It's Rent Certificate Time Again!

Wow, what a week! With my property manager on vacation in Florida, I have been flying solo here in the office.

I almost forgot that today was Thursday. I was reminded when I heard the noise of the garbage truck going down the hill about 6 AM this morning. Luckily, they don’t pick up my garbage until they come back up the hill in the early afternoon.

Thursday means that I make another trip down to the WNRB-LP studios for another Dr Rent Radio Show broadcast. Tonight I need to introduce a new PSA about the landlord-tenant classes that I will be doing at UWMC for their continuing education program. We will also give you one last reminder about the Rent Smart program being offered by Attorney Andrew Schmidt ( together with the Wausau In-House Network (WIN) and the UW-Extension that is coming up on Tuesday, January 26th.

Tonight’s main topic will be talking about lead. However, we will not be talking about lead based paint. Although lead based paint is probably one of the most well known and well publicized sources of lead, it is not the only source. Tonight, we will discuss another possible source of lead – lead in your drinking water. Before getting to that main topic, we will cover some questions and other issues that have come up over the past week. “Virtual Signatures” have become more common in real estate transactions, are they legal on rental contracts? Also, we will have a brief explanation of what Tax Increment Financing (or TIF) is and how it works for cities and villages as a tool to help development. Finally, the task force that is drafting the new chronic nuisance premises for Weston met again yesterday afternoon, and we will cover the progress that has been made so far.

Last week, we talked about what happens when things go sour in a relationship between tenants. When they break up but both parties are on the lease, the landlord has to be careful to not to get caught in the middle of things. If there are domestic violence issues, there are laws to protect the victim and that is NOT what we are talking about here. We are talking about your run-of-the mill break up. She wants him out (or vice versa), takes away his keys, and then one half tells you, the landlord, they have kicked the other half out and don’t want them back in, and the other half tells you some of their stuff is still in the unit and need keys to get back in. Tenants need to understand that when you sign the lease, you are entering into a contract. The only way to get off of the contract (or get your ex off of the contract) is for all parties to agree, which includes the landlord. However, for business reasons, it is often not in the best interest of the landlord to release anyone from the rental agreement. Also, unless there is some type of restraining order or some other domestic violence situation, the landlord cannot deny someone who is on the lease access to the property. Doing so would constitute an illegal eviction, and could become very expensive for the landlord. So, landlords need to be careful not to get in the middle of these situations, and tenants should understand there is not much the landlord can do to limit access. When this happened to me, what I did agree to do was notify the tenant who was in the property that if the person they kicked out wanted the keys, we would notify them, but we would not deny them access in any way.

We also talked about my trip to Madison to testify against AB 543, which is a proposal to end lease agreements with the death of a tenant. Many of you may think that only makes sense. However, leases, much like almost every other contract, are binding beyond death onto the estate of both parties. The proposal stems from a situation in Madison where a college student was tragically killed in a car accident, and the landlord aggressively pursued collection of the rent for the remainder of the lease against the tenant’s family. Based on the testimony, the landlord had already violated a few laws (such as trying to accelerate the rent due). Also, even though the landlord is entitled to a claim against the estate, there is nothing wrong with using a little bit of compassion and tact.

I understand what the family was put through and agree that “there ought to be a law” – however a law that covers residential rental agreements from the tenant end only doesn’t seem very fair. It sounds like the law that is needed should clarify collection actions against the estate. There should be a law that clarifies how notices are mailed to an estate when trying to collect a debt or file a claim, and that trying to “trick” or “guilt” the family into paying on behalf of the estate should be made illegal with some type of penalties. However, these laws should not be specific to landlord-tenant, but should cover any type of debt collection action.

The main topic of last week’s show was the Homestead Tax Credit and Rent Certificates. The Homestead credit is different than the line item on your Wisconsin income tax forms that asks for the amount of rent you paid for a school tax credit. You do not need a Rent Certificate to verify the amount on that line. Although one isn’t needed for that, if you want one filled out and kept on file in case of an audit, that may not be the worst idea in the world. However, the only time the Rent Certificate is needed is if you file for the Homestead Tax Credit.

