Legislative committee blocks rule prohibiting landlords from charging late fees on rent

MADISON, Wis. — A legislative committee voted Thursday to block an emergency rule that prohibited landlords from charging late fees on rent until August.

The Republican-controlled Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules voted party lines on that decision at its hearing Thursday.

Legislators argued the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection did not have the authority under the law to issue such a rule.

The agency said this was a measure to prevent worse financial trouble for tenants.

“Prohibiting late fees during and 90 days beyond a public health emergency allows tenants time to apply for assistance programs if needed and to meet their financial obligations without spiraling deeper into debt due to the additional fees and penalties being assessed,” said Lara Sutherland, an administrator with DATCP.

After striking the rule down, legislators also drafted legislation that explicitly prohibits the agency from creating the rule.

The department said they aren’t sure yet how this affects tenants retroactively, but going forward, landlords will be able to charge tenants late fees on their rent.