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

← Back to Repairs. 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

Fee Waiver at Small Claims Court

If you read the pages that we write here, you know that many say something along the lines of, "if your problem is this, and the law says this, then write a letter and worse case scenario, sue the other party in Small Claims Court." We do this because tenant-landlord law is mostly set up for folks to go to court and get payment for losses if they can't find another way to resolve the problem. This allows a judge to make a decision about whether or not laws were followed, and who, in the end, should be paid.  Often, our lowest-income clients are reluctant to go to Small Claims Court. However, they usually don't know that Small Claims Court allows low-income folks to file without paying any fees for filing or service. So, filing can be free, and the only thing you have to lose is the money you don't sue for. Continue reading

Rent Abatement

← Back to Repairs. When repairs get really bad, many tenants get to a point where they have Had Enough. Some internal line in the sand has been crossed, and all negotiation and reason fly out the window. And they stop paying rent. Which is a terrible idea. We normally meet these tenants when they are astonished to find an eviction notice at their doors, citing them for unpaid rent. Frankly, eviction hearings are most often the result for tenants who find themselves in the midst of reactive rent withholding, and are shocked to discover that there is actually a way to withhold rent legally, or to reduce rent legally, during the time that repairs have gone un-fixed. If only they had known!  But you have the opportunity, here in this very post, to learn all the things a person should know about rent withholding and abatement, so that you are as protected as you can be. Continue reading

Conversations About Homelessness

While we work on the calls that are still coming in from Moving Day, here are a couple interesting things that have popped up lately. It seems like there are more public conversations going on lately about homelessness, and we're glad to hear those conversations happening. Many of our clients are facing homelessness as a result of housing problems, so knowing that people, beyond the politicians, are thinking about homelessness... that's a great thing.  Continue reading

This Was a Terrible Idea: When the Apartment Fairy Tale Becomes a Thriller

50% of Madison's population are tenants. A good number of those moved this past weekend, with their leases beginning or ending on August 15. But not all new tenants are prancing around their glorious new apartment, and soaking their sore muscles in glowingly lit clawfoot tubs. For some, the fairy tale that might have been true when they signed their lease is anything but, now. This one's for you guys. Continue reading

Toss It! What to Do With All Your Moving Day Garbage

Moving day means that there are SO MANY WAYS to get rid of stuff around Madison, including things that you normally have to pay to get the city to dispose of (tv's, appliances). Here's a list of all the ways you can get all of it gone, as well as the other things (road closures, etc) you should be thinking about if you're moving this week. Continue reading

End of the Lease: Protect Your Security Deposit

Here in Madison, we're getting close to the August 15 madness, where a bajillion (it feels like) apartments turn over from one set of tenants to another. For those of you who haven't experienced this, it's mayhem. So we're trying to get all those tenants out there ready to go.  As a tenant, there are steps you can take to protect your security deposit as your lease is ending. This post is about the ways you can make sure your security deposit is as refundable as possible. Continue reading

Renters Insurance

← Back to Repairs. Did you know that usually a landlord's homeowners insurance doesn't cover a tenant's belongings in case of emergency? That if a tornado were to hit, or a fire were to burn the house down, or an upstairs neighbor's pipe burst, it's unlikely that a landlord's insurance would cover your stuff?* It seems like many tenants don't know how to wade through the terms of an insurance policy, afraid of making a mistake. But when it comes to a renters insurance policy, the biggest mistake a tenant can make is not one to get one at all. Today, I'm putting a bunch of information in one place, hoping that if I break things down, all of you readers out there, who don't have renters insurance, might get a little more information. Continue reading


Last week, I wrote about mold, and quietly referenced "negligence," something that we talk about a lot here at the TRC, but the laws aren't real clear on. Negligence is a big deal in a lot of repair issues, so today I'm breaking it down. It can be really hard to hold someone financially responsible for a problem they could have prevented, but it's certainly possible, and today we're looking at how to do it. Spoiler alert: everyone should write more letters. It's a lost art. It'll help you in the long run. Details below. Continue reading