Walker Signs Landlord-Backed Bill Easing Rental Inspections

April 17, 2018

Trashy house interior

A bill backed by landlords that imposes restrictions on rental inspections conducted by local governments was signed into law on Monday by GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

The measure, Assembly Bill 771:

Prohibits local governments from re-inspecting rental property for at least five years if an inspection finds no serious violations, such as electrical, plumbing, rodent, or mold problems, or if any serious violations that are found are corrected in a time period determined by the local government;

Limits the violations landlords can be cited for to health and safety items, rather than aesthetics;

Limits the amount of time to 10 days that courts can prevent tenants, such as domestic violence victims, from being evicted. Current law allows judges to delay evictions while a tenant is waiting for emergency assistance;

Prohibits local governments from inspecting rental property that is less than eight years old;

Prohibits local governments from imposing building and property maintenance fees without first notifying the owner;

Requires renters with disabilities to have medical documentation in order to have a task- or emotional-support animal;

Makes renter eviction records available to the public for at least 10 years;

Loosens state renovation standards for landlords with historic buildings;

Raises the maximum amount a landlord can charge a prospective tenant for a consumer credit report from $20 to $25.

The new law was backed by the Wisconsin Realtors Association and groups representing landlords and apartment building owners, which are generous campaign contributors to Republican candidates. The GOP-controlled legislature approved the bill on near party-line voted of 18-14 in the Senate and 58-34 in the Assembly.

The real estate industry contributed nearly $3 million to Walker and another $1.3 million to current Republican lawmakers between January 2011 and December 2017.

The real estate industry’s top contributors to Walker during this time were:

Wisconsin Realtors Association political action committee, $101,150

John and Kathryn Burke, of Milwaukee, owners of Burke Properties, $82,750

Marcus Hiles, of Grand Prairie, Tex., chief executive officer of WRPS LP, and his wife, Nancy, $71,000.

In addition to direct contributions, the Realtors Association and its affiliate, the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance, has spent an estimated $690,000 on outside electioneering activities since January 2012, including an estimated $490,000 to support Republican legislative candidates and an estimated $200,000 to support Walker.