Blog | Tenant Resource Center

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.

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Thank You!

It may have seemed strange, at the tail end of our budget crisis, to have a big party. (What budget crisis, you say? Short story below.) But, we did, this past Friday (well, November 13th, 2015), and it was incredible. Lately, the staff here at the TRC has been feeling a little overworked and under appreciated; it's hard to know that your funding (and job) is in jeopardy, and not take that personally.

Speaking for myself, I love the work I do. I love the clients I get to talk to, I love going around the state to teach seminars, and I love writing this here blog. I love being a member of one of the most diverse small staffs I've ever been privileged to be a part of, of being rewarded for being curious about confusing legal issues, and feeling like I'm contributing to a city that I'm so happy to be a part of.

And you know what? When people came to celebrate with us, and made this fundraiser one of the most successful we've ever had, it lifted us up. It told us that people do want us here, and that we do matter to this community. We are so lucky to get the chance to do this work. And we are so thankful for all of you who make it so that we can.

THANK YOU. Photos of the shenanigans below. 

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Friday's Silent Auction Goodies!

Tenant Resource Center is celebrating 35 years of service to the community on Friday, November 13th, 5 - 7 at the Brink Lounge!  Check out our silent auction items (artwork, jewelry, kids packages, date night packages and more! - get your holiday shopping done early!), listen to Cornish Hen Bacon (a smaller version of Chicken Bacon), snacks and cash bar.  Plus, you couldn't hang out with more awesome staff and volunteers dedicated to serving the community!

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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!)

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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.

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Join Us!

Boy howdy do we have a lot going on in the next couple months! Here are 3 ways you can join us and have a great time! Mark your calendars now!

1. We are having a party! On Friday, November 13, the Tenant Resource Center will be celebrating our 35th anniversary! We will hold our annual silent auction at The Brink Lounge from 5pm - 7pm. You can find our event here and on Facebook

How you can help: You can come! You can donate! You can contribute cool silent auction items! You can ask your favorite restaurant to give us food! You can spread the word!

2. Volunteer for Housing Counseling! We have the most amazing group of volunteers here, who get to work directly with clients and help them solve their housing problems! This is engaging and highly rewarding work, with a minimum commitment of only 3 hours/week for a year, and we provide extensive training and support. We are holding our fall training October 17 & 18. For more information and to get involved, click here.

3. Sign up for one of our seminars! Our seminars are intensive workshops where participants learn a whole lot about tenant-landlord law in Wisconsin. Seminars are best suited for landlords, social workers, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and others who need solid knowledge of tenant-landlord law in their professional lives. Workshops are held across Wisconsin (Tomah, Appleton, Milwaukee & Madison) starting October 14. Sign up here!


We have such wonderful supporters! Thanks for being a part of our incredible community!

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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.

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Funding Crisis - Help Needed TONIGHT!

You know, dear readers, it can be discouraging when Dane County says that they don't believe in funding our services. We believe in our work, and we see that our services are unique in Dane County, and in fact all of Wisconsin. To re-energize in times of crisis, we look to our clients. You are the reason we fight to do what we do. This morning, I see an email from a family whose baby has dangerously high lead levels, a tenant who has been denied a service animal, and a landlord whose tenants have severely damaged the rental home. All these people need our help, and we will help them -- but we will need your help to keep doing it!

Here is What's Happening:

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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.

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TRC Facing Funding Cuts

Hi, Everyone. Tough news today - the TRC is facing funding cuts at the Dane County level. Our county funding has been awarded to a different agency, and we believe we are the best agency to provide these services. We really, really need your help.

These cuts would mean:

  • The TRC would no longer run the Housing Help Desk.
  • The TRC would no longer do eviction mediation in Small Claims Court to help anyone living outside the City of Madison, but inside Dane County (such as Fitchburg, Stoughton, Sun Prairie).
  • The TRC would no longer give any housing counseling to anyone living outside the City of Madison, but inside Dane County.

This is so frustrating because this funding process has been so very far from transparent!

This really stings because we raise our own funds every year to provide these services! While most agencies ask for 17% in overhead, we eat $30,000 every year, just to be able to continue to provide these services at the Housing Help Desk. It's because we really believe in this work! We really believe that our clients deserve this help, and we really believe that all the other agencies who would try to do it just wouldn't be able to help these clients in the way that they truly need.

But why are we the best at this? We believe we have the broadest knowledge and longest history of working with these clients (35 years of history!). We know, from our long experience, what works for which clients, what are the best ways to get them to the outcomes they are hoping for. While most agencies require appointments, our staff is committed to being truly available to clients, with walk-in hours at all our locations, no appointments needed. But even more than this, we are the only HUD-approved housing counseling agency in Dane County who talks to tenants about tenant-landlord law (the other agency that vied for this funding is not HUD-approved, neither for homeless services nor rental housing counseling). Beyond that, we are the ones that social workers here in Dane County call when they have a question, when they want to know what to do when their client is in trouble with their landlord, and where, if all else fails, that client can sleep tonight. We get calls from attorneys; we teach seminars statewide for police officers, sheriffs, social workers, public housing managers. We've happily invite anyone to test their knowledge against the knowledge of our staff. What we want is the best for our clients. We think they deserve it.

What we need from you: 

  • Please go to the hearing and testify. Tell them why you believe that the TRC is the right organization to do this job. The hearings are on September 1 from 5:30– 7 p.m. at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Rd., Fitchburg, and on September 2 from 5:30 - 7 p.m. at the Westside Community Service Building, 2598 W. Main St, Sun Prairie.
  • Please email [email protected] and [email protected], and tell them why you believe that the TRC is the right organization to do this job.
  • Save the date! The bigger budget listening session on Human Services will be September 16th (as far as we know)
  • If you want to help remove the TRC's dependence on insecure funding, then please consider donating.
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