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Springtime Heat Concerns

Can we say it? Is it spring yet? Or do we still have to whisper so spring doesn't get shy because we're all talking about it?  With spring seemingly on its way, many of us across Wisconsin are experiencing the confusing weather changes. It's warm! It's snowing! It's hot! It's raining!  Sometimes within the span of the day.  

Among us, there are optimists ("it's fine to turn off the heat! It's already a hundred degrees warmer than it was this winter!"), and there are pessimists ("you call this warm?? I'm from Texas!"), but there are still tenant-landlord laws that come into play when we're discussing when it's okay to turn off the heat.

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Assert the Rights You Have

A couple of years ago, a tenant came into our office in the spring.  She and her husband were young professionals with a stellar rental history, renting a small single family home.  They'd just moved into the house that winter, and the tenant was eager to plant flowers along the driveway they'd so recently been shoveling. Their idyllic flower-and-bird-twittering spring came to a screeching halt, though, when they received an eviction notice for the kind of flowers they had chosen.

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"Online Rent Payment" Scam Targeting Downtown Madison Renters

There is a new scam targeting downtown Madison tenants, many of them students and first-time renters. Many residents have received paper notices in their doors advertising a $215 rent credit if they start making online payments to a new management company called H&H Apartments at 7473 Ellington Court in Middleton. This fake and predatory offer requests the tenant's name, date of birth, social security number, and credit card information (including the CVV code and expiration date). This is a scam, and puts tenants at risk for identity theft as well as financial damages. Tenants should ignore the notice and alert their neighbors and their landlord if they receive one.

Many of the larger management companies do offer online rent payments through their websites, but tenants enter their own information through a secure, third-party payment system. Other landlords offer direct deposits from the tenant's banking account, but this requires a cancelled check given to the landlord as listed on their lease, often when they first sign the lease. Usually there is a small fee for online payments -- not a rent credit! Some landlords may chose to offer an "early rent payment" option instead of a late fee, but this is generally around 5% of the tenant's rent -- not hundreds of dollars!

Any time there is a change in management the law requires the new landlord to tell the tenant(s) in writing within 10 business days of the person who collects rent and can receive legal papers, the person who manages the building, and the person to contact for repairs. ATCP 134.04(1)(c) and MGO 32.08(1)(d) If tenants have any doubts about a notice of new management, they should contact their landlord and get confirmation in writing.

If a tenant falls prey to this (or any other) credit scam, they should immediately cancel their credit card(s) and contact their financial institutions for advice. They may also want to place an identity fraud alert with the national credit bureaus. Unfortunately, there is no protection against eviction for tenants who cannot pay their rent because of theft. Low-income tenants may be able to get assistance paying rent, and all tenants should communicate with their landlords as soon as they know they'll be late or short on rent, explain what happened, and ask for a payment plan.

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Thanks for coming!

Thanks so much to those who made it out to the TRC's Iron Chef Event this past Friday the 4th!  We had a bunch of fun!  We successfully made our goal, because of the enthusiastic support of our guests, our cooks, our sponsors and our staff. 

See below for our candid photos!

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See you on Friday!

Hey, there internet folks!  The TRC has a fundraiser coming up, and yours truly is one of the participating chefs!  I've been writing blog posts here for about a month, and I'd love to meet the people for whom I write.  

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Negotiation 101

A tenant called recently, deeply and powerfully upset.  The landlord had put a camera outside her house, and she was convinced that it was filming her.  As it turns out, the landlord was filming the courtyard because there had been a small crime there recently, and he wanted to do his best to keep his residents safe.  The tenant could have avoided months of turmoil if she had felt like she had good tools for knowing how to communicate with her landlord.  In fact, so many of the tenant-landlord problems that we see could be dealt with very effectively if the tenants and landlords could just communicate better with one another.  Of course, you have options if the talking isn't successful (small claims court, and complaints to DATCP), but sometimes it’s a good idea to give it a try.  But how?

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Small Claims Court Tips

The end result of many tenant-landlord disputes is small claims court.  Evictions and money suits for amounts under $10,000 are both handled in small claims court, making it the place where landlord-tenant arguments end up if there aren't any other negotiation options.  Many people come in fearing the small claims process, but it doesn't have to be that way.  

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E-mail Eviction Notice Scam Making Headlines

We posted last week about an email scam telling folks that their landlord is evicting them.  It's making headlines!

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Beware of E-mail Eviction Scam!

Someone is sending Wisconsin residents false eviction notices by e-mail. Consumer Protection released a notice today warning Wisconsin residents against the malicious software that can attack them if they open these message.

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Get It in Writing

At the beginning of each tenant-landlord relationship, the landlord and tenant are in the honeymoon phase. The tenant is eager to move in from wherever they’ve been, and the landlord is happy to have the home filled with someone who will regularly be paying rent. Early on, it’s easy to work things out, and it’s hard to see how that could possibly go wrong.

Here at the TRC, we see it go wrong. Tenants and landlords come to us saying that they had a spoken agreement with the other person, but now, that person isn’t doing what he/she said he/she would do. Tenants have concerns about landlords not making repairs; landlords have concerns about tenants not following a payment agreement… Everyone has concerns about roommates. Before things go sideways, it’s important to protect yourself, just in case.

Like Hansel and Gretel, the best way to protect yourself in these situations is to have a trail. Only for tenants and landlords, it should be a paper trail, not stones or crumbs. Make sure to have something in writing about all the agreements that you make. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational! Here’s how:

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