Landlord-tenant relations could be headed for big changes in Wisconsin, under a bill approved Tuesday by the state Senate. The bill, which passed on an 18-15 partisan vote, would provide more leverage to landlords. Democrats charge that it would put tenants at a disadvantage. “We are rolling back tenants rights. We’re making the path easier for landlords,” said Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), who’s a landlord herself.

The bill would allow landlords to dispose of evicted tenants belongings, rather than store them. Senator Frank Lasee (R-DePere) is an author. “Landlords don’t want this property. They just want to move on with their lives,” he said, adding that the cost of storing the property of evicted tenants gets passed on to other tenants.

The measure would also allow for evictions if a crime is committed on rental property, even if tenants had no ability to prevent that. Protections for victims of domestic violence were retained.

Landlords would also be able to have cars towed off of their property without a ticket being issued, and rentals would be immediately returned to landlords after courts rule for them in evictions.

While proponents argue the bill levels the playing field between tenants and landlords, opponents say it gives landlords the upper hand. “There were over 28,000 evictions in the state of Wisconsin last year,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). “This bill in all likelihood will increase that number, because it makes it substantially easier to evict someone.”

In other action Tuesday, the Senate approved a measure to allow municipalities to pursue marijuana charges that are dropped by prosecutors.

Senators also acted on a bill to revise the state’s existing “lemon law,” eliminating double damages when companies fail to meet a 30 day deadline for providing replacements or refunds, among other provisions.

And the Senate approved a bill allowing the use of crossbows during the bow hunting season. A separate bill restricts, with limited exceptions, the ability of local governments to limit where bow hunting can take place.


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