January 2015 Note

New Notice Requirements Imposed by Act 274 for Residential Rental Properties
By Attorney Lawrie Kobz
This legal memo was written by and is reprinted with permission of Boardman Clark Attorney Lawrie Kobza. Attorney Kobza assists local governments in a wide variety of matters and also serves as legal counsel and lobbyist for the Municipal Environment Group’s (MEG’s) Water Division, a coalition of Wisconsin municipalities that lobby on water supply legislation and regulation.
Wisconsin Act 274 changed the requirements applicable to billing some rental properties. In order to retain the right to place delinquent utility bills incurred at some residential rental properties on the property tax roll at the end of the year, a municipal utility must give additional notices to landlords throughout the year. The new notice requirement is explained below.
New Requirement for 14-Day Notice to Landlord Starts January 1, 2015
Beginning January 1, 2015, a municipal utility must give a landlord covered by Act 274 notice of a residential tenant’s past-due utility charges within 14 days after the charges become past due.
If a utility does not provide a covered landlord with the 14-day notice, a utility loses the right to place the tenant’s delinquent utility bills on the landlord’s property tax roll at the end of the year.
  •     For utilities that bill monthly and require bills to be paid in 20 days, providing the landlord with a duplicate copy of the next month’s bill (with the past due amount listed on the bill as “past due”) would typically satisfy the 14 day requirement. You should confirm, however, that monthly bills are sent out less than 34 days apart
  •     For utilities that bill quarterly, an additional notice to the landlord would be required to comply with the 14-day notice requirement. The notice could be a copy of the bill with the words “past due” stamped on it.
Some utilities have indicated that their standard practice is to provide a landlord with a copy of all their tenants’ utility bills, regardless of whether amounts are past due or not. If this is your standard practice, and you bill monthly, landlords will automatically be getting notice of a delinquency within 14 days.
If your utility does not bill monthly, or if it does not send landlords copies of all tenant utility bills, your utility will need to develop a method to ensure that landlords are receiving notice of a residential tenant’s past-due charges within 14 days after the charge becomes past due.
Notices may be provided to a landlord electronically if the landlord agrees to receive electronic notices
Not All Rental Property Covered by New Requirements
The 14-day requirement only applies to certain rental property. The requirement applies only if:

  •     the property is residential rental property;
  •     the rental property has separate utility meters for each individual rental unit (i.e., the rental property is a single unit property, or a multi-unit property with separate meters for each unit); and
  •     the landlord provides written notification to the municipal utility consisting of:
  1.     the property owner’s name and address,
  2.     the tenant’s name and address, if the tenant is responsible for the utility bill, and
  3.     confirmation that the property is residential rental property.
If a rental property is not individually metered, or if a landlord does not provide the required notice, a municipal utility is not required to provide a landlord with the 14-day notice. The utility would be able to place delinquent utility bills from the rental property on the landlord’s property tax rolls without complying with the new notice requirements of Act 274.
2015 Tax Roll Process Will Change; Further Guidance Will Be Provided
The tax roll process for 2015 will change as a result of Act 274. Interested groups, including MEG - Water, will be working to provide municipalities and municipal utilities with guidance on how these changes should be handled. Watch for further information in the spring of 2015.
Public Utilities 351