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Lawmakers to hear proposed changes to eviction procedures

A panel of lawmakers is scheduled to hear public testimony on a proposal to revise the state’s eviction procedures and landlord-tenant law.

The hearing before the Assembly Committee on Housing and Real Estate is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday in Room 411 South in the state Capitol.

Assembly Bill 771 would repeal certain statutes and replace them with provisions stating that landlords and sellers may not discriminate against disabled people who have trained animals that do tasks for them.

The provisions also define “emotional support animals” as animals that provide comfort or companionship for an individual but who are not trained to perform tasks for a disabled individual. The bill states that people with emotional support animals may not be discriminated against if the animal is needed because of a disability.

It also proposes a $500 penalty for people who, in order to get housing, lie about having a disability or a need for an emotional support animal. That penalty would also apply to licensed health professionals who, in order to help a patient obtain housing, make misstatements asserting that a patient has a disability or a need for an emotional support animal.

The bill would make various other changes to landlord-tenant law. It would, for instance, increase the maximum fee that landlords may charge for background checks of potential tenants who are Wisconsin residents, taking it up from $20 to $25. The bill would let out-of-state residents be charged up to $25.

AB 771 would also clarify that in cases when a landlord gives notice of terminating a lease for failure to pay rent, the term “rent” applies to any unpaid late fees.

It also calls for having certified mail be considered sufficient notice to terminate a lease when a tenant fails to pay rent or violates a term of the lease.

AB 771 would separately make various changes to the state’s procedures for eviction, including:

  • Require lawyers who help self-represented parties draft pleadings or other documents in an eviction action to list their name and State Bar number on those documents. Current law only requires that the documents state that a lawyer helped draft them.
  • Put limitations on when stays in eviction proceedings may be granted if a tenant applies for emergency assistance. The proposal would cap the length of the stay at five working days. It would also prevent judges from granting stays for applications for emergency assistance in cases in which a writ of restitution had already been issued.
  • Prevent tenants from raising a landlord’s previous waiver of violations or breaches of the rental agreement as a defense in eviction cases.
  • Clarify that a hearing before a judge could be scheduled only if one of the parties in the cases raised “valid legal grounds” for a contest. Current law allows for a contested hearing when any party “claims that a contest exists.”

The bill is opposed by several organizations, including Legal Action of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards. Others have registered in support of the bill, including the Wisconsin Housing Alliance and the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin.


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