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Thursday, 12 November 2009 00:00

Your Rights as a Landlord

In a University town such as Oshkosh, many property owners wish to make a return on their investment by renting out homes and apartments to college students. However, before making the leap and becoming a landlord, it is important to know not only what is expected of you, but what to expect from your tenants.

Prohibited Lease Provisions

While a landlord and tenant may personalize a rental agreement, there are certain provisions prohibited by Wisconsin law. A residential lease may not establish eviction procedures other than a judicial proceeding, require that the tenant pay the landlord’s legal fees, relieve the landlord from liability for the landlord’s negligent acts or omissions, impose liability on the tenant for events clearly arising outside of the tenant’s control, or waive statutory obligations of a of a landlord. Also, a residential lease may not accelerate a tenant’s rental payments if the tenant fails to timely pay rent, or breaches an obligation of the lease.

A residential lease may not provide that, if a tenant contacts law enforcement, health, or safety services, the landlord will have the right to refuse to renew the lease, increase rent, decrease services, or bring an action for possession of the premises. A lease is void if any of these provisions are present. Even a provision threatening such an action will void the entire lease.

As a result, you may wish to have one of our attorneys look over your proposed residential lease to avoid the inclusion of any of these provisions that could threaten your investment.

Responsibility to Maintain the Premises

A residential landlord is required by law to keep any area of the premises under the landlord’s control in a reasonable state of repair. If providing services to a tenant such as heat, a landlord must also repair all equipment that supplies such services. A residential landlord is also responsible for making all necessary structural repairs to the premises. However, the landlord is not responsible for repairs resulting from damage due to the tenant’s negligence or improper use of the premises. It is important for a landlord to perform all required repairs. If the landlord fails to fulfill this duty and the failure substantially affects the health or safety of the tenant, the tenant is justified in vacating the premises.

If this occurs, the tenant is no longer bound by the lease, and does not have to pay any rent for the time remaining on the lease. Therefore, it is important to ensure the premises you are renting are in good condition in order to get a full return on your investment.

Returning Security Deposits

A security deposit must be returned to a former tenant within 21 days after the tenant vacates the premises. The deposit may be delivered or mailed to the former tenant. A landlord may retain the security deposit to cover any unpaid rent, utility bills that the tenant is responsible for under the lease, or utility bills provided by a government-owned utility for which the landlord will become liable. In addition, if the tenant has damaged the premises, a landlord may retain an appropriate portion of the deposit to cover the repairs. However, such repairs do not encompass normal wear and tear of the premises, for example carpet cleaning.

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