NEW ACT 143 – LANDLORD/TENANT LAW
Wisconsin Landlord/Tenant Law changed significantly on April 1, 2012. The following is a brief overview of those changes:
Check-in-sheet: Landlords are now required to provide new tenants with an information check-in sheet describing the condition of the property at the time of moving in. Previously this was not required, but many landlords provided a blank check-in sheet for the tenant to fill out describing the property condition upon their moving in. The law now requires that the landlord not only provide the information check-in sheet, but also that the landlord complete the check-in sheet describing the condition of the property at the time the new tenant moves in. The landlord must then provide this completed information check-in sheet to the new tenant once the new tenant moves in. The new tenant then has seven days to add his/her comments to the information check-in sheet as to the condition of the property and return it to the landlord.
Withholding A Security Deposit: A landlord may withhold a security deposit for the following reasons: tenant damage, waste or neglect of the premises; unpaid rent; unpaid utilities; and other reasons authorized in the lease pursuant to a “NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS” clause. The landlord is not allowed to withhold a security deposit for normal wear and tear, or for other damages or losses for which the tenant cannot reasonably be held responsible. Some of you may be thinking that this is not a change in the Landlord/Tenant Law and you are correct; this part of the law is now part of Chapter 704 of the Wisconsin Statutes, where previously it was part of ATCP Chapter 134 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.
Timing of the Return of the Security Deposit: If a tenant leaves the property before the termination date contained in the lease, the landlord does not need to return the security deposit or send the security deposit itemization letter until 21 days after the lease termination date. If the landlord is able to re-rent the property sooner, then the landlord has 21 days after a new tenant moves in to return the security deposit and/or send the letter.
Disclosure of Code Violations: A landlord must disclose any code violations prior to entering into a lease or accepting a security deposit if all of the following occur: the landlord knows of a violation; the violation affects the rental unit or a common area; the violation is a significant threat to health or safety; and the violation has not been corrected.
Hold-over Damages Mandated: When a tenant stays in the property after the end of the lease, the landlord must be awarded hold-over damages. Hold-over damages are calculated at double the daily rent for the time period after the lease expired until the tenant actually moves out.
Violations May Constitute Unfair Trade Practice/Unfair Method of Competition: Violations of the Landlord/Tenant Law may now constitute unfair methods of competition or unfair trade practices under Sec. 100.20 of the Wisconsin Statutes. This allows a tenant to sue a landlord for double damages and attorney fees when the landlord has violated the Landlord/Tenant Law. Previously, a tenant could only sue for double damages and attorney fees if the landlord violated certain aspects of the Landlord/Tenant Law. It is unclear if this new language now allows a tenant to argue that any landlord violation of the law allows the tenant to sue for double damages and attorney’s fees, or just those certain items which have now been incorporated into the new law.
Easier to Dispose of Abandoned Property: If, upon vacating the premises, a tenant leaves behind personal property, a landlord can immediately dispose of the property as long as the landlord provides notice of this in the lease or renewal. There is an exception for prescription medication and prescription medical equipment, and when the property is a titled vehicle.
For further information on the changes to Wisconsin’s Landlord/Tenant law contact Attorney Jillayne Y. Verich at Jillayne-Verich@mennlaw.com. All Menn Law attorneys can be reached by telephone at (920)731-6631 to discuss the legal services you require.