Wisconsin Apartment Association Connecting the Rental Community ... Right Next Door and Across the State.

A History of the Wisconsin Apartment Association

Summarized by Kris Mueller & Carol Meister (Marshfield)

The 1970's "The Early Years"

WAA was established in 1974

The 1980's " The Developmental Years"

  • The Newsletter was started in 1980 and continues on to date.
  • The first President was in 1981. The officers were President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, and Secretary/Treasurer. Officers moved up to the next position in line.
  • In 1988 WAA consisted of 700 members from 7 Locals. That year the office moved back to Madison. It was in the Executive Officer's home.
  • The first Convention and Trade Show was 1988
  • Membership is 1989 grew to 892 members from 14 locals and associate members

The 1990's "The A Growth Years"

  • For most of this decade the office was in the Executive's Officer's home, in Madison.


  • At the 1992 Convention a new reward was given out in the form of a Traveling Trophy, it was rewarded to the local that had the greatest % of growth from Convention to Convention (October to October), with Fond du Lac winning that year. In 1995 two Traveling Trophies were rewarded with Beloit winning the greatest % and Fond du Lac winning the largest number of new members. In 1998 Manitowoc won both rewards, that was a first.


  • In 1993
    • 32% of the members owned or managed 1 to 5 units
    • 39% of the members owned or managed 6 to 25 units
    • 10% of the members owned or managed 26 to 75 units
    • 4% of the members owned or managed 76 to 100 units
    • 3% of the members owned or managed 101 to 200 units
    • 3.8% of the members owned or managed 201 to 500+ units
  • In 1993 issues were addressed on sale taxation on routine and repetitive cleaning and maintenance. Also in that same year fourth revisions of a bill addressing lead paint containment or abatement. In 1994 lead paint issues were again addressed along with Disposal of Personal Property, Evictions of drug/Crime related bills and also started on the tenant responsibility for Utility bills. This was the year that they decided to enforce the law about reporting Wisconsin Sales Tax on income from Parking/Storage. Also in 1994 the Recycling laws came enforced. In 1997 WAA legislative had gone from reactive to proactive on many issues they were helping to write and introduce bills that benefit our industry.
  • With the increase of locals also came the increase of membership. In 1993 there was over 1200 members. By 1995 there was over 1700 members and by 1999 WAA represented over 1800 members with 48 Associated members, with over 93,000 units and providing homes for over 185,000 people and representing over 5.1 million worth or real estate, paying over $163 million in property taxes.
  • The number of locals grew throughout this decade, at the beginning of 1993 there were 18 Locals in the following cities: Appleton, Beloit, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Janesville, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Marshfield, Menomonie, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Racine, Sheboygan, Stevens Point, Wausau, Whitewater, and Wisconsin Rapids. With Hudson joining that year, to make it 19 locals. In 1995 WAA grew to 21 Locals with the addition of Green Bay and Fort Atkinson. Then in 1996 Platteville joined, making 22 locals. In 1997 WAA rose to it all time high of Locals of 23 with Manitowoc joining. But that was short lived, because Menomonie was put on the inactive list that year. But then in 1999 WAA rose again to 23 locals with Rhinelander joining.


  • The Officer or Executive Committee (EC) took on some changes in this decade. The first part of the decade it looked like the last decade but in 1994 the By-Laws were changed to include the Immediate Past President. And later the immediate Past Past President was added. In the same year, the By-Laws were amended to allow two Associate Members to be on the Board of Directors.
  • Lead Paint Poisoning was a huge topic for legislation in this decade. Much money was spend on the legislation for this. In fact in 1994 te membership was the additional donations to help fund lead paint legislation. They were trying and did get over $7,000 for this fight on lead paint.
  • With the cost of everything going up so did the dues. In 1994 dues were $50.00. With convention doing so well they only needed to raise dues $2.00 in 1995 Then in 1996 the increase made the dues $57.00. In 1997 saw an increase of $6.00 to $63.00 that included a temporary surcharge of $5.00 for legislation program. Then in 1998 the budget committee ask for the dues to be raised to $85.00. That request hit much opposition by the board of directors and they settled on the dues of $80.00 with some cuts in the budget such as freezing the raises for staff, eliminate one issue of WA News, $1500 from Technology, $1000 from Legislative, and $1000 from Long-Range Planning. The dues remand the same in 1999


