Tenant FAQ's

We put this page together to help tenants with the questions we hear most often.

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An Organization of Professional Property Owners.
Southern Wisconsin Landlords Association
Providing education and assistance to
Racine area real estate investors since 1988
.

A member of The Wisconsin Apartment Association.

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Search Listings

 

Our Next Meeting:

SWLA meetings are

open to all landlords

Monthly every third Monday

6:00pm Social Time

Light buffet supper

($5.00 per person)

6:30pm Meeting Time

Non Members

First meeting FREE

$20 Fee for subsequent meeting

Applied to membership fee

when you join

Regular Meetings

October 16

Thank you to our guest speakers for their insight into the various types of finance for real estate investing.

Sara Floyd

Milwaukee Hard Money

Chuck Albee

Southern Wisconsin Landlord Association

Joshua Sopczak

Tri City Bank

Julian Berry

US Bank

Gina Sorenson

US Bank

November 20

Frank Sterbin CPA

http://sterbincpa.com/

Q&A session

Real estate ownership taxes

December 18

Membership Christmas Party

January 15, 2018

Chris Mokler

President of WAA

AND

Gary Goyke

Lobbyist WAA

Meeting Location:

Harbor Lite Yacht Club

559 State Street
Racine, WI 53402
(262) 634-9280

More on meetings

RecentEvents:

“Free landlord training

in Milwaukee”

(NOT the class by Tristen Petit)

The award winning landlord training program operates out of the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) downtown location. The goal is to teach landlords fundamental ways to keep illegal activity out of their property. This program was a runner up for the Ford Foundation Harvard Kennedy School of Government Awards program and a 1996 winner of the Innovations In Government award sponsored by the City of Milwaukee Mayor and Common Council.

The class is FREE and held on a regular basis throughout the year at various locations. It is held on evenings and weekends to accommodate virtually anyone's schedule. The class is generally either (1) five hour session in one day or (2) two and a half hour sessions for two nights. Attendees get a free 100 page comprehensive manual and handouts on a variety of legal and business issues related to managing a property.

http://city.milwaukee.gov/

FREE Landlord/Crime Free Multi-Housing Rental Seminar

Presented in partnership by the Kenosha Police Department
& the Kenosha Landlord Association

The nextFREE Landlord/Crime Free Multi-Housing Rental Seminar

To register for an upcoming seminar please contact
the Kenosha Police Department Crime Prevention Unit
watch@kenoshapolice.com

or

(262)-657-3937

Frequently Asked Questions

As of the first of April the new law for tenant and landlord have taken affect.  We will be updating the FAQ’s in the coming months to reflect those changes.
Link to the new laws.


We will have training for landlords on March 21st at Gateway.  This will cover the new laws.  Click here for more info.

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  1. What does my landlord expect out of me?
  2. Where can I find the rules for rental housing?
  3. What is Earnest money?
  4. What is a security deposit?
  5. How much security deposit can my landlord charge?
  6. Does my landlord have to pay interest on the security deposit?
  7. Can a prospective landlord charge me for a credit report?
  8. Do I get a receipt when I pay rent?
  9. When can a landlord come into my place?
  10. When and how do I give notice to leave?
  11. When will I get my security deposit back?
  12. How do I protect my security deposit?
  13. What should I do before leaving an apartment?
  14. What if I move out early?
  15. What if I don't receive my deposit or list of deductions?
  16. What might my landlord deduct for?
  17. The real deal with carpet cleaning?
  18. When can the landlord legally charge for carpet cleaning?
  19. What if I believe my landlord deducted money from my deposit unfairly?
  20. Can I cash a partial check?
  21. Who should my deposit be returned to?
  22. Where will the landlord send my deposit?
  23. What is an eviction?
  24. How does the eviction process begin?
  25. Types of Notices
  26. Can landlords give either a 5 or 14-day notice?
  27. How should I respond to the notice?
  28. What if I don't move out when told to leave by notice or end of lease?
  29. What if I am evicted?
  30. Do I need permission to get a pet?
  31. What can happen if I get a pet without permission?
  32. If one tenant has a pet, does the landlord have to allow everyone to have pets?
  33. What if I have a disability and depend on a service animal?
  34. How do I find landlords that rent to pet owners?
  35. Can landlords charge pet owners higher security deposits?
  36. Can landlords charge pet owners more for rent?
  37. Can landlords automatically withhold money from pet owners' security deposits?

