Here in Madison, the Day of Chaos (aka Moving Day aka Hippie Christmas aka August 15) is approaching! It's coming up this Saturday, where people compete for scarce moving trucks, scrounge for places to sleep for the night because their lease ended August 15 and their new lease doesn't start until August 16, and pick up large furniture items left for dead on the street because there wasn't space in the truck (hopefully while being very very careful about not taking home bedbugs).
Since the TRC is closed on weekends, we won't have staff in the office. However, you can find us around town! We'll have a table at Schenk's Corners Block Party from 11am - 5pm.
It's usually faster to figure things out yourself, though, so here are answers to the usual questions that come up when folks are moving.
"I want to pick up a gorgeous piece of furniture that's free on the sidewalk. How do I know if it has bedbugs?"
Bedbugs are a big deal! They are very difficult to detect, and if you end up with bedbugs in your apartment, it can cost thousands of dollars to get rid of them. If you are picking up a piece of furniture, it's a good idea to look it over really, really well and see if you can find the little bugs. Bedbug eggs can stay dormant for up to a year, so it's possible that you won't see the suckers, even though the eggs are there. Bedbugs leave rust colored droppings, and tend to make furniture smell musty. If you bring it home, clean the object well, and if you are able to get it really hot, often that will kill bedbugs. More info on bedbugs is here.
Tip: If you had bedbugs in your apartment, and now you are throwing away furniture, please spraypaint or mark the furniture to show that it had bedbugs. The rest of the city will thank you.
"My landlord is charging me for carpet cleaning. What do I do?"
Your landlord cannot charge you for normal maintenance, and also cannot charge you for normal wear and tear. However, sometimes tenants do damage the carpet, or leave it dirty beyond normal wear and tear, and they can be charged for cleaning related to that damage. More info on carpet cleaning here. More info on normal wear and tear here.
"My new apartment is so dirty/in need of repair! Is my lease void? Could I clean/fix it and get paid back?"
No, probably your lease is not void. The contract is likely still in effect, and it is the landlord's responsibility to maintain the rental unit and to keep it in a reasonable state of repair. When the landlord rents out a unit, there is an implied warranty of habitability (see notes at the end of this law), which means that it should be livable when tenants move in.
However, getting the landlord to clean the unit can be tricky, as can trying to get important repairs made quickly. It can also be difficult to try and clean or fix the problem yourself, hoping for reimbursement. Here's what we recommend:
- If you want to break your lease and be done with it, look this over: www.tenantresourcecenter.org/breaking_a_lease_for_tenants. You might qualify for "constructive eviction," but only if the situation is truly unlivable. More here on that: www.tenantresourcecenter.org/constructive_eviction
- If you want to force your landlord to take action, you can take the steps outlined on our repairs page (this is true even if the apartment's dirty - technically, that's a repair issue), ending in calling the building inspector. Our repairs page is here: www.tenantresourcecenter.org/repairs_in_wisconsin
- If you want to take care of the problem yourself, and get reimbursed, then follow these steps, and for the love of all that is holy, get it in writing: www.tenantresourcecenter.org/repairs_and_reimbursement
"I wasn't done moving, but my landlord threw my stuff out! What do I do?"
Before you do anything else, document what was tossed! Write an email, or a letter, and make sure you note down everything you know was thrown out. If you are able to recover it (look in the garbage bins), great, but if not, you'll be glad you wrote it down.
Your second step should be looking through your most recent lease. As of March 2012, it is legal for landlords to write their own rules into the lease about disposing of property you leave behind. If there is nothing in your lease about it, then they have to 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. More info on property left behind here.
If your landlord incorrectly (according the law and lease) threw away your belongings, and you were not able to get them back, then you might be able to sue to be compensated for your stuff. Small Claims Court tips are here.
"I'm afraid my landlord is going to take my security deposit. How do I make sure that I get it back?"
We talked about this last week! All our suggestions are here: www.tenantresourcecenter.org/protect_your_security_deposit.
Tip: Avoid this problem in the future by doing a really good job of filling out your check-in form, and make sure to take photos, if you are able. Doing so when you move in means that you will be able to prove, at the end of your lease, the damage that you did or did not do.
Hi! Did you know? We are not attorneys here at the TRC! And this isn't legal advice, either. If what we've written here doesn't sound right to you, talk about it with someone you trust. For help finding an attorney, check out our attorney referral list.