We are grateful to Governor Walker’s administration and each of the 132 state legislators that helped us pass 48 of our legislative priorities for the 2015-16 legislative session. CARW members benefit from the strong relationship our organization has with WRA and its positive and strategic approach to achieving legislative success.
In January of 2015, the board of directors for the various coalition member approved a comprehensive and ambitious list of legislative priorities for the 2015-16 legislative session. The list consisted of numerous legislative priorities designed to improve all sectors of Wisconsin’s real estate industry — commercial, industrial and residential – and achieve a number of goals such as: (1) removing hurdles to successful real estate transactions; (2) making home and property ownership more affordable; (3) keeping REALTORS® at the center of the real estate transaction; (4) revitalizing our downtowns; (5) making ownership of rental property less onerous; (6) protecting private property rights; and (7) removing regulatory barriers to residential and commercial development.
Throughout the legislative session, the Coalition has worked closely with Governor Walker’s administration and legislators on both sides of the aisle to pass our legislative priorities. From reducing property taxes to protecting property rights to modernizing the regulations affecting real estate brokers and salespeople, state lawmakers have shown tremendous support for the Coalition and the issues that are important to the real estate industry.
Removing Hurdles To Successful Real Estate Transactions
- Time of sale requirements — Prohibits local time of sale requirements that would limit or impede a property owner’s right to transfer property.
- Time of sale loophole – Closes a loophole in the time of sale law by expanding the time of sale restrictions to buyers and the time of occupancy.
- Right to alienate any interest in property — Prohibits local governments from prohibiting or unreasonably restricting the sale or transfer of title to any interest in property.
Making Commercial Property Ownership More Affordable
- Property tax reduction — Further reduces property tax bills by (a) continuing to allocate approx. $200M/year in state general purpose revenues to help fund technical colleges thereby reducing property taxes by the same amount (a $131 reduction for the avg. homeowner over the biennium), and (b) modifying the school levy tax credit, resulting in an additional property tax reduction over the biennium (a $3 reduction for the avg. homeowner over the biennium).
- Property tax freeze/levy limits — Renews the cap placed on local levies for the next two years, but allows increases under limited circumstances.
Keeping REALTORS® At The Center Of The Real Estate Transaction
- Broker liability protection — Provides liability protection for real estate brokers by creating a 2-year statute of limitations from closing.
- Independent contractor status – Clarifies what real estate brokers must do to classify real estate agents as independent contractors, as opposed to employees.
- Worker’s compensation – Eliminates the requirement for brokers to pay worker’s compensation insurance for agents, but provides firms with the ability to offer worker’s compensation insurance if they wish without forfeiting the independent contractor relationship.
- Unauthorized practice of law — Codifies the dinger case and Wisconsin Supreme Court rules which authorize real estate licensees to complete state-approved forms.
- Dual agency law clarification – Clarifies Wisconsin law to state that when two agents for the same brokerage firm are representing different parties in a transaction (one representing the seller, and one representing the buyer), each agent owes certain duties (loyalty, negotiation, information, and advice) to their own client, not both parties (e.g., California case).
- Business entities – Clarifies brokerage practice under and as a licensed business entity.
- Out of state licensees — Makes a technical change to the statutes to allow the WB cooperative form to be created without going through administrative rule changes.
- Real estate/appraiser license renewal and CE requirements –Maintains the consistency between the 2-year licensing and CE requirements for real estate brokers and appraisers.
Revitalizing Our Downtowns
- Milwaukee Bucks stadium funding (2015 Wis. Act 60) — Provides partial state funding for new Milwaukee Bucks arena, which will generate positive tax revenues for the state and serve as a catalyst for economic development in Milwaukee.
- Historic rehabilitation tax credit (2015 Wis. Act 55) — Maintains the 20% state tax credit with no overall caps or per project caps for historic rehabilitation projects which have generated approximately 2,800 jobs and $353 million in economic development activity since the tax credit was increased from 5% to 20% in 2013.
Making Ownership of Rental Property Less Onerous
- One-strike evictions – Allows landlords to terminate a tenancy for criminal or drug-related activity for “market rate” rental housing (similar to Section 8 housing).
- Right to cure – Allows landlords to opt for a 5-day right to cure instead of just 14-day eviction or nothing on month-to-month leases.
- Squatters – Builds a framework for quick evictions/and disposal of personal property left behind.
- Technical fixes for new towing rules – Modifies rules as they relate to stolen vehicles and towing fee schedule to apply only when there is no ticket issued.
- Municipal utilities – Clarifies that municipal utilities have unilateral authority (authorization from PSC is not required) to not offer deferred payment agreements.
