There are about 44 million residential renters across the country. Renters consist of many types of people and families with varied needs and requirements. Landlords have some responsibilities, but they must also protect themselves and their properties. Renters also have some responsibilities, including taking proper care of the property and paying rent on time. It is essential for landlords to understand their legal responsibilities to prevent problems and future litigation. An experienced real estate attorney will help you prepare leases and assist with the resolution of problems if they occur.
Provide a Habitable Dwelling
One of the primary responsibilities of a landlord is to provide a tenant with a habitable dwelling. In other words, the apartment or house must be livable. If the dwelling does not fulfill the basic needs, it will not be considered habitable. Some types of problems are more serious than others and might be considered a violation of habitability. For instance, a simple leaky faucet is minor and does not impact a tenant’s ability to live in the space. A broken toilet that does not function could be a violation of habitability if that is the only bathroom on the premises. A landlord must repair any defects to make the dwelling livable.
The landlord has a duty to disclose any defects to a tenant before they sign the lease. A landlord must tell a prospective tenant about any code or housing violations that are in the residency or in the common areas of the property. If a tenant agrees to rent the property based on repairs, the landlord must provide a written statement of the repairs to be made, and both parties must sign it. If during tenancy, there are damages that affect the health or safety of a tenant and the landlord does not make prompt repairs, the tenant is allowed to reduce the amount of rent they pay until the problem is fixed.
A landlord may collect a deposit at the start of a lease to be used as security. The landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant no later than 21 days after the tenant moves out. Wisconsin law does not require landlords to pay interest to tenants on their security deposits. If the tenant damages the apartment, the landlord has the right to make the appropriate deductions. Damages are those things that happen to the dwelling due to the negligence or abuse of the tenant. They do not include normal wear and tear. The landlord must provide an itemized list of deductions and costs for any damages for which they are withholding security deposit funds. If the costs for damage repair exceed the amount of the security deposit, the landlord may seek additional compensation.
It is important to note that the landlord must provide a written list of damages and deductions to the tenant. If the landlord fails to provide this, the tenant has the right to take legal action against the landlord. Wisconsin allows damages in twice the amount of the unlawfully held security, plus attorney costs and court fees if the landlord illegally withheld the return of the security deposit.
Landlords must follow the law while providing a safe and habitable living space for tenants. The lease should include everything necessary to protect the landlord. To learn more about landlord responsibilities and to assist with disputes, contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online for a consultation.