What does my landlord expect out of me?

  • Your landlord expects that you live up to the lease terms by respecting the property, other people and make rent payments when due. The bank demands the landlord to make his monthly payment and the landlord needs your payment to pay the bank. Your landlord is a lot like you. When you loan a friend something, you expect it returned in the same condition you loaned it. Landlords expect property returned in the same condition it was first rented, less normal wear and tear.
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Where can I find the rules for rental housing?

  • The rules are listed in a special book called the Wisconsin Way. This book is available in various places. In Racine County the least expensive place to purchase one is on the 8th floor of the County Court House. They can also be found through the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection web site. Specifically, Chapter 704 of the Wisconsin Statutes, Chapter ATCP 134 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, and, for rules concerning mobile park operator-tenant relations, Chapter ATCP125. You can click on the link to get the Wisconsin Way.
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What is Earnest money?

  • Any money an applicant gives a landlord before the application is accepted or denied.
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What is a security deposit?

  • State law defines a security deposit as "all of the money" a tenant pays to a landlord before signing a lease, including any prepaid rent above one month's rent. Deposits are kept as a guarantee the tenant will pay the rent and not damage the apartment.
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How much security deposit can my landlord charge?

  • State laws place no limit on the amount landlords can charge for security deposits though terms like “last month's rent” are really considered deposit under WI law.
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Does my landlord have to pay interest on the security deposit?

  • No. Interest payments are not required under state law.
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Can a prospective landlord charge me for a credit report?

  • Yes, up to $20. The landlord would have to notify you of the charge and provide you with a copy of the report. If the landlord does not charge for the report, he/she does not have to provide you with a copy of the report.
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Do I get a receipt when I pay rent?

  • If you pay by check, your cancelled check acts as the receipt. If you pay in cash, the landlord should give you a written receipt that states the nature and amount of the payment. Never pay ANYONE in cash without getting a receipt. If the landlord does not have a receipt book, the receipt can be written on any piece of paper.
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When can a landlord come into my place?

  • Wisconsin law says a landlord may come in to inspect the premises, make repairs, or to show the place to prospective tenants or purchasers (and then only at reasonable times) with 12 hours or more notice. There are exceptions to the rule and they are:

    1. If the tenant is advised of the entry time and requests or consents to it in advance.

    2. A health or safety emergency exists.

    3. If the tenant is absent and the landlord believes entry is necessary to protect the premises from damages. (things like smoke coming out of the apartment, water coming from an apartment, a window left wide open while it is raining or in the dead of winter)

    4. A provision provides for entry in the “NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS” document provided with the lease.

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When and how do I give notice to leave?

  • To be absolutely official the notice must be written and given to the landlord according to the terms of the rental agreement (this typically can be 28-60 days). Some rental agreements restrict moving out during winter months. If you have no written or verbal rental agreement, notice must be given at least (can be a longer period) 28 days prior to the beginning of the next rental period. For example: to give notice for the end of March (which has 31 days), the notice must be presented to the landlord by the 3rd of March. To give notice for the end of February, it must be presented by the first of February. The notice indicates the tenant will be moved out of the apartment by midnight of the last day of the rental agreement. If the tenant has not moved out by that time, they may be charged for the next month's rent and may incur additional costs if it causes damages to the landlord. If the landlord requires more than a 28 day notice before you leave (like 60 days), than they are also required to give you 60 days notice instead of a 28 notice if they want you to leave.
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When will I get my security deposit back?

