On June 21, 2018 the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors passed a county ordinance amending Chapter 107 of the County Code of Ordinances (which deals with Fair Housing) adding “receipt of rental or housing assistance” as a protected class. The ordinance went into effect as of July 19, 2018. The Milwaukee County’s Office of Corporation Counsel shall be responsible for enforcement.
The revised ordinance defines “receipt of rental or housing assistance” as follows:
“Receipt of rental housing assistance” means the receipt of any form of financial contribution from a third party for the purposes of creating or keeping affordable housing for tenants, purchasers, or other potential housing recipients, including but not limited to, assistance provided pursuant to Title 42, United Housing Code, section 1437f (commonly known as the “Section 8” housing program), the HOME Partnership Program, the Community Development Block Grant program, or any other public rental assistance vouchers or programs. It shall not be considered unlawful discrimination in housing for a housing provider to (1) refuse to accept emergency assistance funds under s. 49.138, Wis. Stats., or (2) refuse to accept any other public rental assistance or voucher if such rental assistance or voucher does not fully reimburse the housing provider for the amount of rent due at the time a rental assistance or voucher payment is made.
What this means to landlords and property managers operating in Milwaukee County is that you can no longer advertise that you do not accept “Rent Assistance” or “Section 8” tenants. It also means that when prospective tenants call you and ask if you accept “Section 8” that you cannot say “no.”
What this does not mean however is that you are required to accept any and all tenants receiving rental or housing assistance. You can still utilize your written screening criteria and if the applicant does not meet your requirements, they can still be denied even though they receive housing assistance. But your screening criteria can no longer have the receipt of housing assistance as a basis for denial.
This also does not mean that you are now required to enter into a contract with a municipality or its agent, often referred to as a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract, if you do not agree with the terms and conditions of that contract. A landlord or property management company cannot be forced to enter into a contract that the landlord does not want to be a part of. Many landlords who are otherwise in support of this ordinance and its intent are not in favor of the terms and requirements of the HAP contract. Landlords that disagree with the terms of the HAP contract can still refuse to sign it. In my prior blog post on this issue, I list several of the issues/concerns that some have with the HAP contract.
Being part of some of the discussions with the County on the concerns with the HAP contract, I am aware that the County is aware of our concerns with the contract and its representatives have indicated that plan to look into some of these issues.
We will have to wait and see how this all plays out. I will be discussing this issue more in depth, along with many other important landord-tenant law topics, at my next Landlord Boot Camp on October 20, 2018.
You can read the ordinance here.