We are, yet again, making updates to the website. We will work as quickly as we can. This is the 5th law change in 4.5 years and we are short-staffed (feel free to donate here). Until all the updates are made to the website and our training guides and our staff and volunteers are re-trained, brochures will not be available.
Think this is ridiculous? We do too! If you have immediate questions about these law changes, please call the sponsor of all of these bills, Sen. Frank Lasee's office at 608-282-3541.
Unless something else is written in your lease, one of five new laws might change your rights.
Purple text applies to leases and events as of 12/21/11 (2011 Wis. Act 108)
Orange text applies to leases and events as of 3/31/12 (2011 Wis. Act 143)
Green text applies to leases and events as of 3/1/14 (2013 Wis. Act 76)
Blue text applies to leases and events as of 11/1/15 (CR 14-038)
Maroon text applies to leases and events as of 3/2/16 (2015 Wis. Act. 176)
More information on law changes is available here. Have your lease available when calling the Tenant Resource Center so we can help you know what your rights and remedies are, including whether you can double your costs when you sue a landlord.
The Real Deal with Carpet Cleaning
According to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, landlords CANNOT charge for routine carpet cleaning - during the lease or from a security deposit-no matter what your lease says. Your landlord cannot legally deduct from your security deposit, even if:
- Your lease requires that you pay for it when you move out
- Your lease states that you must provide a receipt showing that you had the carpets cleaned
- Your lease says that you must pay for carpet cleaning when you move in
- Your lease says that the cost of carpet cleaning will be deducted from your security deposit
- Any of the above rules are listed in a NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISION
Requiring a tenant to pay for carpet cleaning in advance of moving also will not work, any payments in excess of rent are considered security deposits (ATCP 134.02) and so withholding that money would also be considered a withholding from a security deposit, and therefore illegal absent "unusual damage".
When Can a Landlord Charge for Carpet Cleaning?
A landlord may only withhold from a tenant's security deposit for painting or carpet cleaning where there is "unusual damage" caused by "tenant abuse". ATCP 134.06(3)(c)
What Can I Do if the Landlord is Trying to Make Me Pay for Routine Carpet Cleaning?
- Write a letter to the landlord explaining that they cannot deduct routine cleaning according to ATCP 134.06(3)(c), that there have to be damages that are beyond "normal wear and tear" in order to charge for it. ATCP 134.06 (3)(c) states that "a landlord may not withhold from tenant's security deposit for routine painting or carpet cleaning, where there is no unusual damage caused by tenant abuse." Madison General Ordinance 32.07(14) forbids withholding for routine carpet cleaning in the City of Madison. Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(b), Wis. Act 108, Sec. 1, Eff. 12/21/11
- File a written complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 1-800-422-7128 or by visiting their website.
- File a claim in small claims court to recover an illegally withheld security deposit. You may be eligible for two to three times the amount wrongly withheld. Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(b), Wis. Act 108, Sec. 1, Eff. 12/21/11
What Impact Does the Attorney General's Opinion have on Carpet Cleaning?
The Attorney General's opinion may be found here. The Attorney General was asked two questions which were answered as follows:
- Question: Does routine carpet cleaning at the end of a tenancy fall within the landlord's duty to keep the premises "in a reasonable state of repair" as prescribed in Wis. Stat. 704.07(2)?
Answer: No. "Landlord's statuatory duty to keep premises in a "reasonable state of repair" does not encompass routine carpet cleaning.
- Question: Would a provision requiring the tenant to pay for professional carpet cleaning, in the absence of negligence or improper use by the tenant, render a rental agreement void under Wis. Stat. 704.44(8)?
Answer: No. Because routine carpet cleaning is not a statutorily-imposed obligation of a landlord, assigning this responsibility to a tenant through a contractual provision does not render a rental agreement void.
So, even though a rental provision regarding routine cleaning would not make the lease void and unenforceable under Wis. Stat. 704.44(8), it is still illegal to withhold money for carpet cleaning from the security deposit. The opinion notes:
Finally, I note that the permissibility of provisions requiring tenants to arrange or pay for carpet cleaning at the termination of their tenancy does not mean that landlords can deduct carpet cleaning charges from the security deposit of a tenant who has failed to comply with such a provision. Under your agency's present rule, ATCP 134.06(3)(c), landlords are expressly prohibited from withholding security deposits "for normal wear and tear, or for other damages or losses for which the tenant cannot reasonably be held responsible under applicable law." The accompanying note cites carpet cleaning as an example of an impermissible basis for withholding a portion of a security deposit. My conclusion that carpet cleaning provisions are valid does not affect the prohibition against deducting carpet cleaning expenses from a tenant's security deposit as a means of enforcing such provisions.
As of 11/1/15: A new note in ATCP 134.06(3)(c) makes it clear that even though a landlord is allowed to write a lease saying the tenant has to pay for routine carpet cleaning, they may not take this out of the security deposit. Any carpet cleaning charges they collect in advance must be treated as part of a security deposit, which must be subject to a refund. Deductions cannot include "normal wear and tear." Essentially, a landlord would have to sue a tenant as a separate matter if they did not pay for routine carpet cleaning required by the lease. CR 14-038, Sec. 10, Eff. 11/1/15.