The laws are on the tenant’s side, KEW is on yours.
When it comes to residential rental properties, KEW represents landlords exclusively, and never tenants. A week where a KEW attorney is not in eviction court is rare, and we currently provide evictions and other court representation for landlords in nearly half of the counties in Wisconsin. Our landlord practice includes representation for single unit owners, apartment complexes, property management companies, national companies with properties in Wisconsin, vacation/short-term rentals/Airbnbs, Manufactured Housing Communities (click here for KEW’s Manufactured Housing Community page), commercial landlords, and more.
A lease is the contract between the tenant and the landlord, and it lays out the expectations of each party. Depending on where the property is located, certain provisions must be included within a lease, and other provisions may make the lease wholly invalid. For example, in order to charge any late fees, a lease must specifically lay out what fees are to be charged. Moreover, a lease that purports to allow a landlord to increase rent or impose liability on a tenant for damages beyond the tenant’s control will be found invalid. KEW has been faced with more illegal lease clauses than we could possibly count and has seen enough poorly drafted leases in action to know that a properly drafted lease is a key component for a landlord’s success.
A KEW attorney is in eviction court nearly every week, for evictions ranging from nonpayment of rent to presence of unauthorized individuals on the premises to failure to comply with rules and regulations. Before an eviction can be filed, however, the proper notice must be given to any tenant, in a specified format, based on the type of tenancy and other factors. KEW even has a blog article on notices, Five Days, Fourteen Days, and The Right to Cure: Notices to Terminate a Residential Tenancy. Once proper notice is given, and if the tenant doesn’t fix a problem addressed in the notice, if applicable, an eviction is filed in small claims court. In most counties, the next step involves a return date. At the return date, the parties can attempt to find a workable solution, and procedures vary widely from county to county. At trial, if the court finds a basis for eviction exists, the court will grant the eviction. Next, the landlord may ask for a writ which is given to a sheriff and authorizes the sheriff to remove the tenant.
Whether or not you can retain your tenant’s security deposit depends on a number of factors including the terms of your lease, the reason for your desire to retain the deposit, and more. More information about security deposits can be found on KEW Tips: Security Deposits and Abandoned Property: Post-Tenancy Considerations. For example, landlords are not allowed to keep a security deposit to cover regular wear and tear of a carpet. However, if a tenant burned a large hole into the carpet, requiring replacement, that would be reason to keep a portion of the security deposit. Penalties for failure to properly return a security deposit include double damages, attorney’s fees, and even a potential for criminal liability. More on the criminal liability can be found at KEW Tips: Residential Landlords Beware: Criminal Liability for Security Deposit Retention.
When a tenant leaves behind a tenant’s own personal property, landlord responsibilities regarding how to handle the property can vary and, depending on the date and terms of the lease, the law may prescribe specific steps you must take. For a basic overview of abandoned tenant property, check out the following KEW Tips article: Can I Sell Property my Tenant Left Behind? If you’re concerned that selling off or junking property a tenant left behind could come back to bite you, we can walk you through what you should – and shouldn’t – do and when.
Any landlord knows that unpredictable and obscure issues pop up frequently when owning or managing a property. Whether you have a tenant that determines he can house a dozen additional friends or one that attempts to convince all of your other tenants to protest paying rent, an applicant who takes issue with your denial of her application for tenancy due to her criminal record, or a tenant that has filed bankruptcy, we are available to advise you through the rocky patch and get you through to the other side.
Since 2012, there have been at least four major, far-reaching changes in landlord-tenant law. Leases and other documents drafted, and practices put in place, before any one of these changes in the law, could be at risk of noncompliance. One particularly challenging aspect to this is that local laws may not have been updated to reflect such changes. For example, a Madison General Ordinance requires a landlord to provide a tenant with a document titled “Tenant Rights and Responsibilities” explaining various Tenant responsibilities and summaries of relevant law. However, this requirement is overridden by a Wisconsin state law prohibiting any municipality from enacting an ordinance requiring landlords to communicate information to tenants that is not required under federal and state laws.
KEW represents Manufactured Housing Communities in matters including lease drafting, evictions, DATCP defense and more. More information can be found on KEW’s Manufactured Housing Communities page.