Tina Wilson wants people to know their rights.
Wilson, the portfolio manager for Ogden and Company, a real estate company, has seen what it looks like when tenants are unfamiliar with the renting process.
“People often get taken advantage of,” Wilson said. “There are things you think people should know, and they just don’t.”
So, Ogden and Company refers tenants to Milwaukee’s Rent for Success program, which teaches people to be better tenants.
The program, run by the Department of Neighborhood Services, educates renters on how to make safe and healthy choices in their housing. It also provides resources for situations renters may encounter.
Herlyn Roberson, outreach division program administrator, said Rent for Success was initiated by Mayor Tom Barrett.
“He decided that since we’re teaching landlords what their responsibilities were, we should be teaching tenants the same thing,” Roberson said.
The program works with tenants on skills such as understanding rental agreements, finding healthy food in their area and ending a bad tenancy.
“We go over the small things like looking in cabinets and flicking light switches when you go to see a home,” she said. “And also reading contracts completely in order to know your responsibilities.”
Roberson said the most important thing the program teaches renters is how to advocate for themselves.
“We want renters to have great relationships with property owners,” she said. “One way to do that is to know as much about what your landlord is supposed to be doing as the landlord does.
Ogden and Company uses the program as a second chance for struggling tenants trying to learn their responsibilities.
“We understand that people aren’t taught how to be tenants,” Wilson said. “This is a way for them to gain insight and not be penalized for what they don’t know.”
Other organizations also encourage residents to use the program, including Community Advocates, a community-based organization that serves low-income families.
Shawanna Lindenberg, a housing department manager at Community Advocates, said the program provides residents with invaluable information.
“We want to train renters because we want them to live happy, stress-fee lives,” Roberson said.
More about Rent for Success
The program, now in its third year, is offering free virtual trainings. To attend a virtual session, you need to have five or more people and reach out to Herlyn Roberson at HROBER@milwaukee.gov