Blog | Tenant Resource Center

Iron Chef 2019 Success!

We had a wonderful Iron Chef event on April 12, and are so so so grateful to everyone who came, cooked, judged and sponsored! You guys mean the world to us! For those of you waiting with baited breath for the outcomes of the battles, here they are!

Battle Goat Cheese: Michael Jacob & Samantha Haack vs. Babs Matthews & Connie Benell
Battle Black Beans: Sarah Gillmore vs. Alison Mikulyuk, Sarah Covington, Susan Crowson, Victoria Echeverria & Jenny Robinson
Battle Coconut Milk: Nick Isham vs. Christina Wen & Rachel Witthoft
Battle Ginger: Adam Hirsch, Matt Feifarek & Ola Adegboro vs. Laura Detert & Kelly Maxwell

*Underlining denotes battle winners!

Judge's Choice Winner: Sarah Gillmore's 'Bring Back Our Local Ordinances' Black Bean Wontons
People's Choice Winner: Nick Isham's Short Rib Rendang Sando with Garlic Jam
Citizen's United Winner: Nick Isham

Pictures below!

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What Is Home To You?

We have been having a wonderful time at the Big Share! Thanks, deeply, for all your support, donations and otherwise. 

One of the best pieces of work that we got to do for this event was the video below, also available on our Facebook page

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Exclusive Possession

Hey all!

Today is an exciting day because we are gearing up for the Big Share on March 5th (tomorrow!). We've been talking to a lot of people about what home means to them, and it's got me thinking about the basics, about what a home means in tenant-landlord law. 

One of the most basic building blocks in tenant-landlord law is exclusive possession. It is a concept that means that once a landlord offers a space for rent, a tenant has exclusive possession, and, within the rules of the lease, can do whatever they want within the home (as long as it's legal, of course).

For many people, you love who you love in your home. You cook the food of your heart in your home. You raise your children at home. You feel safe to be yourself in your home. These deeply felt concepts are due to the tenant having exclusive possession.


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Big Share 2019 is Tomorrow!

Hello World! 


The TRC is so happy to be participating in the Big Share again this year! home_meaning_fixed.pngWe love being one of the member agencies of Community Shares of Wisconsin, and their online day of giving (the Big Share, coming TOMORROW).

The Big Share is really special to us because it's a day when we can get our story out into the world, but more importantly, we can give our clients a little space in the world to speak a little of their truth. We have an incredible series coming up tomorrow (click on the photo for more info)! We hope you'll follow it. 

Here's how you can get involved:

  • Please donate early and often! Our Big Share page is here. For every donation, we have a chance to win cash prizes that go towards our operating costs! This is a huge deal for us. Please consider supporting us and entering us into those raffles throughout the day!
  • Please follow us on Facebook! Our Facebook page is here. That way, you won't miss any of the fresh voices we have coming to you. We love love love it when you like, comment and share, as well. 
  • Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter
  • Tell your friends! We'd love for you to be a part of this work, and one of the easiest ways is to share the posts that mean something to you. 

But most of all: we're so glad you're out there. 


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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:
  • 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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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.


  • Find your polling place here:
  • Register to vote:
  • 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: More information on photo IDs, here:


  • Find your polling place here:
  • You can vote at in-person early voting locations! More info here:
  • Register to vote:

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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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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