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General Tips for Avoiding Rental Problems
  • Keep a rental file which includes the lease, addendums, check-in/out forms, copies of letters/emails/texts to and from your landlord, housing inspection reports, notices to enter, and any documentation you have of repairs or security deposit problems.
  • Request and keep a receipt for rent payments or pay by check.
  • Keep notes/phone log with dates and names of any contacts with the landlord regarding problems.
  • Get or put promises from the landlord in writing.
  • Contact your landlord when a problem arises.
Tenant Responsibilities
  • Be aware of the terms of the lease and follow those terms.
  • Pay rent on time.
  • Keep the apartment in a clean, proper, and sanitary condition.
  • Notify the landlord as soon as possible when a repair is needed.
  • Repair or pay for the repair of damages caused by negligence or improper use.
Safety Issues
  • If the building has two or more apartments that are accessed from a common area, the exterior door, doors leading to basements, basement laundries and any storage areas must be locked at all times, and your residence must have a doorbell or buzzer system to alert you when you have guests. MGO 27.05(2)(h)
  • All rental units are to have smoke alarms installed and maintained in each bedroom, in every sleeping area, and within 6 feet of each door leading to a bedroom or sleeping area, and on each floor of the building. Smoke detectors must be hard wired or have 10 year lithium batteries. The landlord is responsible for installing the smoke alarms, tenants are responsible for maintaining the alarms and notifying the landlord if an alarm becomes inoperable. Tenants are not to tamper with, remove, alter, damage, or make the smoke alarm inoperable. Both the landlord and tenant must sign a document relating to the installation, operation and maintenance of smoke alarms, and the landlord must provide fire safety information to tenants. MGO 34.907, 32.06(4)
Check-in and Check-out Forms
  • The landlord must provide you with a Check-in/Check-out form before you move in.
  • The landlord must give not less than seven (7) days after moving in to note anything that was dirty, damaged, broken or missing when you moved in.
  • Return the completed form to the landlord. If you want items repaired, make a separate request.
  • If the landlord fails to provide you with a Check-in form at the start of the tenancy, or fails to provide a Check-out form at the end, they cannot withhold money for the damages or cleaning from your security deposit when you leave.
  • The landlord must inform you that you may request a written list and/or the photographs taken of the physical damages charged to the previous tenant's security deposit. MGO 32.07(5), 32.07(6), ATCP 134.06(1)
Required Landlord Disclosures
  • A landlord must disclose the name, address and phone number of the person authorized to manage, collect rent and maintain the premises, and someone in Wisconsin authorized to accept legal papers and notices in writing on the lease unless the landlord lives in the building and it is four units or less. MGO 32.08(1), ATCP 134.04(1)
  • The landlord must notify you within 10 business days if there is a change in the owner or other person authorized to accept legal notices, the name of the person who collects rent, manages or maintains the premises. MGO 32.08(1), ATCP 134.04(1)
  • Buildings of three units or more must have emergency contact information posted in a readily accessible conspicuous place. MGO 27.04(2)(k)
  • Before accepting any earnest money or entering into a rental agreement, the landlord must disclose all of the following conditions affecting habitability; whether the apartment lacks hot/cold running water; has heating equipment that isn't safe or can't maintain heat at least 67 degrees year-round; lacks electricity or has an unsafe electrical system; has plumbing and sewage systems not in good working condition; has any other conditions that constitute a substantial health or safety hazard. MGO 32.08(2)/ATCP 134.04(2)
  • The landlord must disclose outstanding code violations for which the landlord has actual notice, and must provide copies of any official notices regarding outstanding code violations, copies of rent abatement decisions affecting the unit or common areas, the occupancy limits, the zoning code's family definition and any off-street parking requirements. The landlord shall advise the prospective tenant in writing of the successor tenant's right to abate rent at the time the lease is signed. MGO 32.04(7), 32.08(2), ATCP 134.04(2)

  • The landlord must disclose which utilities the tenant is responsible for. If the utilities are not separately metered the landlord must disclose how it is determined how much each tenant pays for utilities. ATCP 134.04, MGO 32.08(2)(b

Late Fees
  • Late fees cannot be charged, except as specifically provided under the rental agreement. ATCP 134.09(8)(a)
  • A landlord cannot require you to pay late fees of more than 5% of a month's rent. MGO 32.12(11)
  • A landlord cannot charge a late fee for failure to pay a late fee. All payments shall be applied to rent before being applied to a late fee. ATCP 134.09(8)(b)(c), MGO 32.12(11)
Repairs  
  • If repairs are needed, contact your landlord and give them a reasonable time to fix the problem. If they do not fix the problem, call the Building Inspector at (608)266-4551.
  • If your landlord fails to repair or properly maintain your apartment or fails to comply with an order of the Building Inspection Division, you may be entitled to abate/reduce part of your rent. Do not withhold rent for repair problems without first contacting Building Inspection or one or more of the agencies listed in this brochure for advice or assistance. MGO 32.04, Wis. Stats. 704.07(4)
  • If the building owner has failed to comply with orders to make repairs from the Building Inspection Division, a tenant may arrange for repairs to be made to the unit and subtract that amount form their rent. The tenant must give official notice to the landlord that they intend to use these self-help procedures at least ten days prior to commencing repairs. Qualified professionals, as required by law, must do repairs and the cost of repairs may be deducted from rent. This self-help repair procedure can be used in conjunction with rent abatement.MGO 32.17(2)

Tenant's Right to Privacy & Exclusive Possession
  • A landlord cannot change the locks on your apartment as a means of forcing you to move or to limit your access to the premises. (MGO 32.05(1)(a), ATCP 134.09(7))
  • A landlord cannot confiscate any of your property unless they have a lien that you agreed to in a "non-standard rental provision". MGO 32.05(1)(c), MGO 32.12(3), ATCP 134.09(4)
  • A landlord cannot enter your apartment without either your permission on a case by case basis or giving you 24 hours notice to show the apartment or for repairs. Emergencies are an exception to this rule. MGO 32.05(1)(d)
  • A landlord cannot show the apartment for re-rental until 1/4 of the lease term has passed, unless you have given written consent or your lease is less than 9 months or a summons and complaint for eviction has been filed. MGO 32.12(8)
  • A landlord cannot lease the apartment to future renters before 1/4 of the lease term has passed, unless they have notified you of an earlier date in a non-standard rental provision form. MGO 32.12(9)
  • A landlord may regulate guests by stating a guest policy in the lease. They may not prohibit all guests. MGO 32.05(1)(g)
  • A notice by the landlord to show your apartment cannot cover more than three (3) consecutive days or more than three (3) hours a day and must note the specific times of entry. MGO 32.05(1)(e) 
  •  A landlord must knock and identify themselves before entering your apartment. MGO 32.05(1)(f), ATCP 134.09(2)(d)
Last Updated: 05/09/2012

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