A bill backed by Wisconsin landlords that imposes restrictions on rental inspections conducted by local governments was signed into law recently by Governor Scott Walker.

Assembly Bill 773 was approved by the GOP-controlled legislature along party lines with Republicans favoring it and Democrats opposing it 18-14 in the Senate and 58-34 in the Assembly.

The new law was backed by numerous powerful special interests that included manufacturing, construction, insurance, agriculture, and health care industries, led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC).

As the state’s largest business group, WMC has contributed more than $18 million since January 2010 to support conservative candidates for legislative and statewide offices, and has directly contributed $35.5 million to Governor Walker, who is seeking reelection to a third four-year term in November.

The new law reduces from six to three years the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits involving liability, fraud, rights violations, and injury to character. The deadline that people can sue for injuries caused by property improvements would be cut from ten years to six years.

Local governments are prohibited from re-inspecting rental property for at least five years if an inspection finds no serious violations, such as electrical, plumbing, rodent, or mold problems, or if any serious violations that are found are corrected in a time period determined by the local government.

Renters with disabilities are now required to have medical documentation in order to have a task-support animal, makes renter eviction records available to the public for at least ten years.

The measure lowers the interest rate insurers must pay on overdue insurance claims from the current 12 percent to 7.5 percent.

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Lee Matz