First, do you qualify?
– You must be 18 or older as of December 31st, 2009.
– You had to be a legal resident of Wisconsin for the entire 2009 calendar year.
– Your household income for 2009 had to be less than $24,500.
– You had to be either the owner or the renter of your homestead in 2009.
– You do NOT qualify if you are younger than 62 AND you were claimed as a dependent by someone else.
– You do NOT qualify if you are living in a nursing home AND receive Title XIX medical assistance.
– You do NOT qualify if, for EACH MONTH of the entire 2009 year, you received either Wisconsin Works (W2) payments of any amount or county relief payments of $400 or more.
– You do NOT qualify if you lived for the entire year in housing that is property tax exempt (if you living a property owned by a housing authority that makes PILOT payments, you are okay).
– You do NOT qualify if you are claiming a Wisconsin farmland preservation credit or veterans and surviving spouses property tax credit for 2009.
– You do NOT qualify if another member of your household filed a 2009 Schedule H (Homestead Credit Form).
– And, you do NOT qualify if the Schedule H form is being filed on behalf of someone who is deceased.

If you qualify, you will either need to file for this credit with the Schedule H, or the Schedule H-EZ. And, if you rent, to prove how much you paid in rent, you will need to include a Rent Certificate. If you moved during the year, you will need one Rent Certificate for each specific address you lived.

When filling out the Rent Certificate, both the landlord and the tenant need to get it right the first time. You will need to file an original copy. There cannot be any corrections, including white out. This is to avoid the landlord filling in certain rent numbers and having the tenant change those numbers after the landlord has signed it.

There is no legal requirement for the landlord to fill out the Rent Certificate. Although to me, refusing to fill one out for your tenant(s) is bad policy and a bad customer service move. If your landlord won’t fill out the form, there is a box that you, the tenant, can mark and then fill out the form yourself. However, you will need to provide evidence of the rental payments made if the landlord didn’t fill out the form. You will need to include copies of your cancelled checks. Or, if you paid in cash, copies of the receipts that you were issued. (Per state law, if you pay your rent in cash, the landlord MUST issue you a receipt.).

So… an informative show last week, and more good information coming up later this evening. As always, the Dr. Rent Radio Show can be heard from 5 PM to 6 PM in the Wausau area on 93.3 FM, WNRB-LP. It can be heard everywhere else on the internet by logging into our streaming broadcast at

Until then… HAPPY RENTING.


About drrent

Wausau, Wisconsin Landlord, past president of the Wisconsin Apartment Association, Host of the Dr Rent Radio Show on WNRB-LP, 93.3 FM, Wausau, WI
This entry was posted in AB 543, Death, Homestead Credit, Questions, Rent Certificate, Rent Smart, TIF Funds, UW-Extension, UWMC, WNRB and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to It's Rent Certificate Time Again!

  1. Briana says:

    Question: Recently I “sublet” my apartment to a girl going to college in order to cut my rent down and have time to stay with my boyfriend at his house. She moved into my place in August and has just been writing me a monthly check for her portion of the rent. Then, I deposit her check and write the landlord a check for the full amount. (I originally signed the lease and had lived there alone previous to August when she moved in) The landlord is fine with her being there, but she has never signed a lease and I always pay the full rent from my checking account.

    My roommate has now asked me for a Rent Certificate. She said since she “pays rent” to me she wants me to fill out the form. Yet I planned to turn in my rent certificate with my taxes claiming the full amount since the rent checks are in my name and the lease is in my name. How can I sign her form as ‘the landlord’ for her portion and since she isn’t even on the lease is she just SOL? Confused.

    Thanks for any help!

    • drrent says:

      Briana, Thank you for the GREAT Question…

      The situation as I understand it is this (and correct me if I am wrong).. you were the tenant to your landlord. You then sub-let the apartment (with your landlord’s consent). The sub-lessor paid rent to you, you continued to pay rent to your landlord.

      As for your rent certificate from your landlord, if you were the only person on the lease, then you are the one whose name is on that rent certificate. However, keep in mind that the rent certificate should only be filled out for your period of residency. If you were not living there, you are technically not allowed to recieve the credit for those months of non-residency. However, if the apartment was still your primary residence and you just stayed with your boyfriend alot but didn’t technically live there.. you are still fine.

      Now with your renter. When you sub-let, you create a new rental agreement where instead of a tenant, you are now the landlord and the sub-lessor is your tenant. That means that you have all of the same obligations that a landlord has. Even if nothing was in writing, a verbal rental agreement is still a rental agreement. Therefore you are the landlord and she is well within her rights to ask you to fill out a rent certificate as her landlord for rent she paid to you.

      Now, under state law, there is no requirement that a landlord fill out the rent certificate. If the landlord refuses, the tenant can fill it out and mark the box that said landlord refused. They must then also include copies of all cancelled checks or receipts for cash payments (landlords are required by law to issue a written receipt for any cash payment).

      Keep in mind that rent that you recieved from your sub-lessor was income to you.

      I hope this helps.

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