Rent Increases

Rent Increases This page covers the legality of rent increases, limitations on rent increases, and frequently asked questions about rent increases.  Continue reading


Tenants who are subletting should make sure they understand their rights and responsibilities. In this blog, we explain different subletting arrangements and best practices for protecting the original and new tenants’ interests. Continue reading

Introduction to New Blogs

It has been a while since we published a new blog! COVID threw us all into new areas of focus. But we are going to start publishing new blogs and updating the old blogs. Today is the first blog. It focuses on a situation a lot of renters face, especially college students – subletting. Continue reading

(Not) Evicted in Dane County

This post discusses a 2016 UW-Madison Urban and Regional Planning's report: Evicted in Dane County, Wisconsin, A Collaborative Examination of the Housing Landscape.   (See Below for Major Findings) Continue reading

Exclusive Possession

Hey all! 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.   Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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! Continue reading


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.  Continue reading

Emotional Support Animals

Hi Everyone! One of the most common 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’ responsibilities (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. Continue reading

Section 8: Info for Tenants

Hello, fair readers.  As promised, I'm back with information for tenants about Section 8 vouchers (or housing choice vouchers, to use the proper terminology). I'm thrilled to be writing about this, because we get so so so many questions about how to get these vouchers, how to use these vouchers, how to find housing with these vouchers and how to deal with problems while holding a voucher.  As a recap, Section 8 vouchers allow a low-income person or family to pay approximately 30% of their income as rent to a landlord, and a housing authority pays the rest with funding from HUD. It's amazing when it works, devastating when it doesn't, and all the in-betweens tend to be pretty confusing.  I was lucky enough to get some guidance from the City of Madison's Marketing Outreach Coordinator, and an attorney at Legal Action, and I'd love to share the fruits of my labors. This week's post is for tenants (last week's post was for landlords!). Next week, I'll address Section 8 terminations. Continue reading