That's That: A Summary of the WRA's 2021-22 Legislative Priorities

 Cori Lamont, WRA senior director of legal and public affairs, and Tom Larson, WRA executive vice president  |    June 06, 2022
Thats That

The WRA’s 2021-22 legislative session ended on Friday, April 15 when Gov. Tony Evers acted on the last of our bills. As the session began, the WRA’s priorities ranged from addressing the housing shortage to protecting private property rights to removing hurdles to a successful real estate transaction. 

Throughout the 2021-22 legislative session, state lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate introduced more than 1,100 bills. Gov. Evers signed 267 bills into law — 14 of which were WRA legislative priorities. Gov. Evers also vetoed 126 bills — two of which were WRA legislative priorities.

2021-22 Session at a Glance

  • Five of the WRA bills signed into law protected private property rights. 
  • Four of the WRA bills signed into law removed hurdles to a successful 
    real estate transaction. 
  • Three of the four bills signed into law that removed hurdles to successful real estate transactions were on the WRA’s REALTOR® & Government Day agenda. 

How does the WRA choose its legislative priorities?

The WRA comes up with its legislative priorities through myriad ways, including trends in other states, recommendations by members or the development community, as well as responses from court cases affecting the real estate industry or private property rights.

Once the suggestions are researched, the WRA staff takes the recommendations to the WRA’s public policy committee. That committee is charged with monitoring, analyzing and taking positions on state legislation, regulations and public policies impacting the WRA and local REALTOR® associations, MLSs, real estate licensees, appraisers, homeowners, property owners and the real estate industry on behalf of 
recommendations to the WRA board of directors. The WRA lobbying team then begins to focus on the legislative policy agenda items. This process includes further researching the issue to customize the policy for Wisconsin, drafting suggested language, writing issues papers on the matter, and finding both an Assembly and Senate legislator to take the lead as the bill author within their house.

Does the WRA only focus on WRA legislative priorities?

No. While the WRA begins the legislative session with our own priorities, we often take interest in some of the 1,000 bills introduced during session; sometimes 2,000 bills in a session. The WRA’s interest in these non-WRA priorities could include registering in support of, opposition to or neutral, which means we are keeping watch over the bill to see if any changes impact our position. 

Why does the WRA oppose bills? 

The WRA may oppose bills for a variety of reasons, including a negative effect on real estate practice, property taxes or property rights. 

One example of a bill the WRA originally opposed includes AB 320/SB 344, which impacts the registration and the scope of practice of interior designers. While the WRA supports streamlining the regulation and practice of interior designers, the original bill allowed interior designers to remove certain interior walls from construction plans, which raised concern about a property’s structural integrity and fire safety. After an amendment addressing the WRA’s concerns, the WRA removed its opposition. 

Another example of bills that raised the WRA’s concerns was a series of licensing bills that affected licensing at the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). AB 217/SB 232, for instance, was a bill that allowed the DSPS and the credentialing boards, including the Real Estate Examining Board (REEB), to grant credentials with provisional status. As a profession unlike any other regulated by the DSPS because our limited right to practice law and our required use of state-approved forms, the WRA opposed the bill. The bill was later amended to specifically exempt real estate licensees, removing the WRA’s opposition. 

Which bills of importance to real estate were signed into law this session?   

40-year access easements (2021 Wis. Act 174)

Protects the freedom to contract and preserve private easements by allowing recorded private access easements recorded on or after January 1, 1960, to run in perpetuity, while also allowing access easements recorded before that date to run in perpetuity if certain events occur, such as re-recording or proof of physical evidence that the easement is being used. 

Homeowners associations (2021 Wis. Act 199)

Creates transparency for Wisconsin homeowners associations (HOAs). Residents living in or purchasing properties within an HOA will now have access to the rules and regulations impacting the property. HOAs can regulate the use of and have 
a great impact on property owners’ rights. 

Disclosure reports (2021 Wis. Act 96)

Modifies Chapter 709 of the Wisconsin Statutes to provide clarity to various parts of the seller disclosure law, including the return of earnest money after exercising the right to rescind, any seller condition report with strike-throughs and responses to questions left unanswered is deemed incomplete, revising the disclosure about private not public rights of way, and adding FIRPTA as a new question.

