A bill that gives landlords more leverage in tenant agreements by altering 25-year-old housing ordinances passed the Assembly last night.
The landlord bill was introduced by Senators Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, Pam Galloway, R-Wausau and Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and affects several Madison housing ordinances that involve security deposits, apartment showings and renter’s protections.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the bill would have a significant impact on the working relationship between landlords and tenants.
“All the rights evolved in Madison in the last 25 years will go away,” Resnick said.
According to the bill, security deposits will no longer be limited to one month’s rent, check-in and check-out forms will not be required and landlords will not be obligated to include photos or an itemized list for any deductions from a security deposit because of damages.
Landlords will also not be required to give 24 hours notice to tenants in order to show an apartment – it will now be reduced to 12 hours notice, and there will be no restrictions on entry to show the apartment. In the past, landlords were limited to three hour increments, three days a week to show apartments, according to the bill.
Owners can also now require Social Security numbers and deny renters on the basis of income, according to the bill.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he believes the legislation will have a detrimental effect on all renters, but students will be especially affected.
“A lot of students don’t have much negotiating powers because there are not a lot of vacancies,” Verveer said. “They won’t think twice about the money in the deposits.”
Verveer emphasized that the thousands of students who live off campus are subject to the most adverse effects from poor handling on the landlords’ part.
Executive Director of the Madison Tenant Resource Center Brenda Konkel, which helps students avoid mistreatment from landlords, said she has many concerns about the bill. She expressed concern for the international students who do not have Social Security numbers as well as for students whose parents do not pay their security deposits.
Still, those in favor of the bill said it provides landlords with necessary protection.
Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said the bill seems like “common sense.”
“Why would we want to discourage people from making money by renting”? he said during debate on the Assembly floor. “Renting to good people and knowing they’ll take care of your property is important. Why wouldn’t you think we should be able to ask people how much they make and whether they’ve committed a crime”?
Madison Chief of Police Scott Gregory also stressed the importance of knowing a potential tenant’s legal background in a letter which Vos read at the session.
In a letter to Vos, Gregory expressed his support for the bill and said it would have a positive impact on the Madison community, Vos said.
“A criminal record is just as important as credit information,” Gregory said in the letter. “A drug conviction, for example, can wreak havoc on a neighborhood and decrease quality of life.”
Associated Students of Madison Legislative Chair Hannah Somers voiced concern for student welfare in the bill’s aftermath.
ASM has adamantly worked to oppose the bill and sponsored a student call-in to their representatives last week.
“It is definitely going to negatively impact renters, especially student renters,” she said. “It makes it all the more important for students to know what their rights are.”
In the original article, it incorrectly attributed the letter Rep. Robin Vos read at the Assembly to Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray, when the letter was actually written by Chief Scott Gregory. The article has been edited to reflect these changes. We regret the error.