Blog | Tenant Resource Center

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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The Big Share

Come be a part of The Big Share! The TRC is lucky to be a member of Community Shares of Wisconsin, and today, they are supporting all their member nonprofits with an amazing, all-out fundraiser, for one day only. 

This is an amazing chance to be part of the work that Community Shares supports. They disperse their funds to local nonprofits working towards environmental and social change, and make a profound impact in our Wisconsin communities.  Together, we can make a truly powerful statement about the work that we want to do here in Wisconsin, and the state we want it to be.

You can support the TRC on this page, or the entire Big Share right here.

One day. One community. Many ways to share. Be part of something bigger than you. 

Keep up with us! Our Facebook page will have updates throughout the day!

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Eviction Notice Response

A lot of tenants call us when they've received a 5-day notice, or when they are worried they might. It's scary to hear their concern, and we try to help them by working out what they might be most successful doing, based on the law. 

Advice #1: DON'T PANIC. This isn't an eviction in court, yet, and it's possible to work things out.

Advice #2: There is one thing that you can do to be much more successful in resolving this problem. And so many people don't think to do it.

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Mediation in Wisconsin

One of the best tools that people can use to resolve their tenant-landlord problems is simple verbal communication. Talk it out. (Dancing it out not proven effective).  You can do it yourself (strategies are on our Negotiation 101 post), but sometimes that's really, really hard.

Another solution can be to ask for help from a mediator.

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"Nonrefundable" Fees

We got an email recently that made me laugh. The person had a question, and the answer was incredibly simple, but only if you have a good understanding of tenant-landlord law. Our entire work is bridging the gap between what people don't know and what they need to know. But, sometimes we miss the things people need to know because we already (mostly) know what this stuff means.

The question was: "In your site it says non refundable pet deposits are illegal.. What if the landlord is creative and calls it a non refundable pet fee? ... I have looked everywhere and cannot find anything that specifically explains the difference between a fee or deposit."

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Landlord Entry: Dispelling the Confusion

A new landlord came into our office not long ago - he'd recently begun renting out a property, and he had a problem with the tenant. The tenant had complained about a repair that needed to be done, but then, when the landlord sent repair people to take care of the issue, the tenant wouldn't let them in.

Landlord entry tends to be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to problems in the tenant-landlord relationship: the idea of who gets to come in and when really deals with the core of who gets control over the home; who the space belongs to. There are some pretty clear laws about landlord entry that guide the whole situation, though, and I'm talking about those today - what they mean, and what they don't mean.

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We Need You! (To Pick Ingredients)

Last year, I had the privilege of cooking for our Iron Chef competition, and it was pretty incredible. All the people there -- cooking, judging, eating -- were there because they believe in the TRC. I can't wait for our event this year on March 13, and even though I'm not cooking, I will be eating. With gusto.

Here's how you can participate: you can help pick the ingredients! Click through for the link to our tasty poll.

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Change of Owner

Hello, Best Beloveds! In going through our extensive call log (help us change that!), I realized that there are two calls we get frequently, and they complement one another: 

  1. "My landlord is selling the property! What do I do?"
  2. "I just bought a property with tenants in it! What do I do?"

When a rental property is sold, and there are tenants living inside, there are some pretty easy (and specific!) rules about how everyone should handle the situation. I've realized we don't have a lot on this here website about changes of owners where the property is simply sold, so I'm changing that, right here, right now.

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Parking: Part III

Hello Faithful Readers! Remember when I wrote about Parking and then Parking, and now we're talking about Parking again! Recap: 2013 Wis. Act. 76 passed, and it said that landlords (and their agents) could have cars towed and possibly ticketed if those cars were parked in the wrong spot. But, the Dept. of Transportation was supposed to make regulations so that everyone knew what the rules were about towing and ticketing and such. Those regulations were supposed to be passed by July 1, 2014, but that didn't happen.

What did happen: On July 28, 2014, they made some new "emergency" regulations. On Sept. 26, 2014, Gov. Walker signed the regulations. On Oct. 2, 2014, they were published in the Wisconsin State Journal (and went into effect at that point). On Nov. 11, 2014, there was a hearing about the emergency regulations. On March 1, 2015*, these regulations are due to expire.  

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