This Thursday and Friday, thousands of Madison tenants will be moving in and out of their apartments. They can avoid many expensive and stressful situations by following these tips. 

1.       Clean up and check out. This is your responsibility! The landlord does not need to give you a check-out form or do a walk-through with you, although of course it’s best if they do. You must return the unit to the state it was in when you moved in (minus normal wear and tear) or you could get charged for cleaning and repairs. This may take much longer than a first-time renter (or even a very experienced one) expects it to. Remember to take pictures/videos!

2.       Be careful about property left behind! As of March 2012, it is legal for landlords to write their own rules into the lease about disposing of property you leave behind. Check your lease to find out what they plan to do! If there is nothing in your lease about it, then they have to move and store ALL property and, within 10 days, they have to tell you where it is, along with any charges, and give you 30 days’ notice if they will throw it out. You can be required to pay the moving and storing costs in order to get it back. Medical equipment and prescription medication must be stored for 7 days and returned promptly upon request– no matter what.

3.       Your old landlord has 21 days to return your security deposit and/or an itemized list of deductions. If you don’t get your deposit, or if they deduct things you disagree with, write a letter asking for the amount you feel is fair and a deadline for returning it. You may want to tell them that your next step will be to sue in small claims court for DOUBLE the amount that was wrongfully withheld, plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees (if you chose to hire one – it’s not necessary). A sample letter is available in our office and on our website. Keep copies of everything!

4.       BE ADVISED: Landlords can still make the usual legal deductions, even if they break the other rules about security deposits! Madison laws used to say that if a landlord failed to give you a check-in sheet or follow the 21-day time limit, they couldn’t deduct anything, even if you damaged the apartment. This tenant protection was removed by 2011 Wisconsin Act 108, along with Madison’s cap on security deposits at one month’s rent, and the requirement that Madison landlords pay interest on security deposits that were more than half of one month’s rent. Our website has more information on the law changes.

5.       Move-In = Check-inThis step could save you lots of money and stress when you are moving out later on! Your new landlord is required to give you a check-in sheet and you have 7 days to return it. If they don’t give you one, get one from us! We have them in office and on our website. Be very detailed and keep a copy for yourself! If your landlord promised to make repairs before you moved in, these should have been written into the lease with a date for completion. If there are any issues or delays, report these to the landlord in writing.

QUESTIONS? WE HAVE EXTRA HOURS THIS WEEK! Find us the Central Park Sessions on 8/14,

Schenk Corners Block Party & AfricaFest on 8/16, and Triangle Ethnic Fest on 8/17!

FOR FORMS, SAMPLE LETTERS, AND MORE INFORMATION – Website: | Phone: (608) 257-0006 Walk-in Counseling: (MAIN OFFICE) 1202 Williamson Street Ste. 102 (Mon – Fri, 9 – 6) (UW CAMPUS OFFICE) 3rd Floor, Student Activity Center, 333 E. Campus Mall (Mon 12-5 & Thur 9-3)