Tenant awarded money in Janesville landslide lawsuit

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Ted Sullivan
Sunday, February 28, 2010
— When Peggy Krueger’s landlord held her security deposit, she fought back.

Her apartment building was shut down after an August 2007 landslide at Kiwanis Pond. The city declared the building unsafe.

Krueger repeatedly asked her landlords to return her $650 security deposit. They refused, saying the apartment wasn’t clean.

Krueger claimed she couldn’t safely return to the apartment and clean it.

“I can’t understand how landlords can think that was OK,” she said. “I felt the principle of this whole thing was wrong. I felt it was very unfair.”

Krueger filed a lawsuit in Rock County Court against Tripp and Associates and its owners, Michael and Joan Tripicchio of Elgin, Ill.

She was awarded $26,000.

David Dudley, Krueger’s Madison-based attorney, said the landlords broke Wisconsin’s landlord-tenant laws. He said the landlords fought the lawsuit every step of the way, even though it was over $650.

“It is pretty unusual, and I think part of it was because we were dealing with an out-of-state landlord,” Dudley said. “I don’t think they understood the powerful protections Wisconsin has for consumers and tenants.”

Torrential rainfall caused land behind 1916 E. Racine St. to slide down a steep slope toward Kiwanis Pond.

It left a gash in the hillside about 20 feet by 30 feet long. About 15 feet remained between the edge of the slope and the apartment building.

Krueger left the apartment the same day the city inspected the area and declared it uninhabitable.

She hired movers to remove their possessions from the apartment and put them into storage.

She asked orally and in writing for Tripp and Associates to return her security deposit.

Eventually, she filed a suit seeking twice her financial loss, a judgment declaring the lease unenforceable by the landlord and actual costs and attorney’s fees.

Meanwhile, Michael Tripicchio has filed a lawsuit against the city of Janesville for lost rent and for the city’s “taking of the land” without condemning it.

The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in May.

The apartment building remains empty and uninhabitable.

Krueger hopes other landlords realize they can’t mistreat tenants. She is glad she took on the landlords, who “turned out to be kind of mean.”

“I didn’t think it was fair how I got treated,” she said.

Last updated: 12:46 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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