Bill could cause housing problems

Story by Haley Zblewski, Chief Copy Editor

A proposed state bill could change the relationship between Wisconsin landlords and the tenants who rent from them. The UW-Eau Claire Student Senate said the bill could be harmful to student renters.

At their May 6 meeting, the Student Senate passed a resolution in opposition of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 183 by voice vote.

On-campus Senator Jake Wrasse, who introduced the resolution, said the assembly bill doesn’t take student renters into account.

“This is not condemning the State Assembly for what they’re trying to do,” he said. “I think one of the strengths of this resolution is it says, ‘hey, here’s what this is going to do to students. And while you may have been thinking about Milwaukee or Madison, perhaps, as you wrote this … this is going to have an effect on everyone in the state.’”

The problems Student Senate has with the assembly bill are:

The bill would exempt landlords from civil liability if they provide a reference for students that includes false information.

Landlords would no longer be responsible of reporting known code violations if there hasn’t been written notice of the violation.

The bill would eliminate protections given to renters by municipalities, and decreases the number of unfair practices the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection can protect renters from.

The bill would hold tenants responsible for any crime committed on the premises, regardless of whether or not they could have prevented it.

The bill would no longer hold landlords responsible to thoroughly report the condition of their property to tenants upon occupancy.

The responsibility of reporting the condition of property would then be on tenants.

The resolution states Student Senate is committed to preserving and protecting the rights of student renters.

Off-campus Senator Libby Richter said the assembly bill puts the rights and safety of student renters at risk.

“I am extremely worried about something like this being passed because of the safety of the students,” she said. “If something was wrong electrically with the house, and the renter was not informed of it and the place burned down, we could lose students that way.”

Andrew Schultz, a senior biology major, said he also is opposed to the bill.

“I already feel like a lot of the landlords don’t take much care of the student housing in the first place,” he said. “So when you get to a house that’s already not in the greatest shape and then we’re already liable for all of that, how are we supposed to be able to pay for that?”

Landlords are supposed to be responsible for their houses in the first place, Schultz said.

“It’s kind of in the definition of the word ‘landlord, he said.’”

On-campus Senator Mathew Riedel said he agreed with the resolution, but believed the Student Senate could take an even stronger stand against the bill. He encouraged Student Senators to contact their representatives and let them know they dislike the bill.

“A resolution in their mailbox or email, they might look at it for a minute or two,” he said. “But if they have a student who contacts them over the phone or in their office, it’s going to be a lot more memorable.”