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Winter Issues

Hello, my lovelies. 

As winter blasts its way into our lives, here at the TRC, our call logs fill up with questions about the cold, and the problems it causes. Here are answers to some of our more frequently asked questions.

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Moving Days 2018

The Great Day Of Moving is upon us! Many Madison leases turn over on August 14-16, and here's the crucial informational goods:

  • There are so many ways to get rid of your stuff! There are donation sites all over town, more trash pickups than usual, and lots of ways to recycle. That's all here: https://www.cityofmadison.com/streets/refuse/movingdays.cfm
  • You can contact us if you have questions! (Though our most commonly asked questions are below!) Our contact info is here, but you can also find our staff at the Schenk's Corners Block Party on August 17th and 18th!

Below are answers to our most commonly asked Moving Day questions. 

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Vote!

Here at the TRC, we see the power that the law has on the lives of everyday people, and the power of the lawmakers on making the laws. So, please vote! It really does matter.

Wisconsin!

  • Find your polling place here: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/FindMyPollingPlace
  • Register to vote: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/RegisterToVote
  • Photo ID: Most Wisconsin voters must show an acceptable photo ID when voting at the polls on Election Day or by absentee ballot. There are some exceptions for absentee voters. You can get a free photo ID online: https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/dmv/license-drvs/how-to-apply/petition-process.aspx More information on photo IDs, here: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/PhotoIDRequired

Madison!

  • Find your polling place here: https://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/where-do-i-vote/
  • You can vote at in-person early voting locations! More info here: http://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/elections-voting/voting/vote-absentee/in-person-absentee-voting-hours-and-locations
  • Register to vote: https://www.cityofmadison.com/clerk/elections-voting/voter-registration

Moving in August?

Wisconsin requires 10 days to establish residency at a new address. Temporary absence does not affect residency. Time spent away from your residence still counts toward the 10 day residency requirement as long as you intend to return. So, when voting in the August 14, 2018 primary election:

• If you move by August 4, you would register and vote at your new address.
• If you move on or after August 5, you would vote at your old address. If voting at your old address, you can do so at in-person absentee (early) voting.

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Subletting

Questions about subletting are some of the more consistent questions we get. In theory, it's a great concept, but in practice, it rarely seems to work out as planned for those involved. 

Subletting is when the original renter (the "sublessor") remains responsible for a lease, and either lives with a subletter, or has a subletter take their place. The original renter remains legally responsible for all terms of the original rental agreement. 

Subletting is often seen as a way to alleviate the landlord's concerns about breaking a lease (because instead of finding someone totally new to take over the lease, the subletter is simply added, and the original renter and the subletter both become legally responsible for upholding the terms of the lease). However, when it doesn't work out, it seems to fall apart rather spectacularly.

In some cases, landlords offer subletting as a tenant's only option for getting out of their lease, which isn't true. Also, landlords often charge a "sublet fee" in order to allow subletting, but this usually isn't fully legal, either. Below, we have a guide for dealing with many of the subletting situations that arise.

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Fees and Liquidated Damages

This may come as no surprise to you, dear reader, but we are pretty nerdy here at the TRC. We do a lot of jobs here, but when we dive into tenant-landlord law, we go deep, because the details are crucial for the folks who come in to talk to us. This is one of those deep dives. 

Generally speaking, when a landlord charges a fee in a lease, then that fee needs to reflect actual damages that a landlord experiences.* For example: a tenant gets locked out of his apartment, and he asks the maintenance person to let him in. The cost of the maintenance person swinging by and unlocking a door with a master key during work hours, is pretty low. Perhaps $15 of someone's time? It might be higher if the call came after work hours, and more if the whole lock needed to be re-keyed. In the end, the tenant could only be charged the actual costs that the landlord experiences in dealing with this issue - in this case, the cost of the maintenance person's time, the cost of the new key. But what happens if the lease holds a weird escalating fee clause - the first time a key is lost, it's $15 to replace. The second? $50. The third? $200. And so on.

Sometimes, fees in a lease are written in as a penalty, which are not reflective of the amount of monetary damage that a landlord faces as a result of a problem, and are simply put in the lease as a way to deter behavior. And punitive fees, my friends, are not allowed.

And in order to explain why, we get to jump into contract case law. Whee!

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When It Rains, It Pours, and When It Pours, It Floods

So, there's been a lot of water around Wisconsin lately. And, as they say, when it rains, it floods. (Or something like that). Flooding is technically a repair issue, so for more information on the overarching laws about repairs, see our repairs page for Wisconsin, or for Madison & Fitchburg.

We've been flooded with calls about this issue (pun totally intended), and we have answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. 

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Emotional Support Animals

Hi Everyone!

We are just done with Seminar Season (TM), which is the time of year when our staff head out into the wilds of Wisconsin to talk to folks about tenant-landlord law. During this season, we get more up close and personal with the kinds of concerns that landlords bring to us (many of our seminar participants are landlords, as well as service providers, government folk, and attorneys). I have to say, I love them. It gives us a chance to stay in tune with what's happening around Wisconsin, and we feel like we can really make a difference - we work hard to give folks the best information possible.

One of the Very Big Questions that people, especially landlords, have is about Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). There are new laws that define ESAs in Wisconsin, and establish rules about what landlords have to do, and what they don't have to do (2017 Wis. Act 317, and you can find the summary here). 

But there's a problem: We see some really big clashes between the new Wisconsin laws and federal Fair Housing laws. Generally, states can't take away rights given by federal mandates. And so, it looks like some of these new laws might be giant traps for landlords to fall into - even if landlords carefully follow the new Wisconsin laws about ESAs, they might find themselves in violation of federal law, which is a huge, expensive, problem.

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Foreclosure Laws Are Back!

Hello world! It is rare that I get to sit down and write something that feels like good news, but TODAY IS THAT DAY

But first, a flashback: it's the last day of the year of 2014, and even though it is a holiday, we at the TRC are mourning the loss of a protective law. December 31, 2014 was the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act's last day of life, and it sunsetted into the great beyond. And we were sad - without that law, tenants whose landlords are in foreclosures have no rights to: 1. know about the foreclosure, and 2., stay in the property once the rental unit officially ceases to belong to the landlord. Many tenants over the years, after faithfully paying their rent, have woken to discover that the sheriff is removing them, with no notice, due to no fault of their own. It was rough. 

BUT. THAT CHANGES NOW. THE PROTECTING TENANTS AT FORECLOSURE ACT IS BACK. AND IT'S HERE TO STAY.

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Volunteer For Us!

The TRC is a unique agency. We do a ton of amazing work on a shoestring budget, we have an incredibly committed and empathetic staff, but our ace card is, for sure, our volunteers. 

Volunteering for our agency is not an easy thing to do. But. It is worthwhile. Many of our volunteers go on to use their skills in their careers and everyday lives, to the betterment of everyone around them. 

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New Laws, Round 6

Hey Friends -

Big changes are afoot! On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, Gov. Walker signed 2017 Wis. Act 371 into law. Therefore, the effective date is today, April 18, 2018. 

The most important things you should know:

  • All the changes tenant-landlord law changes are available here in our summary
  • The changes are not reflected in the statutes (the legislative reference bureau says it'll be up next week). They are legally enforceable, though. So, for example: Wis. Stat. 704.07(3)a is supposed to have subsections 1 and 2, under the new law. But, as of this writing, there are no subsections. So, to everyone citing things in the laws: please be careful!

Below is our list of things that we think will be most impactful to tenants and landlords.

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