- Landlord registration/fees – Authorizes municipalities to inspect properties based only on a complaint from a tenant or member of the public, an inspection based on an exterior inspection by a building inspector, or an inspection required by state or federal law and charge a uniform fee.
Protecting Private Property Rights
- Ambiguities in local ordinances – Requires courts to interpret any ambiguities in local ordinances in favor of the free use of property.
- Standard of review – Requires courts to give no deference to state agency decisions of law that restrict a property owner’s free use of property.
- Supermajority vote to downzone property – Requires a supermajority vote by local units of government to downzone a property.
- OHWM determinations – Allows property owners to rely on surveys and plats to determine OHWM for purposes of measuring building setbacks.
- Conditional use permits – Clarifies that a conditional use permit is not required to be consistent with a local comprehensive plan.
- Nonconforming structures – Allows property owners to repair, maintain, improve and reconstruct nonconforming principal and accessory structures in shoreland areas.
- Substandard shoreland lots – Protects the ability of property owners to use and develop nonconforming lots in shoreland areas.
- Changes to lake water levels — Requires DNR to consider impact on businesses and property values prior to adjusting lake water levels controlled by a dam.
- Property rights impact statement – Requires administrative rules to provide an analysis of the ways and the extent to which the proposed rule would place any limitations on the free use of property, including the alternatives to the proposed rule that would minimize any such limitations.
- Adverse possession limitations – Allows property owners to prevent others from acquiring title to their property through adverse possession by establishing a new procedure whereby a property owner may interrupt and restart the clock on an adverse possession claim by filing an affidavit of interruption with the register of deeds and notifying potential adverse possessors.
- Adverse possession by government — Clarifies that legal title to government-owned property cannot be acquired by private citizens through adverse possession, and that legal title to private property cannot be acquired by government through adverse possession.
- ASNRI waters – Provides greater certainty for property owners regarding Ch. 30 regulations (activities in/near navigable waterways), by limiting the scope of waters designated as “Areas of Special Natural Resource Interest” to include only specific portions of waters that contain critical habitat for endangered or threatened species.
- Direct notice for zoning changes – Requires local governments to provide annual notice informing property owners how to receive direct notice to property owners of any proposed change to zoning regulations that would change the allowable use or density of a property.
- Landmark ordinance/historic designation — Allows property owners to appeal historic landmark designations to local elected governing bodies.
- Substitution of ALJs – Allows a property owner to request one substitution of an administrative law judge overseeing a contested case hearing involving a contract, permit, or other approval issued or denied by the DNR or DATCP.
Removing Regulatory Barriers to Residential and Commercial Development
- Wetlands – Makes wetland mitigation more viable by limiting the practicable alternatives analysis to alternatives that exist onsite for smaller projects and for wetland disturbances up to 2 acres.
- Development moratoria for counties – Prohibits counties from enacting development moratoria.
- Municipal liquor licenses — Modifies the quotas on Class B liquor licenses by creating an exception for large economic development districts ($20M increase in property tax base) and allowing for regional sharing of licenses with neighboring communities (w/in 2 miles).
- Nonpoint water pollution – Allows stormwater management ponds to be placed in waterways to achieve performance standards for nonpoint water pollution. Also, requires the DNR to give credit for any pollutant reduction achieved by the placement of such ponds.
- Stormwater discharges into wetlands — Allows for stormwater discharges that are the result of maintenance of a roadside ditch or storm water detention basis into a wetland without a permit.
- TIF technical changes — Makes a number of technical changes to Wisconsin’s tax increment financing (TIF) law including specifying that the requirement to maintain industrial zoning applies only to Industrial tax increment districts (TIDs), and not to mixed-use TIDs, and excluding the value of any TID increments from the levy limits upon closure of a TID.
- Joint review boards – Makes a JRB a permanent standing committee as long as the TID is in existence, and requires municipalities to file more detailed performance reports with JRB and DOR.
- Change in TID cash flows – If legislation or administrative action changes TID cash flow, municipalities are allowed to amend a TID’s boundaries at any time, request redetermination of a TID’s base value, or request an extension of a TID’s life.
- Vacant land test — Eliminates the 25% vacant land test, which prohibits inclusion of an area of vacant land comprising more than 25% of the total area of the TID land in a blight or rehab district.
- Artificial waterbodies – Exempts from Ch. 30 regulations artificial water bodies that are not hydrologically connected to a natural navigable waterway. Also, allows dredging without a permit in artificial water bodies that do not connect to a navigable waterway.
- Private septic systems – Maintains DSPS regulatory authority over private on-site wastewater treatment systems, rather than transferring such authority to the DNR.
- Authority of towns to regulate in shoreland areas — Clarifies that towns may have general zoning authority within shoreland areas if the county does not have general zoning authority.