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Can a Landlord in Wisconsin Keep a Security Deposit for Unpaid Rent?

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    Overview

    • Although Wisconsin landlords can enter into oral leases with their tenants, they may have to provide a written disclosure at the beginning of each tenancy providing tenants with the names and addresses of their property managers or other authorized agents. Landlords who rent buildings with less than five units and reside on their premises are not required to provide this written disclosure. Wisconsin landlords must also provide other oral or written disclosures to their tenants before they enter into written or oral leases with them. Landlords must disclose whether tenants are responsible for paying for utilities, the method of billing to divide utility fees between tenants and any known housing code violations. Landlords must also notify their tenants if their units cannot maintain a heating temperature of at least 67 degrees.

    Wisconsin Security Deposit Law

    • Landlords can collect security deposits from their tenants, but they must first provide their tenants with at least one week to inspect their premises and document any existing damages. Wisconsin landlords are not required to keep their deposits in interest-earning accounts. As of 2011, Wisconsin law allowed landlords to charge tenants up to $20 as a nonrefundable application and credit report fee if they provide their tenants with a copy of their credit reports. Landlords can use their tenants' security deposits to cover any unpaid rent if they move out before their leases expire. However, Wisconsin law requires landlords to mitigate their damages by engaging in reasonable efforts to find replacement tenants. Wisconsin law does not allow landlords to implement standard charges for rug shampooing or cleaning fees without actual damages.

    Security Deposit Time Limits

    • Under Wisconsin law, landlords have 21 days after their tenants vacate their apartments to return their security deposits. If a landlord retains a portion of a tenant's security deposit, he must return any remainder within 21 days. Furthermore, to keep a tenant's security deposit or partial deposit, a landlord must notify his tenant in writing of his intent to use her security deposit toward unpaid rent or damages. A landlord's written notification must include an itemization of charges. Landlords are not required to return security deposits if their tenants did not provide them with a forwarding address. Wisconsin landlords may also use their tenants' security deposits to cover unpaid utility fees if they provide a written notification and itemization of charges within 21 days after their tenants move out.

    Termination Notices

    • Landlords can evict their tenants for failing to pay rent by providing written notice. Landlords must give their month-to-month tenants at least five days to pay or quit. Wisconsin law also allows landlords to terminate their tenancies without giving their tenants five days to pay their delinquent rent payments if they gave them a five-day written notice to pay or quit within one year. If a tenant fails to pay rent again or pays rent late, landlords can give him a 14-day quit notice. Their 14-day termination or quit notices do not have to provide tenants with an opportunity to pay delinquent rent.

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