One of the biggest issues raised at the community meeting is wanting to know who will be living in the house. There are 8 rooms for 20 people. But how will we decide who lives there? We essentially explained the membershipping process, but that wasn’t satisfactory, so here is a first draft in writing of how we will decide. Now, we need the community’s help to let us know if there is something missing. Let the feedback begin!
People wanted to assure that we weren’t renting to drug addicts, criminals, people who were dishonorably discharged and illegal aliens. Yeah, seriously, I have to go back and listen to the tape, but that is what we were asked. I blew it in answering the question and should have pointed out that the last two categories of people are protected by fair housing laws in Madison. But the answer is yes, yes we will. But of course, the answer is not that simple.
More policies are being drafted to be discussed by the group on Thursday. This is just the first step and clearly we need to draft leases and interview questions and other tools to implement the process below. We have a person volunteering with us who did property management for 4 years and of course, I know a thing or two about renting after volunteering and working at the Tenant Resource Center for 22 years.
WHO WILL BE LIVING AT OM HOUSE?
OM HOUSE POLICIES
DRAFT *** DRAFT *** DRAFT
- A waiting list will be maintained, based primarily on seniority. Only members of Occupy Madison, Inc. who are in good standing are allowed to be on the waiting list.
- When an opening becomes available, the next person on the waiting list will be notified that they can begin the membershipping process by attending house meetings and be given a copy of these policies.
- The applicant must attend three consecutive house meetings.
- Following the three meetings, the applicant will be interviewed. (need to develop interview questions)
- Members will discuss the person and decide on whether or not they should be allowed into the house.
- A person needs to be voted in (YES vote, abstentions don’t count) by 75% of ALL
occupants (including those not at the meeting. If there are 20 total residents and 5 (25%) are
out of town and one person abstains, the membershipper is NOT voted in unless some of those five people vote by proxy).
- Any member can block an applicant from becoming an occupant (but they must have a good reason!).
- If the vote is successful, they will sign a commitment to the house rules.
- There will be a two week trial period, after which another House Meeting will determine whether or not the person can stay.
- After those two weeks, the person is a full occupant and may sign a lease. (month to month)
BACKGROUND CHECKS AND ENTRY DECISIONS
In addition to the above membershipping process, any member of OM house will be entitled to full rights under federal, state and local fair housing laws. We will not discriminate based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, mental or physical disability, familial status (including pregnancy), age, sexual orientation I(ay, straight, bisexual, queer). marital status, ancestry, lawful source of income, victims of domestic violence, abuse or other crimes, type of military discharge, physical appearance, gender identity (including transgendered persons), domestic partnership status, genetic identity, political beliefs, student status, receipt of rent assistance (Section 8) and citizenship status.
The group has also decided to extend the local fair housing protections that existed prior to passage of 2011 Wisconsin Act 108 which means they will extend some protections on arrest and conviction records (slightly modified), disclosure of social security numbers and minimum income standards.
Standard Screening Practices
Traditionally, landlords screen tenants and check in the following areas:
___ Amount of Income
___ Landlord References
___ Eviction & Civil Court Records
___ Conviction Record
We will check all of these items, however they will not be used a basis for denial. Instead, this information will be used to help applicants address issues discovered so that they can obtain regular market housing. Information will be used in the following ways:
Income: To assist in determining eligibility for benefits and services.
Landlord References: To assist in determining if there are behavior issues to be listed as goals for the applicant or determine if a payment plan to a landlord could assist in future more positive references
Eviction and Court Record: To determine if there is a reason to challenge the eviction record, make payment plans or reopen a case.
Credit: To determine if there are mistakes on the credit records, submit explanations for credit reports and otherwise determine if there are things that can be done to repair the credit.
Conviction Record: To have full disclosure for other residents living in the house and to be discussed during the membershipping process. Record checks will be purchased through the Madison Police Department. In order to be denied based on criminal record we will consider the if the crime is related to housing, how long ago the crime occurred (may be denied even if off paper more than 2 years ago unlike former city ordinance), location the crime took place, the possibility of recurrence. Sex offenders may be excluded depending upon the specific offense due to the presence of children’s programs in the area.
Pets will go through a similar membershipping process (yet to be developed). Service animals will be allowed and the presence of a service animal cannot be a reason for denial.
Must be at least 18 years of age unless parents are living in the building or they have permission of the parent or guardian.