  • Within 21 days after you surrender the rental premises, the landlord must either deliver or mail the security deposit to you less any qualified deductions. The rules define SURRENDER as follows: “A tenant “surrenders” the premises on the last day of the tenancy provided in the rental agreement (THE LAST DAY OF THE LEASE TERM) or by giving written notice and turning in the keys, thereby acknowledging surrender the apartment. The written notice and turning in of the keys can start the 21 day time period prior to the last day of the lease term. Be sure to get a receipt acknowledging you have vacated the premises and turned in all of your keys.
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How do I protect my security deposit?

  • Fill out a check-in form. Your landlord should give you a check-in form; if not, make your own or get one from an office supply store. Landlords must allow tenants at least seven days to fill out a check-in form. Make a copy of the completed check-in form for yourself and give the original to your landlord. When filling out the check-in form, be thorough. The landlord cannot charge you for any existing damages that you include on the check-in form. Note problems such as the following:

    · stained carpets or damaged floors

    · cracked windows

    · torn or missing screens

    · nail holes, cracked paint, peeling wallpaper

    · dirty conditions, fixtures and appliances

    · stained walls and ceilings

    · plumbing, sinks, bathtubs and tiles that are worn, dirty, mildewed or not working properly

    · missing light bulbs or glass light covers

    · electrical outlets or other items that do not work (light switches, stove burners, oven coils, etc.)

    · countertops that are stained, scratched, or otherwise damaged.

    Take photos

    Carefully photograph the apartment when you move in, being especially careful to document all damage. Give one set of photos to your landlord after moving in and keep the negatives or a second set for yourself. If you hold the photos & give them to the landlord when you move, he will think you just took them (of damage you did). Make a video. If you have a camcorder, document the condition of the apartment, especially damaged areas. Video a recent newspaper to document the date of your video.

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What should I do before leaving an apartment?

  • Cleaning as if your favorite aunt or friend was coming over and you wanted to impress her would be a great start. Try to schedule a check-out appointment with your landlord. Most landlords will not consent to do a final check-out until all your belongings are moved out of the apartment. If your landlord agrees to do this, make sure you leave with a signed copy of the check-out form. If the landlord notes things are dirty or damaged, offering to clean or fix them when you should have been out may be too late. If your landlord refuses to go through the apartment with you, complete your own check-out form and take pictures documenting the condition of the apartment. If your landlord presents you with a check-out form that indicates damages that you or your guests did not cause, do not sign it. Instead, complete your own check-out form and keep a copy. You should also take pictures to prove the condition of the apartment. Leave your forwarding address on the check-out form so the landlord knows where to send the security deposit. Keep copies of everything!
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What if I move out early?

  • If you move out before the lease is over, return the keys to the landlord and write a letter stating which day is your last day (be sure to plan time to clean). Give one copy to the landlord and keep one for yourself. The landlord will have to return the security deposit within 21 days after you "surrender the premises", this means you have given your keys to the landlord with a notice you are now out of the apartment. If you do not notify the landlord in writing and return your keys when you move out early, you will have to wait until the lease is over to get your security deposit back (ATCP 134.06(2) (b)). Even if you follow these steps, you could still be liable for rent or actual re-renting costs until the last day of the rental agreement unless the landlord can find another qualified renter.
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What if I don't receive my deposit or list of deductions?

  • If the landlord does not return the full deposit or a detailed list of deductions within 21 days after you move out, you may want to call him and remind him that you can sue. (Wis. Stat. 100.20(5)).
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What might my landlord deduct for?

  • Standard legal deductions

    · unpaid rent (some exceptions in Wis. Stat. 704.29)

    · unpaid utilities owed under the rental agreement or for which the landlord becomes responsible

    · damages caused by the tenants or their guests that go beyond "normal wear and tear"

    · unpaid mobile home parking fees.

    Nonstandard legal deductions

    Your landlord can deduct for reasons other than those listed above if you initialed provisions on separate page titled "NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS" when you signed your lease. This may include subletting fees, late fees, etc.

    Illegal deductions

    Landlords may never deduct for "normal wear and tear" or for other losses that the tenant is not responsible for under the law even if the tenant signed a nonstandard rental agreement authorizing these deductions (ATCP 134.06(3)(b) & (c)). “Normal” may be a debatable term, not meaning the same to everyone and this may need to be discussed. Re-painting the apartment after a tenant has been there for 5 years could be considered normal, having to repaint if the tenant has only been there for 6 months would probably not be considered “normal wear and tear”

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The real deal with carpet cleaning?

