Section 8: Terminations & Disputes

Best Beloveds. We are on the third, and last, part of my Section 8 series (exposé? dissertation? riveting journalistic foray? you decide).  Even though the process for learning all this has been engaging and eye-opening for me, I understand that reading it may not have the page-turning quality that, say, a Harry Potter book might. But, despite the law references and dry subject matter, there's a heart in here. And, at the risk of becoming sentimental, that's exactly why we do this.  Today, I'm diving into terminations from the Section 8 program - when someone receives a notice that their Section 8 voucher will be taken away from them. Inside every Section 8 termination is someone who is terrified that they are going lose their housing. Most likely (because they are low-enough-income to qualify for Section 8 in the first place), they are about to become homeless, if they are not able to successfully dispute the termination.  So, for every quibbly sentence about definitions of criminal activity, and references to what, exactly, is good cause, there's someone whose stable housing lies in that balance; who may need an advocate to tell them: "I've read about this! It's worth fighting! Try to overturn this!" Many, many clients get their termination notices and think, "this is it. It's already decided. It's over." BUT IT'S NOT OVER. There's so many more questions to be asked, so many more possible outcomes. I hope that when you read this, you see as I do, all the ways that we can work together to protect those who hold these vouchers, the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Continue reading

Section 8: Info for Landlords

Dear Land of the Internets, I have missed writing to you. I have written many of the blog posts on this website, and haven't been in this space since the summer of 2016. I've been in the background here at the TRC, and I have to say, I'm ready to have a voice again.  GET READY WORLD. To start this new era, I want to talk about Section 8 vouchers. These vouchers, known as housing choice vouchers to those who wish to be politically correct, allow a low-income person or family to pay 30ish% of their income as rent to a landlord, and a housing authority pays the rest. It's a great program, when it works - tenants can live where they wish, landlords have guaranteed payments from a housing authority. Win-win, right? But there are many flaws - there are never enough vouchers for all the people that really need them, and the governing policies can be pretty opaque.  Additionally, and weirdly, it seems like landlords have super different perspectives on these vouchers. Some say: NEVER (hint: not super legal in Dane County). Some say: ALL I WANT IS TO MAKE HOUSING AVAILABLE TO LOW INCOME PEOPLE. Some say: I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION. (All are emphatic). So, this one's for you, guys.  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 landlords. In the coming weeks, we'll address Section 8 for tenants, and Section 8 terminations.  Continue reading

City Info on 2016 Downtown Moving Days

Moving on the Isthmus is about to begin - not everyone moves on August 15th - but most do!  Here's some information you may need! Continue reading

For Landlords: Screening Applicants Based on Criminal History

Hey Y'all! HUD put out some new guidelines about using criminal history in housing transactions, and it looks like a big departure from where Wisconsin's been headed, lately. I'm walking through it today, on behalf of landlords trying to sort out what's what. On June 1, I did this for tenants! Here's the second part, for the landlords.  Continue reading

For Tenants: HUD Rules About Criminal History

Hello, Best Internet Beloveds! Long time, no write. Let's change that, shall we? And how about we start it off with a good 'ole two-parter. In April, HUD came out with some "guidance" (their word) about using criminal history to screen applicants. When landlords use criminal history when choosing tenants, HUD says that's likely not legal. HUD has a whole thought process about why that is, and since we're not attorneys, we'll break the logic down for you, and you can draw your own conclusions. This post is about how these rules might impact tenants, who may be living in housing or searching for housing, and the next part in this series will be for landlords, and how they might navigate these new rules. Continue reading

Rent to Own

You know that one great-uncle, who's out of sync enough with your family culture as to be almost completely irrelevant? For us, in the world of tenant-landlord law, Rent-To-Own contracts are like that.  We often say that Rent-To-Own contract are not covered under tenant-landlord law, but really, the "Rent" part often does fall under tenant-landlord law, even while the "to-Own" part doesn't. Wis. Stat. 704 explicitly says, "An agreement for transfer of possession of only personal property is not a lease" and ATCP 134 excludes a "contract of sale" from applying their administrative code.  However, we live to give here at the TRC, and we think folks should understand the components of Doing This Properly. So today, I'm attempting to explain what people typically mean when they say they "Rent-to-Own," how to do it well, and what to look for when the schnitzel hits the fan. Continue reading

Peaceful Enjoyment

Here at the TRC, we rarely get clients that walk in bursting to tell us some good news. (Even though we love to hear it! Let us know if we helped you!) And, we've learned over the years, so very many things can go wrong. Tenants have a right to exclusive possession in their unit (besides the law and the lease, no one can tell you how to live in your rental home*), and their landlord is supposed to make it so they can peacefully enjoy what happens inside that home, without interference from their surroundings (to the extent that the landlord has control over those things).  We hear a wide range of problems that are, for us, resolvable under peaceful enjoyment, and those run from mundane ("I am an extremely quiet person and my upstairs neighbors walk when I wish they would be silent and still") to extreme ("a neighbor threw a knife through my wall").  But there's a way to do this! There's a method to the madness! There are cases that explain why judges look at these situations the way they do. All this and more, below. Continue reading

Hot and Cold

We've got fridge issues and heat issues lined up in our emails today, and I'm combining them for one blog post for giggles, and also for the thrill of tangential hyperlinks. Fridges: sometimes they die. But what about all the stuff that's inside? Is there someone who is responsible for that, if it's lost? (Also, is Wisconsin unique in its meat raffles?) Heat: it was cold this weekend! And it's supposed to be again, soon. However, not all landlords have the heat on, and frozen tenants are calling us to ask when their heat must be on (spoiler: there's no date! It just has to be warm enough to maintain 67 degrees in your house!) Continue reading

What Kind of Lease Do I Have?

Tenants have different rights and responsibilities, depending on what kind of lease they have. And yet, it can be darn difficult to figure out what kind of lease you have. So today, I'm making pretty charts so you can know the official name of your type of lease, and understand some of the ways that it impacts your rights. To start the day of quizzing, here's a quick round of true or false. Statement: It's legal for leases to be agreed upon verbally, without anything in writing.Response: TRUE. Under Wisconsin law, it's perfectly legal to agree upon things verbally, and to have a lease without a single thing put down in writing. However, verbal agreements make it quite difficult to prove what, exactly, both parties agreed upon, so it's not something we recommend, even though it is legal. Statement: Because I pay rent monthly, I am a month-to-month tenant.Response: FALSE. Even if you pay monthly, if you have a lease with an end date, then you do not have a month-to-month lease. Continue reading

Lead Paint

For those of us with children, I think we have all had the experience, at least once, of knowing that we are in a situation that is harmful to our children, in this very moment, and we are currently powerless to do anything about it. A friend-turned-client called me recently, in the throes of desperation: her baby had high lead levels in his blood, and it seemed like there was so very little that she could do to keep him safe.  In the end, they were able to take steps to get their family and kiddos into a safe home, and today I'm going through those steps with you. Continue reading