Mobile Home Basics

Mobile Homes are not our best subject. I'm going to just start right there. We do many things well, and we are the stronger for knowing our limitations.  However, when landlords are not following laws that regulate mobile home parks, there can be a breathtaking imbalance of power. Tenants in an eviction can end up with many thousands of dollars in moving costs, far more than an average, non-mobile home eviction. Since mobile home laws are difficult to figure out, and we like giving people good information, today I'm going over some basics, the laws that apply to different situations, and the agencies that you can talk to if you need an expert. Continue reading

Breaking a Lease: For Tenants

There comes a point in every tenant's life when they start to discover urges. Urges to leave their contract, to get out of their legal obligation before it's over, and sometimes before it's even begun. These urges are normal in the life of the tenant, even though they feel scary at the time.  All joking aside, I've compiled our once-and-for-all list of steps that tenants should consider when attempting to break a lease. Continue reading

Homestead Credit

We have a couple ways to know that it's Spring here at our office: 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). All the people outside shed layers. It looks cathartic. Sun! 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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

"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." Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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:  "My landlord is selling the property! What do I do?" "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. Continue reading

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.   Continue reading

Foreclosure Law Changes

In May of 2009, a new law went into effect on a national level. It's one of the few federal laws that have an impact on our state-wide tenant-landlord laws, and it was a big deal - the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act. Basically, if a landlord was going into foreclosure on a rental property, it changed the process so that the tenants had some rights to stay in that rental for a while after the property got turned over.  This laws was extended until Dec. 31, 2014. This past year, Congress decided not to extend it again. So now, the law is over, and tenants in this situation have very few rights. Today, we are talking about what this will look like for tenants and landlords and new owners alike. Continue reading