For Immediate Release: July 17, 2012
Contact: Rebekah Sweeney, (608) 266-3790
Jorgensen’s Journal: Before Signing a Lease, Know Tenant-Landlord Rights
Do you find yourself “on the move” this summer? If you’re trying to book a U-Haul and surrounded by boxes right now, you aren’t alone.
In fact, thousands of Wisconsinites will be moving in the next couple of months, because the end of summer tends to be the time most rental agreements take effect.
Whether you’re a first-time renter – maybe in college – or an old pro, now is the right time to review your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, under Wisconsin law.
Here’s a list of a few of the most critical rights you’re afforded, as a renter:
-Landlords must disclose all rental costs up-front.
-Landlords must disclose housing code violations, structural defects, and problems with heating or electrical systems.
-You must be allowed to inspect an apartment before you rent it. The Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Wisconsin Department of Trade, Agriculture and Consumer Protection recommends you turn on each light switch and faucet, flush the toilets, check for signs of water damage and for signs of good security systems, including deadbolts, and look for smoke detectors.
If, while considering an apartment, your prospective landlord promises to update the apartment for you, get the words in writing! Note that landlords are responsible for ensuring their properties are up to housing codes. So, if your landlord doesn’t make necessary repairs, you can report them to the local building inspector.
-Before you sign a lease, read the fine print! A six-month or year-long lease should lock you in at one monthly rate, but clauses in the agreement can change that. If you are renting month-by-month, find out how much notice you would get of a rent increase. By law, you must have at least 28 days worth of notice prior to that hike. No matter how you rent, make sure you get the name and address of a person to contact in the event maintenance issues arise.
Tenants also have certain responsibilities to their landlords, the most important being to pay their rent. Know that if you are late in paying by even one day, you risk eviction. In this event, you’d get at least a five-day notice to evict; if you pay in that time, you must be allowed to stay. You can also be evicted for breaking other terms of your rental agreement, or for causing damage to your rental unit. You are always financially responsible for repairing damage you caused to the property.
Finally, if you ever find yourself in a dispute with your landlord, seek outside advice. Visit www.datcp.state.wi.gov
for an easy-to-read guide on all Wisconsin laws relating to renting. You can also call the State Bar of Wisconsin, toll-free, at 1-800-362-9082, or check in with the Tenant Resource Center, operated out of Madison, by calling 1-877-238-RENT.
Hopefully, these tips will help you make a confident move this summer. Best wishes!