Any denial shall be put in writing and given, mailed, or emailed to the applicant that has been denied within 5 days of the decision.
Decisions to deny membership may be appealed to the Board of Directors within 14 days of written notice of denial. The applicant will be given an opportunity to review application file and has the right to present evidence and witnesses in support of the application before the Board of Directors.
Upon final approval, the applicant will be asked to sign a lease and house rules. Prior to this point, the person is a guest and may be asked to leave at any time.
House members and their guests will be expected to:
- Always show respect for others and yourself.
- Refrain from harassment, discrimination or abusive conduct (see definitions below)
- Attend House meetings twice a week.
- Participate in conflict resolution training.
- Serve on the grievance committee rotation.
- Participate in household chore rotation.
- Be actively working on goals (ex. seek employment, seek benefits (SSI, SSDI), address mental health and medical issues, AODA treatment)
- Participate in trainings offered to house residents.
- Pay rent or provide work hours in lieu of rent.
- Keep your room in clean, safe and sanitary condition.
- Refrain from littering
- Smoke in the smoking area (need to designate the smoking area with the help of the neighbors)
- Refrain from loitering or trespassing on or near neighboring properties
- Follow park rules
- Refrain from engaging in illegal activity
- Not invite “crashers” in the non-residential portion of the building.
- Have guests sign in if they stay in the residential portion of the building.
- Have a roommate agreement regarding guests before inviting guests to stay over night.
- Have your guests become a member of Occupy Madison, Inc. if they stay frequently.
Note: – Guests will be allowed according to law. Madison General Ordinances 32.05(1)(g) state that:
A landlord may regulate guests, but may not prohibit, a tenant from having all guests. Guest regulations, if any, shall be included in the rental agreement. Guest regulations shall be in conformance with the definition of a Family provided in Chapter 28 of Madison General Ordinances. Guest regulations shall not permit the violation of zoning regulations, including capacity standards, provided in Chapter 28 of Madison Genera Ordinances. Nothing in these ordinances shall prohibit a landlord from commencing an eviction action against a tenant for permitting a person to reside in the tenant’s rental unit in violation of Madison General Ordinances or state law.
HARASSMENT AND ABUSIVE CONDUCT
Occupy Madison, Inc is committed to maintaining a positive environment for its members and guests. All individuals have the right to enjoy an environment free from all forms of conduct that can be considered harassing, threatening or intimidating. True cooperation can exist only when every person is free to pursue expression of ideas in a non-threatening atmosphere of mutual respect. Occupy Madison, Inc. is committed to protecting freedom of expression of all members and this policy against harassment and abusive conduct will be applied in a manner that protects those freedoms. Harassment and abusive conduct are offensive, impair morale, undermine the integrity of relationships and cause serious harm to the productivity, efficiency and stability of our organization. They are unacceptable and threatening to the success, well-being, and growth of all members of our community and will not be tolerated. This policy applies to all members, officers and staff.
Harassment: Unwelcome verbal or physical conduct or discrimination based on race, color, creed, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, sex, arrest or conviction record, marital status, sexual orientation, membership in the military reserve or use or nonuse of lawful products away from work, or any other protected class. This also includes sexual harassment, defined as unwelcome, severe, and pervasive verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Definition: Abusive Conduct
Abusive Conduct: Behavior that creates an intimidating environment and is likely to interfere with an individual’s work or home life. This conduct can be verbal, physical, or communicated in writing or electronically. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Threatening or intimidating behavior or words
- Obscenities or profanities directed towards an individual or group
- Degrading a person or a group
- Taunting, jeering, mocking or humiliating another person
- Screaming and/or yelling at or around others
- Insulting someone or their performance, especially in the presence of others
- Endangering the safety of an individual or individuals
GIVE US FEEDBACK
So, this is work in progress – we don’t have all the answer yet, we’ve only been working on this for 2 months as of next Monday. But, we do want feedback, we do believe that just as developers will privately tell you that input makes their projects stronger, and we know we will be held to a higher standard than any other project and instead of saying our information is proprietary as a for-profit business would do, we will share our internal policies and management plans as we develop them in the next few months. (Ironically, I remember being on the council and asking developers these same questions – the difference is, we will answer the questions and not hide answers.)
Anyways, feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (best option), you can comment below, comment at OMHouse.org (hope to have a new “input” tab by tomorrow) or on our facebook page. We will also be holding 3 more community meetings and as soon as we have dates, times and agendas we will let you know.
Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media