Common Questions About the Landlord-Tenant Relationship
Whether you’re a landlord or someone who rents from a landlord, you may have questions about the process of renting and your legal rights and responsibilities. If you’re looking for a place to live, it can be tempting to do whatever the landlord asks simply so you have shelter. If you’re a landlord, it can be intimidating to accept rental applications because you know the renter may stop paying rent or cause undue damage to the unit. Because of this tenuous relationship between landlord and tenant, the Wisconsin legislature has enacted many laws governing the rental process. Continue reading to receive a brief introduction to some of the commonly asked questions.
First, let’s discuss rental agreements and leases. If a landlord has rules or terms of a rental agreement in writing, those documents should be provided to prospective tenants before they plan to sign. However, rental agreements that are not in writing are also recognized by the State. These kinds of rental agreements can be problematic when the landlord and tenant have different ideas regarding the agreement’s terms. At a minimum landlords should create a written agreement of the essential terms of the lease, length of lease, total rent, the unit rented, and the amount of the security deposit. This can alleviate difficulties in resolving a conflict between the landlord and tenant should one arise. It’s also important for landlords to know that once a tenant signs a rental agreement, the tenant must receive a copy of it. Potential tenants should know that a rental application being approved does not necessarily mean that the parties have entered into a rental agreement.
Next, let’s discuss earnest money deposits and security deposits. An earnest money deposit is simply a payment by a potential renter to the landlord so that the landlord will accept and consider the application. As a potential renter, you can get your earnest money deposit back in two circumstances. First, if the landlord rejects your application and will not rent to you. Second, if you, as the potential renter, decide to withdraw your application before the landlord has evaluated it. On the other hand, a security deposit is meant to make a landlord more comfortable with renting a unit despite the risk of property damage to the unit. A landlord must provide a way for a renter to perform an evaluation of the unit so the renter can mark already-damaged features of the unit in advance of taking occupancy. After the expiration of a lease, the landlord must return the security deposit or provided a detailed accounting to the tenant for any withheld portions of this security deposit for damages to the unit incurred during the lease term.
Now that you have a little more information about the renting process, you many have questions about your own situation. Legal blog posts can serve as introductions to legal topics, but they should never be considered legal advice. Contact an attorney at Kelly & Brand, Attorneys at Law, LLC for sound legal advice tailored to your unique circumstances.