The security deposit laws in Wisconsin are updated frequently, with the latest update, Wis. Act 176, applying as of 3/2/16. Always check what the current laws may be directly from the state before assuming anything found online is 100% accurate.
1. Tenants have the right to see a list of past security deposit charges.
In addition to the right to inspect a rental unit before signing a lease, tenants also have the right to see what claims a landlord has made against a previous tenant's security deposit.
This request can be verbal or it can be required to be in writing. It must be sent within 30 days of the request or within 7 days after the previous tenant has been notified.
2. Nonstandard rental provisions can be deducted from a security deposit.
Wisconsin allows landlords to “fine” tenants for specific nonstandard actions that are taken. These must be fully outlined in the lease to apply.
3. Landlords have 21 days to return a security deposit.
When a tenant moves out of a rental unit, landlords have 3 weeks to mail a security deposit back to them. The requirement to mail it to a tenant's last known address has been removed from Wisconsin law, so tenants should notify their landlord of their next address as soon as it is known.
4. Normal wear and tear cannot be a nonstandard rental provision.
Routine carpet cleaning from normal wear and tear is also excluded as a claim from a security deposit unless the damage exceeds this standard.
Landlords are not permitted to deduct normal wear and tear, even if a tenant has signed a lease which authorizes it as a nonstandard provision.
Rental provisions can be included to have tenants pay for carpet cleaning outside of the security deposit, but legally these funds are still treated as part of the deposit itself.
5. Tenants must sue to have their security deposit returned.
This requires a filing fee, which can be waived if a tenant is on BadgerCare or receives food stamps.
The amount of the lawsuit can be as much as 2x the amount of security deposit funds that are believed to be due the tenant.
There are other components of the Wisconsin security deposit law for landlords and tenants that should be reviewed as well if you have questions about your specific situation.
This guide is not intended to serve as legal advice – that can only be provided by a qualified attorney in these matters. Always seek professional legal assistance.
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