Friday, March 4, 2016

Wis. Stat. s. 452.142 Applies To Real Estate Closings From This Date Forward

I have started to peel back the layers of the onion that is 2015 Wis. Act 258 and have discovered Section 180, which reads in pertinent part as follows:

Section 180 . Initial applicability.
(1) Actions against licensees. The treatment of section 452.142 of the statutes first applies to an action that accrues on the effective date of this subsection.

Section 181 provides additional guidance:

Section 181. Effective dates. This act takes effect on July 1, 2016, or on the day after publication, whichever is later, except as follows:

(2) Actions against licensees. The treatment of section 452.142 of the statutes and Section 180 (1 ) of this act take effect on the day after publication.

In short, the rest of the "Chapter 452 Modernization Act" does not take effect until July 1st, while real estate agents get their new two-year statute of limitation on March 4th.  To consider what this means, we need to review Section 147 of the Act:

Section 147452.142 of the statutes is created to read:
452.142 Actions concerning licensees. (1) Notwithstanding s. 100.18 (11) (b) 3., 893.43, 893.52, or 893.57, an action concerning any act or omission of a firm or any licensee associated with the firm relating to brokerage services shall be commenced within 2 years after whichever of the following that applies occurs first:
(a) A transaction is completed or closed.
(b) An agency agreement is terminated.
(c) An unconsummated transaction is terminated or expires.
(2) The period of limitation under this section may not be reduced by agreement.
(3) The period of limitation under this section does not apply to disciplinary actions initiated by the board.

In my opinion, these provisions mean that Wis. Stat. s. 452.142 first applies to actions arising from real estate transactions that close, terminate, or expire on March 4, 2016.  The date of closing, termination, or expiration is the accrual date.  In other words, buyers and sellers who closed yesterday have six years to sue their real estate agents for breach of contract, while buyers and sellers who close today have only two years.

I do not believe that s. 452.142 applies retroactively.  If s. 452.142 applied retroactively, buyers and sellers who just discovered that their real estate agent gave them poor advice in a transaction that closed in 2013 would be barred from commencing an action against that agent.  Even if Section 180 declared that s. 452.142 "first applies to action filed on the effective date," retroactive application of this statute is arguably unconstitutional because it would deprive citizens of settled rights without due process of law.

That being said, you need to contact an attorney right away if you believe that you have been victimized by a sloppy real estate agent, a sloppy home inspector, or a dishonest seller.  Please contact me at rudolphkuss@stevensandkuss.com.