  • CARPET CLEANING

    According to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, landlords cannot charge for routine carpet cleaning . The landlord may, however, charge you when you damage or abuse the carpet beyond normal wear and tear. For example, the carpet requires treatments to remove stains or repair damage caused by you, your guests, or your pets.

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When can the landlord legally charge for carpet cleaning?

  • If your landlord deducted money from your security deposit for routine carpet cleaning, inform your landlord in writing that it is illegal. If your deposit is not returned, file a complaint with Consumer Protection. Be aware that the landlord may still pursue this in small claims court.
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What if I believe my landlord deducted money from my deposit unfairly?

  • If the landlord violates one of the rules mentioned here or more importantly, state law, you may take the following actions:

    Call and Write a letter to your landlord. This letter should include the following:

    · a description of the violation

    · specific mention of the law(s) that have been violated (usually Wis. Administrative Code ATCP 134.06)

    · an explanation that you could take further action, including small claims court.

    · a reasonable deadline for the landlord to return the total deposit (for example, one week, ten days, etc.).

    Be sure to date the letter and keep a copy for your records. File a complaint with Consumer Protection. You can easily file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The bureau keeps complaint records and will contact the landlord about the alleged violation. Sue in small claims court After the deadline in your letter expires and the landlord doesn't respond, you will want to consider filing against your landlord in small claims court.You must go to your county small claims court (8th floor of Court House in Racine County), fill out a simple "summons and complaint" form and pay an $85 filing fee. This form will need to be served to the landlord by a process server. To contact your county's courthouse, go to the Wisconsin Circuit Court System. The landlord may choose not to contest your case, may settle or may counter sue you.

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Can I cash a partial check?

  • A tenant no longer has to wait to cash a check until the security deposit dispute is settled. Cashing a partial refund check is not considered accepting the amount as payment in full, and it does not waive the tenant's rights to sue for the rest of the deposit (ATCP 134.06(2)(e)).
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Who should my deposit be returned to?

  • If the landlord returns the security deposit in the form of a check, all tenants' names should be on it unless all tenants indicate otherwise in writing (ATCP 134.06(2)(d)).
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Where will the landlord send my deposit?

  • You should give the landlord your new address when you give notice to vacate so they may send the deposit to you. If you do not, they should send it to your last known address, which is the apartment you were renting.
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What is an eviction?

  • An eviction is a process landlords may begin when they believe a tenant has seriously violated the lease, and they want the tenant to fix the problem or leave the apartment. The process usually begins with a notice giving the tenant at least 5 days to remedy a violation. The process may eventually end up in small claims court with a judge deciding whether the tenant stays (the case is settled by agreement or thrown out) or whether the tenant will be removed from the apartment. It is important to remember that in Wisconsin a tenant can only be evicted by a judge.
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How does the eviction process begin?

  • The eviction process begins when the landlord serves or gives the tenant a written notice under Wis. Stat. 704.17. A landlord's notice is not the same as a Summons and Complaint from Small Claims Court. The landlord should try to give the notice to the tenant or someone in the tenant's family over the age of 14. If the landlord has tried that, he or she may post a copy of in an obvious place on the rented premises and mail a copy to the tenant's last known address, or send it by registered mail. However, if the tenant acknowledges that they actually received the notice, it does not matter what method of service the landlord used.
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Types of Notices

  • Note: A notice that your lease will not be renewed are non-renewal notices, not eviction notices. If you do not move out, the landlord may sue you for eviction and double rent. The landlord does not need a reason to non-renew. You have no right to cure.

