Blog | Tenant Resource Center



Fires: The Aftermath

Every once in a while, a group of slightly sooty tenants will walk in and explain, dispiritedly, that they are the ones who lived in that house that just burned down. Usually, thankfully, they tell us that everyone who lived there is okay, but most of the belongings are ruined. And they want to know, what can they do? What's the first step? How do they start to unravel the mess that is their home?

Here are some ideas.

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Non-Renewal Reasons?

When tenants come in to talk to us about non-renewals, it seems like one of those things, where everyone knows non-renewals are a possibility, where they are a recognized fact of rental life... but when it happens to you, when you get non-renewed, it feels kind of like a car wreck. Unexpected. Damaging. 

I've written before about the amount of notice required for choosing not to renew a lease, but here we talk about the why. What reasons can a landlord use to choose not to renew a lease? What does it look like for those tenants? How can you respond if it happens to you?

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Spring Roundup

The kids and I drove around Wisconsin in a Spring Break Road Trip a couple weeks ago, and it's beautiful out there! We saw sandhill cranes all over, a fox skirting the highway, and cranberry bogs getting their season started. Springtime has pizzazz here in Wisconsin, where seasons always feel full force, whether cold or warm.

We're getting a full load of springtime complaints, too, from around the state, and a lot of the concerns that clients are voicing to us are things that we've written about before, in other parts of this website. So, here's a roundup for tenants for lots of the common Spring issues.

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Search For Rental Housing

So many of our waiting emails and calls have a sentence something like this: "my landlord wants to renew/not renew my lease, and it's causing me problems." Sometimes tenants signed the lease renewal before they really thought about it, and they really want to move; some tenants don't want to sign because their landlord is not awesome, but also aren't sure where they are headed. Some folks won't have a place to live after next month. But the common denominator is: how do I look for housing?

Here's what we can't do:

  • tell you whether it's a good idea to sign your lease or not
  • tell your landlord to tear up your lease renewal (that renewal that you signed without thinking and then realized that you want to buy a house/live in a place where the repairs get done/can't stand your roommates/etc)
  • tell you if you'll be able to find a new place to live or not
  • find housing for you - you'll have to sift through these resources and find what works for you

Here's what we can do:

  • show you resources that are helpful in finding housing.
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Date with (Rental) Destiny

In some ways, there are a lot of similarities between looking for rental housing and beginning to date someone. You have those first-date jitters, perhaps, and try to imagine yourself with this person for a while. You make yourself look as pretty as possible, and try to figure out if the person you're dating is also that pretty when they're hanging out in their jammies. (Or if that rental home is as warm in the winter as it is in the springtime. Or if it has mold, that the landlord just bleached off.) 

There's a lot to think about as you prepare for your housing search. Here's our guide for being a sassy and fabulous renter.

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Mobile Home Basics

Mobile Homes are not our best subject. I'm going to just start right there. We do many things well, and we are the stronger for knowing our limitations. 

However, when landlords are not following laws that regulate mobile home parks, there can be a breathtaking imbalance of power. Tenants in an eviction can end up with many thousands of dollars in moving costs, far more than an average, non-mobile home eviction. Since mobile home laws are difficult to figure out, and we like giving people good information, today I'm going over some basics, the laws that apply to different situations, and the agencies that you can talk to if you need an expert.

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Breaking a Lease: For Tenants

There comes a point in every tenant's life when they start to discover urges. Urges to leave their contract, to get out of their legal obligation before it's over, and sometimes before it's even begun. These urges are normal in the life of the tenant, even though they feel scary at the time. 

All joking aside, I've compiled our once-and-for-all list of steps that tenants should consider when attempting to break a lease.

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You Guys Are Amazing!

Last week, so many of you turned out for our Iron Chef event - it was the best one we'd had in over 5 years! After a devastating week and a year filled with complex and compounding client problems, it was amazing to gather with Our People, the ones who keep us going, who feed us, who volunteer and joke and know the depth of the issues that we encounter everyday. Thanks. Really.

As a reward, here are the candid photos, the list of incredible chefs (and winners!), discerning judges and impressively generous sponsors.

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Homestead Credit

We have a couple ways to know that it's Spring here at our office:

  1. Our heat switches over and we go from being too hot in our office (over the winter, we're all in t-shirts) to being too cold (summer = sweater weather, indoors).
  2. All the people outside shed layers. It looks cathartic.
  3. Sun!
  4. People start asking us uncomfortably complicated questions about taxes.

Much like we are not attorneys (nope! we aren't! but here are some), we are also not accountants. And taxes are hard. But we do know a little bit about the Homestead Credit, a credit that low-income tenants and homeowners can get to reduce the taxes they must pay (or increase their refund). Here's the rundown on our knowledge.

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Heavy Hearts

On Friday evening, Tony Terrell Robinson was killed by a Madison police officer. Tony was 19 years old, unarmed, Black. He was killed a stone's throw from our office on Willy St., so close that we can see the shining balloons from our windows now, along with the caution tape, and the cars slowing and drivers emerging with tears in their eyes. 

Here at the Tenant Resource Center, we see daily proof of the human cost of discrimination and racism. We see how it negates our hope to find housing justice in Wisconsin. We see how it prevents people of color from being safe, both in their homes and on the streets. We know that when Black lives are valued, all of us will be safer. 

We have been so moved to see the outpouring of love and support from the neighborhood and surrounding Madison community these past four days.  If you would like to join the community's grassroots efforts, you can follow the Ferguson to Madison group on Facebook

This killing was not in our backyards. It was in our front yard. And we are taking it personally. 

From Dr. King, 50 years ago: "And again the brutality of a dying order shrieks across the land. Yet, Selma, Alabama, became a shining moment in the conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it." We hope Tony's death will be the fire, and that what rises up from the ashes makes us proud to live in this city and this state.

Wishing you all strength and solidarity, from all of us at Tenant Resource Center.

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