  • Throughout this decade there was a Legislative Day held in Madison. Early in the decade it was held in February. But in 1995 it was moved to March and remained in March until 1998 when it was moved to January, just for that year, then it returned to March.
  • The Unpaid Utility bill was pursued and there was a hearing on the bill in May of 1995. It received much opposition from the Utility Companies. But they came up with a compromise, which later had to be changed because it was written wrong.
  • There was discussion of creating Regional Areas in the state.
  • The talk of the use of Carbon Monoxide detectors were first introduced.
  • The bill for landlord to pay interest on the Security Deposits that they collected was first introduced but later that year it was withdrawn.
  • Throughout this decade there was a Legislative Day held in Madison. Early in the decade it was held in February. But in 1995 it was moved to March and remained in March until 1998 when it was moved to January, just for that year, then it returned to March.
  • With the increase of members came the increase of office staff in the early 90's there was a full time Executive Officer and then a part time Administrative Assistant was hired. By 1995 the part time Administration Assistant became full time. From 1992-1998 a contact Lobbyist was hired, then in 1998 full time Lobbyist was hired, but in 1999 his title was changed to Government Affairs Director and was added the duties of the Executive Director. In 1997 a second Lobbyist was hired to represent WAA on Lead Paint issues and hired a part time lobbyist for emergency use.
  • In 1995 was the start of looking/working on the Ag. Rules 134. They figured it would take 12 to 18 months to get this job done. WAA Ag Rule Committee meet with WI Realtors, SE Apartment Association,and with a representative from the Department of Agriculture to work on these changes. It wasn't until after much hard work and many hours of meetings that in 1998 that there was a hearing for the changes to ATCP 134 and the changes would go into effect on January 1, 1999. So the 1998 Convention was dedicated to the Ag Rule Revisions, having half a day roll out.
  • WAA was a member of “Wisconsin Fair Housing Network” (Don’t know how many years they were members). WAA was also a member of the National Apartment Association and local affiliates were required to be members. But in 1995 the policy changed and each local had the option of belonging to the NAA. WAA sent the Executive Officer to the Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.


  • The Wisconsin Apartment Association Legislative Conduit was formed.
  • In 1996 the idea of Rental Housing Resources (a non-profit organization) was conceived but it took until May of 1999 to make the dream come true. It partnered with the WAA Traveling Education Program to provide education to its members. Class such as: Landlord Tenant Law Class, fair housing Classes, Small Landlord training were just some of the classes offered, along with many forms which included the Lead Paint Pamphlet. Along with that in 1999 a new tool to screen tenants was introduced to members- "CCAP", the Wisconsin Circuit Court Automation Program.
  • A web page was rolled out in 1996. But in 1998 the board approved a major upgrade to the web page, a complete web page for each local. This was agreed upon because 35% of younger people were using the Internet to find apartments. In 1999 the web pages were finished, and each local had their own web page where they could advertise their vacant apartments or advertise items for sale with a rate of $5.00 per month of sale items and $10.00 per month for vacant apartments.


  • The Secretary and Treasurer offices were split because they felt that the person filling that position should have one year of experience on the Executive Committee before handling the finances. But through this decade, all officers moved up the next office.
  • The mission statement was created along with a Professional Standards Enforcement manual, this was a guide to help members maintain high standards of their Association.


  • In August of 1998 the office took on a more professional look and moved to a business office, but still in Madison
  • The weatherize bill that WAA worked on became a law in 1998.


  • In 1999 The Board of Directors started meeting 4 times a year(they had previously met 3 times). The meetings were held throughout the state, with each Local having a minimum of two directors. A general Membership Meeting was held during the Annual Convention and Trade Show.
  • The Annual Convention and Trade Show were held in October throughout this decade. It to was moved throughout the state, but booking a place for this event was sometimes four to five years in advance. It was 1-1/2 day event (ending at 5:00pm on Sat. night) until 1997 when it took on a new look and became a 2-1/2 day event. In the early part of this decade this event made a profit over $20,000. In 1995 all the locals were represented at this event, this was the first time this had happened. At the Annual Meeting the new Officers were sworn in, but in 1996 the officers didn't take office until January.
  • Throughout this decade there was a Leadership Conference ever year, it had many names from Presidents Pow Wow to Leadership Conference to Officer Leadership Seminar and Conference. This was held to educate the leaders of the Locals. It was held at different months throughout this decade, February, March and April.
  • Throughout this decade many classes for Locksmithing were held, as many as 5 times a year.


The 2000's "The Restructuring Years"

The WAAonline web page was upgraded in 2014, thanks to John Dorn (Racine). And the newly designed website was a great improvement! Around this time it became clear that our "old ways" of doing business were holding us back. Having physical meetings of the Board of Regional Directors and Committees and local delegates was becoming more and more cumbersome. The result was a growing pile of tabled discussions and the "paralysis of analysis". It was felt that our members were being short-changed.

In 2014-2015 the governance of WAA was reorganized with the intent of consolidating efforts and streamlining the process of decision-making. New bylaws were adopted in 2016 that formalized the reorganization.

By the end of 2016, it became clear that online consumer preferences for electronic communications were evolving rapidly! Because of advances in smart phone technology and the popularity of social media, the consumer demand for interactive media, downloadable videos, articles and forms, online membership renewals, surveys, blogs, etc, had virtually exploded!

In 2017 a totally new, scalable website was developed for WAA by La Crosse-based Webteam.