Renting With Disabilities

Being a tenant with disabilities can be an enormous challenge. Untreated mental illness can lead to homelessness. Lack of ability to earn income can lead to homelessness. Asking for accommodations for a disability can (illegally) lead to homelessness. Being a person with obvious disabilities can (illegally) lead to "nothing being available."  Here's are some of the tips we give to tenants with disabilities - things to help, things to think about, things to watch out for.  Continue reading

Normal Wear and Tear

Right this very moment, in our office, is a young tenant, trying, for the life of him, to figure out "normal wear and tear." Recently, a landlord called us and urged us very convincingly to do a better job of explaining it.  But it's haaaaard, we say, it's up to a judge, the law doesn't define it very well... What is "normal wear and tear," you say? Well, Best Beloved, that's the hard part, isn't it?  But today, I'll give it a fair shot. Continue reading

Moved Into a Dirty Apartment?

So you've moved! What happens to tenants who have finally moved into their new apartment, are looking around, and are realizing that it's kind of gross?  Continue reading

Five Steps for a Good Moving Day

Tenants moving in or out can avoid many expensive and stressful situations by following these tips! Continue reading

Notice When Ending a Tenancy

Here's something we see pretty regularly here: A tenant comes in and says something like, "I have a lease for a year, and I'd like to stay on. How do I get my landlord to tell me if they're renewing?" Or, similarly, a landlord will say something like, "my tenant hasn't responded to my notice about renewing. How do I find out if they're staying or not?" Notification is rarely required for people staying on (exceptions further on), is sometimes required for folks ending a tenancy, and is often confusing.  When is it required for you? Read on... Continue reading

Should I Stay or Should I Go? (Notice to End a Term Lease?)

One of the reasons that I'm so excited to be writing this blog series is that I get to answer Those Questions. Those Questions are the ones that our housing counselors get that are so wearily complicated, and clients get so lost in the twists and turns, the if-this-then-thats.  Here, I have the luxury of writing it down so that the complications can be explored. This is one of Those Questions, sampled from many we've received: Dear TRC, I am a tenant living in an apartment. I have a year long lease going from August 1, 2013 - July 31, 2014, but my lease also says that 60 days' notice is required to end the lease. I want to leave on July 31, but my landlord says I had to give 60 days' notice to end the lease when it says, on July 31. What should I do? Here are the components of this question: a lease with a term (ie, a year long lease, a 9 month lease, any defined period of time), where beginning dates and end dates on the lease are written down, AND a requirement to give notice to end the lease (could be 60 days, 1 month, 30 days, 45 days, 90 days) What's the deal? Are those legal? If the lease a defined period of time, doesn't it end when it says it ends? For everyone involved, this can get pretty confusing.  Explanations, with tips for landlords and tenants, below. Continue reading

Lapsed Leases

We had a call from a tenant recently, who believed that because her signed lease had lapsed (she was still residing in the unit), that none of the lease terms applied to her.  Alas for her, this isn't true.  In fact, this is something that many clients come in and find confusing - a housing counselor will ask the tenant if they have a lease, and the tenant will say no, even if he/she has a lease that was signed years ago and that everyone is still following. So, in the interest of de-confusifying the masses, here's how lapsed leases work: Continue reading

Repairs and Reimbursement

We're getting to the time of year where many tenants in Madison are moving into new rental housing - many changes occur over August 15 of each year here in the city.  The rest of Wisconsin is wise enough to make leases end on all of the days of the year instead of just one incredibly frantic day, but either way, one of the big questions we get from tenants, as they are moving into a new place, is: "My landlord didn't _____ (clean, paint, repair), can I do it myself and get paid back?" If you read this blog regularly, the answer shouldn't be a surprise to you: it's complicated.  But there are some ways everyone involved can make it more obvious. Continue reading

Reading Your Lease

One of the most frequent pieces of advice that we give at the TRC is to tell someone to read their lease. Tenants, landlords, cosigners, subletters... everyone should know what's in the legal contract that they are signing.   We see this with different faces: occasionally, landlords come into our office hoping to evict a tenant for a clause that isn't in their lease; tenants are startled to find they are being held to a rule that they didn't know about; cosigners are shocked to discover that they can end up with a bill due to the damages of all the tenants. Here are some tips for making sure you don't miss the important parts: Continue reading

Summer Heat

When I talk to people that have moved to Wisconsin from other places, they often tell me that they are surprised with the intensity of the seasons here. Last winter was brutally cold (winter 2013-2014 was pretty cold for Wisconsin and comparatively mild for Alaska. Sigh). Springs often have floods. Summers have periods of intense heat and drought. Autumn is glorious. While we are free from hurricanes and earthquakes, we have tornadoes, hail, ice storms and snow. Rental housing in Wisconsin isn't always successful in dealing with the extremes. As we let go of the tough winter, and look towards the summer, one question that we regularly get here at the TRC is: "My house is extremely hot. Is there an upper limit to how hot it can be?   And the answer is, generally, no.  Here are some things to be aware of: Continue reading