Most residential leases and rental agreements in Wisconsin require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of Wisconsin landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does Wisconsin law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
No. In Wisconsin, there's no statutory limit on security deposits at the state level, but check your city and county laws to see if your municipality has set a cap on security deposits for residential rentals.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in Wisconsin for returning a security deposit?
Under Wisconsin law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 21 days after the tenant has moved out.
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that Wisconsin landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in Wisconsin?
Yes. Before accepting the deposit, landlords in Wisconsin must inform the tenant of 1) the tenant's inspection rights, 2) all habitability defects, 3) any outstanding building and housing code violations, 4) the means by which shared utilities will be billed, and 5) whether or not utilities are paid for by the landlord.
Where can I look up Wisconsin law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up Wisconsin law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Wisconsin Administrative Code, ATCP § 134.06 and Wisconsin Statute § 704.28. Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in Wisconsin. For tips on looking up Wisconsin state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
For more information on tenant rights in Wisconsin, check out the guide at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WisconsinWayWEB.pdf and http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/TenantsRights143.pdf.