willy St. Minions think the tighter you tie the landlords hands the better but are oblivious to the effects on the decent, responsible renters.
They also hurt the decent but lower income renters in a HUGE way. By making the eviction process such a costly pain in the butt landlords are forced to screen out decent people because if you don't have a policy and use a little common sense - the landlord is CERTAINLY discriminating in some way or another...


While not perfect - it is a step closer to common sense. The idea that a landlord be responsible to hire bonded mover, pay for bonded storage for 30 days because someone who already owes them money left their crap behind.... How did that ever get to be ordinance in the City of Madison?
Because complete morons can get elected very easily here.

Joe S

We have had bed bug problems reported 8 months into a year lease and in Madison it's the landlords problem. Of course we throw them in the apartments so we can pay over $1000 to get rid of. Think about it.


Well, Joe, according to this new law, you can shift that burden to the tenant, whether the tenant is responsible or not.


So much for small government.


The new provision that tenants can be held responsible for insect infestation seems particularly open to abuse. If a tenant moves into an apartment with cockroaches or bedbugs, how does s/he prove that the cockroaches were there first?

By the time you'd find out, your own stuff would already be infested. An unscrupulous landlord could force tenants to pay for his/her own maintenance work, more likely in old apartments that are the ones that the poorest tenants would live in.

What is the logic behind this bill?



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