    All notices below must be in writing and include the date, the rent due or lease clause the tenant has supposedly violated, or the rent owed, the type of notice, and the right to cure the problem, if the tenant has one. There are several types of termination notices:

    · 5-day Pay or Quit Notice is a warning that the tenant is late with rent. The landlord can only give this notice at a point when the rent is late. This notice can be cured. By law, the landlord has to allow tenants at least 5 days (not counting the day it is served, Saturday or Sunday, according to Wis. Stat. 801.15(1)) to pay all overdue rent. Your county, community action agency, or churches might assist. Some tenants mistakenly think they have to leave after receiving this notice! All tenants need to do to avoid a court summons is to pay all that is owed (and avoid being late again). Tenants may want to send a dated letter that explains how much rent is attached. Tenants should keep a copy of the letter and check for documentation that they paid in time.

    · 5-day Notice for Non-Rent Violation is a warning that the tenant caused a disturbance, damaged property, or violated a lease rule. The landlord has to allow tenants at least 5 days, and the tenant is only required to promptly take "reasonable steps" to stop the violation, or make a "reasonable offer" to pay the landlord in the case of damages to the unit. Tenants should keep a copy of a letter to the landlord that either denies any violation, or explains that the tenant has taken reasonable steps to cure, or remedy, it (like turning down the stereo) within 5 days.

    · 14-day no-right-to-cure notice orders you to move within a period of at least 14 days even if you fix the problem. The tenant has no right to cure! Landlords can give this notice to week-to-week and month-to- Month tenants. Tenants with rental agreements of more than a month can only be given this notice if they already received a 5-day for the same violation type (rent or non-rent) within the previous 12 months. · A 5-day notice with-no-right-to-cure is rare. It can be given by the landlord only if the police give the landlord a notice that their property is a "drug nuisance" (drug making or selling is done by the tenant or done in the tenant's unit) or declared a house of prostitution.

    · 30-day notice to cure is served only to tenants with a lease for more than a year, giving them at least 30 days to pay late rent or take steps to stop violating lease rules.

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Can landlords give either a 5 or 14-day notice?

  • If the tenant is on a rental agreement for a year or less, the landlord must serve the tenant with a 5-day notice for the first lease violation. If the tenant commits a violation in the same category (rent or other) within 12 months after the 5-day notice was given, the landlord may serve either a 5- or 14-day notice. If the tenant has a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord may give a 5- or 14-day notice for the first rent payment violation.
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How should I respond to the notice?

  • Once you receive a 5, 14, or 30-day notice, you have three options if and only if you have a right to cure: If you have no right to cure, you must move out or risk being sued for eviction and double rent.

    1. You can fix the problem and remain in the apartment. If you received a 5-day notice and you pay up or take reasonable steps to fix another type of violation within the time limit (the day served, Saturday and Sunday do not count (Wis. Stat. 801.15(1)), then you have the right to remain in the apartment. The landlord does not have a right to remove you or even go to court or to refuse a rent payment from you. Write a dated letter to the landlord saying the problem is cured and keep a copy. If you received a 14-day notice and fix the problem (remembering to document that you cured with a copied letter) you may still have to negotiate with your landlord. The landlord could refuse your rent and file an eviction summons and complaint to schedule a small claims court hearing. If you reach a settlement, try to get any agreement in writing, signed by all parties, and keep a copy.

    2. You can deny any violation and stay. However, if you stay and the landlord files a Summons and Complaint, even if the case is dismissed, the summons is public record. Future landlords might turn you down even for the dismissed eviction .so it is better to avoid the summons if possible. Also, the landlord could win the eviction and get a judgment for double the pro-rated rent for each day after the last 5- or 14-day. If possible, sometimes the safest option is to negotiate with your landlord; any agreement reached should be in writing with copies for both you and your landlord.

    3. You can move out. This may be an option if you have a place to go. However, moving out does not end your responsibility for the rental agreement. Even if you leave, you will probably still owe the rent, as well as the cost of re-rental ads, until the landlord re-rents or until the lease ends. (The landlord has a duty to make all reasonable efforts to re-rent the unit, according to Wis. Stat. 704.29.) Also, even if you leave, the landlord may still file in court to evict you, just to make sure you do not move back in (avoid this by giving the landlord notice in writing of your move-out date, return the keys promptly after move out and keep a copies for your records.) This court record or the landlord's bad reference or credit report can make it difficult to find another apartment.

