GOP Bill a Favor to Real Estate Industry

January 4, 2018

Landlord and For Rent Sign

The real estate industry is supporting a GOP legislative proposal that makes sweeping changes to landlord-tenant laws and restricts local governments from enacting ordinances or charging fees to inspect rental properties.

The measure, Senate Bill 639, which is authored by Sens. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and David Craig, of Big Bend, drew support from the Wisconsin Realtors Association and groups representing landlords and apartment building owners. It was opposed by local governments and aging, health, and domestic violence groups.

The bill would:

  • Loosen historic preservation requirements by allowing people who own buildings that are designated as historic landmarks to make changes or repairs with materials that are similar, but not identical to those used when the structure was built;
  • Make renter eviction records available to the public for at least 10 years;
  • Limit the amount of time courts can prevent tenants, such as domestic violence victims, from being evicted. Under current law, courts can delay evictions while a person is waiting for emergency assistance, but the bill would limit court-ordered delays to five days;
  • Require local governments to detail the cost of inspection fees, which may only cover the actual and direct cost of the inspection;
  • Raise the maximum amount a landlord can charge a prospective tenant for a consumer credit report from $20 to $25;
  • Prohibit local governments from imposing building and property maintenance fees without first notifying the owner, and from enacting or enforcing ordinances with aesthetic requirements;
  • Allow utilities to provide landlords with information about past bill non-payments by tenants;
  • Require people with disabilities who have task- or emotional-support animals to provide more information to landlords about the need for the animal.

The real estate industry contributed $1.4 million between January 2011 and June 2017 to current legislators, including nearly $1.2 million to Republican lawmakers. The top recipients of the industry’s contributions were the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $139,500; the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, about $131,200; and Republican Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, about $108,800.

Lasee, who is a former real estate broker, received about $40,000 in campaign contributions from the real estate industry, and Craig, a real estate agent, received $4,100 in contributions from real estate interests between January 2011 and June 2017.

In addition to direct contributions, the Realtors Association and its affiliate, the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance, has spent an estimated $835,000 on outside electioneering activities since January 2012 to support Republican legislative and statewide candidates.

Top real estate industry contributors to current legislators and legislative fundraising committees between January 2011 and June 2017 were:

Wisconsin Realtors Association Political Action Committee (PAC), $283,550

Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance Corporation, $52,000

Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors PAC, $46,000

Madison developer Joseph Alexander, $44,400

Middleton developer Terrence Wall, $29,900