Moving this August? We bet you are! Follow these tips and know your rights to avoid hassle, charges, and future problems:
Keep It Clean! Tenants have to return the apartment to the condition it was in when they moved in, minus "normal wear and tear." You can read more about that term here. (Spoiler alert: There's a lot of grey area!)
Fun Fact: It takes the Average Tenant between 3-300 times longer than they think it will to totally pack up and clean one apartment. If you have roommates, pets, or more than a few changes of clothes, you can double those figures. Seriously though, we're only kind of joking here. Plan ahead and expect to take extra time and trips, and get extra boxes and tape.
Donate Your Stuff! Last year Madison tenants put 1M pounds of trash in the landfill on Moving Day. How much of that was usable stuff? We're guessing a lot. Click here for a list of downtown sites where you can donate to Goodwill or swap stuff at UW "Donate and Take."
Extra Trash Pickup: The City will have trucks out every day this week to empty your trash and recycling bins in the downtown area. There will be recycling and large item pick up on Sunday August 14 as well. For more information, click here.
Get Your Deposit Back!
First Step: Complete a Check-Out Form! Landlords do not have to give you these, and contrary to popular belief they do not have to do a walk-through before you leave. Click here to download our Check-Out Form. Make sure you at least do one yourself to get credit for all that cleaning and packing! Take detailed pictures and/or videos too. Put something in for scale and get things from multiple angles and distances.
NEW for Tenants: As of November 2015, when landlords return a security deposit they do not have to make the check out to every person on the lease. However, they do have to follow anything the tenants instruct them to do in writing. If all of your names are on the check then all of you have to sign that check. That might be inconvenient, but it guarantees you will all know how much you got back, and can settle what you're owed. Whatever you decide, be sure to include a mailing address on the check-out sheet or in your instructions to the landlord.
So... When Do I Get My Money? Landlords have to return something within 21 days of your lease ending, according to Wis. Stat. 704.28 and ATCP 134.06. If they charge you for anything, they have to include an itemized list of deductions. If they don't return this, or you want to dispute some charges, check out our Security Deposits page for more info on what they can deduct for, and sample letters for disputing it. Fun fact: If you ended up taking them to small claims court, you would be entitled to double the amount a judge felt was wrongfully withheld, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys fees (that's if you chose to hire a lawyer, though many people don't).
First Things First: Do Your Check-In Form! Save your Future Self lots of money and stress:
As soon as you enter the new apartment, do your check-in. Before you start loading in your furniture and unpacking your boxes and bonding with your roommates, document any damages, appliances that don't work, thing that are dirty or were left behind, etc. Take detailed pictures and/or videos again, putting something in for scale and getting things from multiple angles and distances. Remember: You cannot get charged later for the condition of the apartment when you moved in!
Make a copy of the check-in form and put it in a folder or a large manila envelope. This is your new Rental File! It's where you will keep your lease, your check-in form, and any letters/notices/bills/receipts/etc. you exchange with the landlord. It's also a good idea to have emergency contact information for all the roommates, if you have them. Keep this in a kitchen drawer, or somewhere else in the common area.
Dealing With a Dirty Apartment. It happens all the time: You spend 322 hours cleaning your old apartment, only to move into a disgusting pig sty. You call the landlord and they say they'll send a cleaning crew... next week. Or the cleaning crew never shows up. Or the cleaning crew is messier than the old tenants were. Or the landlord simply tells you to deal with it. What do you do? It depends on whether this is an aesthetic issue, or a health issue. Unless they make really explicit promises in writing, landlords do not have to give you a "nice" or "pretty" apartment. However, they may be willing to reimburse you for cleaning costs -- definitely ask about this, and get any agreements in writing! They do have to make sure the apartment is safe. For more information, see our Repairs page.
Problems Down The Line...
If you find yourself wondering, "Can my landlord really do X, Y, or Z..." Tenant Resource Center can help! Our Know Your Rights and Resources pages have a ton of information and helpful forms, letters, etc. Or you can contact us any number of ways to get free help with any problem.