Landlord Tenant Law in Wisconsin

A frequent problem which arises in Landlord/Tenant matters in Wisconsin involves the return of security deposits. Under the Administrative Code, a landlord is required, within 21 days after the surrender of the premises, to return all security deposits, less any amounts withheld by the landlord. The deposits are to be returned in person or by mail to the last known address of the tenant. If a tenant has not left a forwarding address the landlord may mail the deposit to the last known address even if it is the rental property at issue.

If the landlord withholds any portion of a security deposit, the landlord must, within the 21 day time limit, deliver or mail to the tenant a written statement accounting for all amounts withheld. The statement must itemize in detail each item of physical damage or other claim against the deposit and the amount withheld for each item or claim.

Security deposits may be withheld only for tenant damage, waste or neglect of the premises or for the nonpayment of rent, utilities, and/or mobile home parking fees. A landlord is not allowed to withhold amounts for normal wear and tear or other damages or losses for which the tenant is not otherwise responsible for under applicable law.

If a landlord does not return the deposit within the 21 day time limit, withholds all or part of the deposit without providing a detailed and itemized statement within the 21 days, or withholds all or part of the deposit for unauthorized items, a tenant may then sue the landlord in Small Claims Court for double damages and actual attorney fees (if an attorney is used).

A tenant who holds possession of the premises, does not have a rental agreement and pays rent on a monthly basis is considered a month-to-month tenant. Such a tenancy can be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant giving the other written notice to terminate the tenancy. The notice must be given at least 28 days in advance. It must be received on or before the normal due date for rent. For example, if rent is due on the September 1st and the tenant mails a Notice to Terminate Tenancy which the Landlord receives August 31, then the tenancy would end at the end of September. If the Landlord does not receive the notice until September 7th then the notice would not go into effect until October 1st and the tenancy would end at the end of October.

The Notice to Terminate Tenancy must be in writing and substantially inform the other party of the intent to terminate the tenancy and the date of termination. A notice is not invalid because of errors which do not mislead. The notice may be either served personally or by certified or registered mail.

If a tenant, whether there is a written rental agreement or not, fails to pay rent when due, the landlord may give the tenant a 5 day quit or pay notice. This notice gives the tenant the option to pay all past due rents within 5 days and remain in the tenancy. If the tenant does not pay then the tenancy is terminated after the 5 days.

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