As a full-service firm, Curran Law Office has worked on both sides of the landlord-tenant relationship.  Our broad depth of experience is of great benefit to those clients who have landlord-tenant issues. We are experienced in handling all issues arising out of the landlord-tenant relationship, including the following common issues:

  • Drafting, interpreting and enforcing all types of leases:
    • Residential leases
    • Commercial leases
    • Multi-family or apartment leases
    • Agricultural leases
    • Industrial leases
    • Equipment leases
  • Evictions
  • Security Deposits

Common Questions

Do you have questions about Landlord – Tenant Law in Wisconsin?

Look below for answers to frequently asked questions

Must a lease be in writing?

No, a written lease is not required if the lease is for one year or less.  However, if the lease is for longer than one year, the lease must be in writing to be enforceable.  In all cases, it is a good idea for both the landlord and the tenant to have a written lease. If a written lease is used, a copy must be given to the tenant, and it must contain certain information and provisions required by state law.

Can a lease insulate a Landlord from all liability?

No, a lease cannot insulate the Landlord from liability caused by the Landlord’s acts or omissions, nor can it make a tenant liable for property damage or personal injuries arising from causes clearly outside the tenant’s control.

Can a tenant sublet or assign a lease?

For tenancies of one year or less, the tenant must get the landlord’s consent before subletting the leased premises or assigning a lease to another person. This rule applies even if there is no written lease. For longer tenancies, a lease may be freely assigned or the premises sublet unless the lease expressly prohibits or restricts that right.

What is the purpose of a security deposit?

The primary purpose of a security deposit is to compensate the landlord, if necessary, for cleaning and repairs to restore the property to the condition it was in at the beginning of the lease, ordinary wear and tear excepted.

Are there limits to how much a Landlord can charge for a security deposit?

No. State law does not limit how much a landlord can charge.

When must a landlord return the security deposit?

For residential leases, within 21 days of the Tenant moving out and surrendering the keys to the Landlord, the Landlord must either return the security deposit or provide the Tenant with an itemized statement of how the deposit was spent on cleaning and repairs along with whatever portion of the deposit was not spent.

Can a Tenant have the Landlord use the security deposit for the last month’s rent?

Probably not.  The security deposit is not designed to pay rent. Read your lease.  It probably prohibits the Tenant from telling the landlord to use the deposit for rent.

Can a Landlord use a security deposit to pay the rent?

Yes, if the Lease permits it, a Landlord may elect to use the deposit to pay delinquent rent along with other delinquent charges, such as utilities.

Can a Tenant move out or withhold rent if the Property needs repair?

If the property becomes untenantable, the Tenant may move out if the condition was not caused by the Tenant and if the Landlord fails to promptly repair the condition after getting notice thereof.  If the Tenant does not move out, rent may be partially reduced to the extent that the Tenant is deprived of full normal use of the premises.  Such situations present complex legal issues.  It is smart to talk to a lawyer before moving out or reducing rent.

Can the Landlord charge a “late rent fee”?

Yes, but only if a written lease provides for it.

How does a Landlord terminate a lease if the tenant fails to pay rent?

It depends on the terms of the lease and the frequency of rent payments.  In a month-to-month lease, the landlord has two options. First, the landlord can give the tenant a notice stating that the tenant must either pay or leave within five days. If the tenant pays within five days, he or she can continue to live on the premises. If the tenant doesn’t pay within five days, the landlord can begin eviction proceedings. The second option is the landlord can give the tenant notice to leave within 14 days. This 14-day notice does not give the tenant the right to pay and stay.  The tenant must move out.

Can a landlord unilaterally remove or shut out a tenant from the premises?

No.  The landlord must follow the judicial eviction procedures of Chapter 799 Wis. Stats.

Can a Landlord evict a tenant for calling the cops?

No.   A landlord may not increase rent, decrease services, or seek to evict a tenant for calling the cops, or health services, or safety services.

Can a tenant be evicted for selling drugs or engaging in gang activity on the premises?

Yes, the landlord can evict the tenant if the landlord has received written notice of such activities from a law enforcement agency.  The landlord must give the tenant proper notice to vacate the premises.

Can a landlord evict a tenant in the winter?

Yes. The time of year has no effect on when a tenant can be evicted.

What remedies are available if a landlord violates Wisconsin’s residential rental practice rules?

Anyone who suffers a monetary loss because of a violation by the Landlord may file a lawsuit and recover up to twice the amount of their pecuniary loss, that is, their out-of-pocket losses, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

When can a landlord enter the tenant’s premises?

The landlord can enter at reasonable times to inspect the premises, make repairs, or show the premises to prospective tenants. The landlord usually must give 12 hours’ notice before entry, unless immediate entry is necessary to preserve or protect the premises, such as in case of a fire or a burst water pipe. If the landlord gives the required notice, the tenant can’t refuse entry.

What can a tenant do if the landlord refuses to make repairs?

The landlord must keep the premises in a reasonable state of repair. If the cost of the repair is minor in relation to the rent, however, the tenant may be responsible for fixing the problem.  Read the lease. The tenant also must pay for any damage caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests.  The tenant should report building code violations to the local building inspector. The Landlord cannot evict the tenant for reporting such violations. If conditions are so bad that the premises are uninhabitable, the tenant can take the landlord to court, or move out and avoid paying further rent. Taking such action is complicated and so it is wise to consult with an attorney.

How can a landlord legally evict a tenant?

A landlord must start an eviction action in court by filing a summons and complaint against the tenant.  Of course, before starting an eviction action, the landlord must have a legal basis for eviction and must have complied with any notice requirements contained in state law and the lease.

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