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What if I don't move out when told to leave by notice or end of lease?

  • The only way a landlord may remove you is by a court order. Landlords cannot: change your locks, remove your possessions, push you out, turn off your utilities, throw things out in the street, or any self-help eviction. The landlord needs a court order to remove you from the premises and may ask the judge for double rent and/or other expenses if you didn’t move when you should have.
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What if I am evicted?

  • If you go to trial and lose, the judge will issue a written order called a Writ of Restitution. After the trial the landlord gives the sheriff the writ, the sheriff will come within 10 days to remove you from the apartment. Usually the sheriff will post a 24-hour notice before removing you from the premises. Only the sheriff has the authority to post a 24-hour notice and remove a tenant. If the sheriff removes you, your possessions will be moved to storage and you will have to pay reasonable moving and storage costs to retrieve them. After an eviction, it may be very difficult to rent again. If you are evicted you may wish to contact agencies that provide emergency rent, shelter, and other assistance. This could also cause damage to your credit. After you are evicted, and the landlord has the opportunity to determine how much money you may owe, a rent and damages hearing will be held. The tenant should receive a notice of this hearing. It is important to keep the court up to date with your new address for notices
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Do I need permission to get a pet?

  • Probably! If you are currently in a lease, check your lease before you get a pet. If your lease requires permission to have a pet or to add a pet, make sure you get permission from your landlord in writing and keep a copy for your records. A landlord may just add something to your lease. Make sure both you and the landlord initial and date the change. If your landlord refuses to allow you to have a pet, wait until you move to a pet-friendly apartment. If you're looking for a new apartment, make sure that you have permission in writing to have a pet.
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What can happen if I get a pet without permission?

  • You could be evicted if it is prohibited in your lease. Your landlord must first give you a written notice stating that you have five days to get rid of your pet. If you don't comply, the landlord can start the eviction process in small claims court at the end of the five days. Being evicted makes it hard to find housing, can affect your credit, and does not relieve you from paying rent unless the landlord finds someone new to move in or your lease ends.
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If one tenant has a pet, does the landlord have to allow everyone to have pets?

  • If one tenant has a pet, does the landlord have to allow everyone to have pets? No. The landlord may give pet permission to some tenants and not others as long as s/he does not discriminate against certain tenants because of membership in a protected class, such as race, religion, sex, etc
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What if I have a disability and depend on a service animal?

  • This is a special situation. Because of federal fair housing laws that require landlords to allow reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, the landlord may not prohibit a service animal from living in the unit or charge the tenant extra rent or deposit. A service animal should not be considered a pet. The tenant may be required to provide a note from a physician that verifies the service animal is needed as an accommodation to the person with the disability, but the animal need not be a certified service animal. If the landlord refuses to allow the service animal, you may call the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at (800) 669-9777 or (800) 927-9275 TTY. HUD has publications available about fair housing and can direct you to your local fair housing office. You can also locate your local fair housing council at (877) 647-3247 and http://www.fairhousingwisconsin.com. For more information about service animals, call Access to Independence at (608) 242-8484 voice or (608) 242-8485 TTY. Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy is a statewide organization that provides information about the legal rights of persons with disabilities. Contact the Madison office at (608) 267-0214 voice/TTY and (800) 928-8778, or the Milwaukee office at (414) 342-8700 voice/TTY and (800) 708-3034.
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How do I find landlords that rent to pet owners?

  • Check the regular rental listings - many landlords advertise that they allow pets. Some humane societies also keep listsof landlords who rent to people with pets. You can also search rental websites for units that allow pets. http://www.rentracine.com should be a good resource for Racine County.
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Can landlords charge pet owners higher security deposits?

  • Yes. The State of Wisconsin imposes no limits on security deposit amounts. Landlords may charge pet owners more.
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Can landlords charge pet owners more for rent?

  • Yes. They may charge a monthly pet fee of whatever amount they choose.
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Can landlords automatically withhold money from pet owners' security deposits?

  • No, landlords may only charge for actual damages. If your pet did damage the apartment, the landlord may charge you for the repairs.
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