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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
New proposed ordinance would hold landlords more accountable


New proposed ordinance would hold landlords more accountable

A downtown alder recently proposed a new city ordinance calling for landlords to maintain photographic evidence of damages deducted from tenant's security deposits. 


Ald. Eli Judge, District 8, presented the ordinance in hopes of expanding tenant rights through more rigorous documentation of damages by landlords. 


Right now there are very few checks with regards to making sure that damages that have taken place in a unit actually exist,"" Judge said. ""What this does is it puts a burden of proof on landlords."" 


Under the proposed ordinance, landlords would be required to, upon request, provide the tenant with photographic evidence of damages of the premises before deducting charges from the security deposit. 


""If you're going to take somebody's money without any evidence that you are entitled to it, I don't think it's too much to ask that you document it,"" said Madison attorney David Sparer, who specializes in landlord and tenant law. 


Failing to provide photographs to tenants would result in the landlord's forfeiture of rights to any portion of the security deposit.  


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According to Michael Greiber, corporate counsel for Madison Property Management, an ordinance requiring photographic evidence would ""make it more difficult to do deductions."" 


Currently, the common system of documenting damages in a unit is through written inspections conducted at the beginning and end of a tenant's lease. 


""Usually a check-in [and] check-out form details any problems with the apartment, so that's what deductions are based off of,"" Greiber said.  


Judge pointed out that tenants would not be the only ones to profit from the ordinance. 


""There's also a benefit to landlords in this,"" Judge said, adding that if a tenant denies any wrongdoing or challenges damage claims made, landlords are would be protected because they are going to have proof, as well. 


According to Greiber, landlords typically only take pictures of damages when there is a legal dispute over claims. Pictures of serious damages are always taken, but minimal damages, usually under $40 or $50, do not call for photo documentation, he said. 


When disagreements over security deposit charges do arise, the situation can become very difficult, according to Sparer.  


""It's one person's word versus another's and it's really hard to tell what the real conditions were,"" Sparer said. 


""Photographs would do an excellent job of showing whether something was really damaged or not.

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