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Bills take aim at problem landlords

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (AP) — Two proposed bills in Wisconsin would change how sheriff’s sales of foreclosed properties are conducted.

One bill would ban from the auctions landlords who have unpaid taxes and building-code fines, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Firms that are owned or linked to those owing back taxes or fines would also be banned.

“The goal is to try to not have people purchase property at foreclosure when they already owe the cities and counties delinquent real estate taxes,” said Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg. “These players should not be acquiring more property when they’re unable to financially handle existing properties.”

Bidders would be required to file a sworn statement to show that they don’t owe delinquent property taxes or court-ordered fines for building-code violations.

The proposed bill would allow a judge to reject the affidavit if it’s believed to be false. The bidder would lose their deposit and could be fined up to $1,000. The bidder could then be banned from sheriff’s sales for up to a year.

“We’re not going to enable people to use and abuse the laws for their personal gain,” said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon.

The second bill would allow the sales to be conducted online instead of in courthouses or other government buildings.

First-time purchasers may be intimated by the in-person auction, said Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee.

More competition could increase the price paid for properties, Katsma said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he believes the bills will lead to an improvement in the quality of the people who are purchasing property.

Ald. Terry Witkowski has also sponsored a measure that takes aim at problem landlords. The proposal would require the city attorney’s office to annually compile a list of property owners who are delinquent on property taxes or are facing code violations.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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