Maintenance and repair of private roads (2021 Wis. Act 99)

Creates a statutory framework to define the responsibility of a property owner in the event there is not a repair and maintenance agreement for a private road or street. 

36-month permit extensions (2021 Wis. Act 80)

Allows municipalities to waive penalties and interest on late installments of property taxes payable in 2021 and allows a 36-month extension of certain permits for ongoing construction projects. 

Foreclosure equity theft (2021 Wis. Act 216) 

Requires counties to pay any net proceeds in any property tax foreclosure sale to the former owner of the property. Under the previous law, if a property owner was unable to pay their property taxes, counties were authorized to seize the property and sell it to pay the property taxes owed, unless the property was the former owner’s homestead. 

PPP loans not subject to state tax (2021 Wis. Act 1)

Among other things, clarifies that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans are not subject to state tax.

Private on-site wastewater treatment system (POWTS) (2021 Wis. Act 67)

Extended the expiration to June 30, 2023, of the program administered by the DSPS that provides grants for private on-site wastewater treatment system replacement or rehabilitation to help offset the costs of replacing or rehabilitating eligible failing POWTS.

WHEDA workforce housing rehabilitation loans (2021 Wis. Act 221)

Increases the supply of Wisconsin’s workforce housing built before 1980 by authorizing WHEDA to offer low-interest or no-interest rehabilitation loans to update older housing stock. Homeowners must agree to repay the loan upon sale or title transfer.

Limiting liability for appraisers (2021 Wis. Act 194)

Limits the time a person has to start a lawsuit for damages against a licensed or certified real estate appraiser to five years from the date the appraiser submits the appraisal report to the client. Establishing a statute of limitations for appraiser liability is good news for all parties in the transaction and also provides certainty for the individuals currently in or considering the appraisal profession.

Right to place a pier on flowages (2021 Wis. Act 47)

In the 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision Movrich v. Lobermeier, the court declared that some waterfront property owners did not have the right to place a pier, including all flowages and man-made bodies of water. Act 47 permanently protects pier rights for all waterfront property owners, including those who live on the 260 flowages throughout Wisconsin. 

2021-23 state budget (2021 Wis. Act 58) 

  • Property tax relief: $300 in property tax relief for the typical home.
  • Income tax relief: Average family will receive approximately $900 in income tax relief.
  • DSPS technology upgrades to simplify online credentialing: $5 million to pay for long-overdue upgrades to DSPS information technology platforms.
  • Broadband expansion: $125 million in additional funding for the Broadband Expansion Grant Program over the next two years.

Home inspection reports and “defects” (2021 Wis. Act 17)

Requires a home inspector to label in the inspection report items identified as a “defect” during the home inspection and to provide a summary page as part of the report. These simple but necessary changes will provide more trust in the home inspection report for all property transactions.

COVID-19 civil liability exemption (2021 Wis. Act 4)

Creates immunity from civil liability for death, injury or other damages due to any act or failure to act resulting in, or related to, a person’s exposure to COVID-19 in the performance of the entity’s functions or services. This civil immunity protects entities including real estate firms and independent contractors.

Where can I learn about the WRA’s past advocacy efforts?   

Read more about the WRA’s legislative successes at  

When does the WRA begin discussing next session’s priorities?    

Sometimes items for the next legislative session are discovered during the current legislative session. However, the WRA staff is currently reviewing, collecting and revisiting legislative policies for the 2022-23 session. 

If you have suggestions as to how the WRA can help make legislative change good for your business, your clients, your customers or for property owners, contact the WRA lobbying team at 608-241-2047.

The WRA's vetoed legislative priorities 

Shovel-ready Workforce Housing (SB 629)

This legislation would increase the supply of workforce housing in Wisconsin by directing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to identify and promote residential development sites that are properly zoned, have 
all the necessary state and local government approvals, have minimal development-related fees, and can be developed in a short period of time and in a cost-effective manner. Read the governor’s veto message:

Filled Lands (SB 900)

This legislation, working with the development community and local governments, aimed at resolving legal title disputes on property that has been filled for more than 40 years to allow Wisconsin municipalities to redevelop commercial and industrial waterway areas along the Great Lakes and commercial rivers. This new law will drive economic growth in some parts of Wisconsin where growth has been stalled or even stopped by title issues. Read the governor’s veto message:

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