There is a lot of information on the internet.
Some of it is even true.
Anyone who has spent any time on the internet knows that statement is not an exaggeration. It leaves people like attorney James Ungrodt of Kiel wondering why some people will rely on the internet for things as important in their lives as information and forms for trusts, wills, real estate transactions, and landlord/ tenant issues.
Ungrodt said there often is a “high cost of getting something for nothing.” While a big part of his job—one he has done for almost 45 years—is fixing things which have gone wrong in someone’s life, Ungrodt said he would rather help people prevent those things from happening as much as possible.
The problem lies in the fact that many people are going online for “free forms” and perhaps “free advice.” Ungrodt said, “Usually what you get is less than what you paid.” Complicating matters is the fact that laws, policies and procedures are constantly changing, and there is no guarantee that information found on the internet is up to date. It also is easy to not notice that a Web site has information from two years ago or 10 years ago.
Ungrodt said approximately 10 to 15 years ago there was a statistic from the State of Michigan which showed that well over 20 percent of state will forms were incorrectly executed and therefore were not valid. Wisconsin has the same type of form.
“Getting free advice and forms may appear to save money, but you pay the price later. Ungrodt readily agrees that there is good information published on the internet and elsewhere by bona fide agencies. “There are very good things,” he said. “I’ve run into good things on ownership of vacation homes, for example.” But when it comes to needing assistance for things only an attorney should be handling, there are huge advantages to creating a professional relationship with someone who has the experience that Ungrodt does. By drafting the proper documents, that same vacation home agreement between parents and children or between siblings will not someday lead to a split in the family. “You’re saving money and hassle in the long run” by going to a qualified attorney, Ungrodt said.
“You know what to avoid,” Ungrodt said about the advantage of his experience. “The older an attorney gets, the more they reverse specialize. I’ll just do something I am experienced in.”
Among the things Ungrodt knows well are landlord/tenant relationships, and he has dealt with more of these issues in recent years. Landlords often get “free, valid in all states” leases. Once again, the Wisconsin Legislature has made substantial changes to landlord/tenant laws in just the last two years, and it is questionable whether or not one-size-fits-all internet forms are up to date.
“These changes were supposedly pro-landlord; however, the only landlords really helped were those in Dane County,” Ungrodt said. “The Legislature also added two more ‘prohibited subjects’ to what the landlord cannot place in a lease.” Ungrodt said what used to be known as the “seven deadly sins” of terms prohibited in leases is now up to nine.
He added, “I believe that all landlords now know that if the tenant has paid a security deposit, the landlord must either return the security deposit, or if the landlord does not return the security deposit in full, the landlord must provide a written explanation, noting any charges against the security deposit, and forward that within 21 days after the tenant vacates.”
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