Date With (Rental) Destiny

In some ways, there are a lot of similarities between looking for rental housing and beginning to date someone. You have those first-date jitters, perhaps, and try to imagine yourself with this person for a while. You make yourself look as pretty as possible, and try to figure out if the person you're dating is also that pretty when they're hanging out in their jammies. (Or if that rental home is as warm in the winter as it is in the springtime. Or if it has mold, that the landlord just bleached off.)  There's a lot to think about as you prepare for your housing search. Here's our guide for being a sassy and fabulous renter. Continue reading

Searching for Housing

So many of our waiting emails and calls have a sentence something like this: "my landlord wants to renew/not renew my lease, and it's causing me problems." Sometimes tenants signed the lease renewal before they really thought about it, and they really want to move; some tenants don't want to sign because their landlord is not awesome, but also aren't sure where they are headed. Some folks won't have a place to live after next month. But the common denominator is: how do I look for housing? Here's what we can't do: tell you whether it's a good idea to sign your lease or not tell your landlord to tear up your lease renewal (that renewal that you signed without thinking and then realized that you want to buy a house/live in a place where the repairs get done/can't stand your roommates/etc) tell you if you'll be able to find a new place to live or not find housing for you - you'll have to sift through these resources and find what works for you Here's what we can do: show you resources that are helpful in finding housing. Continue reading

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

← Back to Repairs. 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

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

"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

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