Being President of the AASEW and traveling around southeast Wisconsin promoting the group I am continuously asked by prospective members “Why should I join”. I admit that my first reaction is often to turn the question around and ask them why don’t they belong to the largest trade organization in their industry that has been tirelessly advocating for their rights and business. I want to ask them if they are aware that the AASEW has saved our industry millions of dollars fighting unfair laws and ordinances. We have been at the forefront of issues ranging from lead paint to outrageous property recording fees and were the only organization to litigate against the city of Milwaukee rental inspection program, spending almost 100 thousand dollars in legal and lobbying fees. However more often than not I politely list some variation of the 5 reasons below.
There is strength in numbers- Have you seen the video of the 2.3 million toothpicks against the tiger? If not take a look, it is a good analogy for our industry (Tiger Vs Toothpicks) We have over 40,000 landlords in SE Wisconsin and individually none stand a chance against the tiger (State/Local government). The Residential Inspection Program is a great example of this. I have not met one landlord who agrees with this program. Even if your units are in great shape and have no significant deferred maintenance (I have units in both of the target areas and received only minor violations) I am sure you take issue with having to pay a government employee to come into your property to look for violations. However the tiger is strong and hungry (broke) so he turns to his number one prey for sustenance, landlords. As mentioned the AASEW fought this ordinance from the start. We talked with city officials and when that failed filed a lawsuit and hired a lobbyist. Unfortunately we didn’t have the strength to resist the attack and lost. The proper approach to defeat this type of legislation is multifaceted and will require more strength and numbers on our part. First we need to support the alderman who sided with us on this law. Second we need to educate others on the economic impact landlords have in SE Wisconsin. I’m fond of saying if we were in the business of manufacturing widgets politicians would be tripping over one another to throw money and praise on us. I will ask the board of directors to authorize the funding for a comprehensive analysis and report on the economic contribution our industry makes in this region, and more importantly the pejorative impact excessive fees and punitive ordinances can have on our ability to hire employees, grow our small businesses and contribute to the financial well being of Wisconsin. Third we need to be more organized and efficient at getting out the vote. Which alderman/legislator is most unsympathetic towards our cause? How many units do we control in his/her district? How do we get the message to our customers (tenants) that this person is not acting in their best interest and mobilize them to express that dissatisfaction at the polls? We must hold the tiger accountable, and remember that he will not stop. In two years this measure will be reviewed for possible city wide expansion. I promise you friends if you think the tiger is going to limit himself to Lindsay heights and UWM you are going to be his dinner. We must organize now for this imminent expansion and stop the tiger in his tracks!
Bad Laws Travel- Many of my colleagues with property outside of the Milwaukee area do not see the value of the association as many of the most repressive ordinances and aggressive enforcement happen here. To this I frequently remind them that the residential inspection program has its roots in an ordinance passed in Minneapolis Minnesota. Our esteemed commissioner of DNS at the time admired greatly the efforts of our northern counterparts in “holding landlord’s accountable” From Milwaukee this ordinance may very well travel to Madison, Racine, Kenosha, etc. Unfortunately Milwaukee is many times the testing ground for these things and if we are not organized and in a position to stop them here, other areas will suffer. I assure you what happens in Milwaukee can impact all of South East Wisconsin
Education-We are fortunate to have the premiere landlord tenant attorney in the state of Wisconsin on our board of directors. Tristan Pettit’s reputation for vigorously defending landlords is laudable and the respect he garners from his peers and commissioners is undeniable. Tristan is a landlord and recognizes that the best way for us to protect ourselves is to educate ourselves. Every owner operator should take our Landlord Boot Camp and our management companies should send every manager to this 1 day seminar. Tristan and our board constantly evaluate our curriculum to ensure our members have access to the information that can positively impact their business and bottom line
Discounts- The AASEW is actively working on ways to leverage the power of our group purchasing power to lower our individual costs. Possibilities include a discount card we present to vendors or innovative ways to implement group buying purchases (see the idea presented by board member Tim Ballering).
Mentoring- Every successful landlord has had someone give them a guiding hand or good advice along the way. I can say without a doubt the reason my business is successful is because I was fortunate enough to have a mentor named Dennis Miskowski who taught me the fundamentals (Crown hardware, Lisbon Storm, ABC Lock etc). Having the ability to turn to this successful landlord with questions saved me a lot of wasted effort and energy. Mindful of what he has done for me I have taken an interest in others and will not hesitate to field questions from young landlords who are full of energy and very naïve about the nature of this business. One of my favorite things about the Association is that it is a venue for those who have received to give back, and provides those who are new to the business and hungry for information an opportunity to meet others who have been where they are going.
There are countless other reasons to join the association but after I mention these most people are tired of hearing me talk (and probably of reading this post) and sign up to shut me up. I encourage you to get active in the association and help make Wisconsin a better place for landlords to do business.
All the best.