Grassroots Achievements

Protecting Property Ownership: Putting a fork in foreclosure equity theft

Theft is wrong, no matter how you slice it. But the government keeping the money of Wisconsin property owners after the government made whole is unconscionable.

Wisconsin property owners work hard to own their own home and land. Unfortunately, due to difficult times and circumstances out of their control, some people end up losing their property due to foreclosure. 

Under Wisconsin’s property tax enforcement laws, if a property owner is unable to pay off their property taxes, counties are authorized to seize the property and sell it to pay off the outstanding property taxes. 

However, until 2021, in Wisconsin counties were able to keep the entirety of the profits of the sale of a home, even after being made whole and recouping the property taxes owed.

A statewide grassroots effort by the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance including a mail campaign targeted to legislative districts educating the legislature about the unjust law, helped to pass 2021 Wisconsin Act 216.

Protecting Private Property Rights: Restoring 140 years of riparian rights

A family dispute turned into a 2018 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that took away the right to place a pier for waterfront property owners on man-made flowages throughout Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance engaged property owners to reinstate over 140 years of riparian rights to waterfront property owners statewide. 

In 2021, the Wisconsin Legislature heard from thousands of residents statewide due to the WHA’s grassroots efforts. A robust radio effort paired with a targeted mail and digital contact program targeted legislators in districts with hundreds of waterfront property owners resulting in thousands of letters and calls into legislators’ offices asking for them to support a bill that would reinstate these riparian rights that had been taken away by the supreme court decision. 

2021 Wisconsin Act 47 was signed into law permanently protected pier rights for all Wisconsin waterfront property owners.  

Protecting Fair Property Tax Assessment: Ending assessors “chasing sales”

“Chasing sales” or basing the assessed value of a property solely on the last sale price of that property is not just lazy, it is wrong. However, many Wisconsin communities were doing just legislative action was taken. 

Wisconsin’s constitution requires that all property tax assessments be assessed uniformly. The uniformity clause was inserted in the state constitution in the 1800s to prevent state and local lawmakers from giving preferential treatment to some property owners over others.

To ensure property assessments are accurate and fair, state law requires municipalities to maintain the assessed value of each major class of property within 10% of fair market value once every five years.

Although the Wisconsin Department of Revenue prohibits the practice of chasing sales, assessors regularly increase the assessed value of property based on a recent sale. In a sampling of 24 communities around the state in 2014, an analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that at least 5% of the new assessments were identical to a property’s selling price. 

In 2019, the Wisconsin Homeowners Association initiated a targeted mail and digital grassroots campaign contacting legislators’ offices thousands of times to make it known that this unfair tactic on property value assessment must be stopped. The outreach was an outright success with unanimous support to stop the practice with the enactment of 2019 Wisconsin Act 114.