Wisconsin Residential Rental Agreement (Lease)

Wisconsin Residential Rental Agreement (last updated: 5/23/2018) – GET FORM HERE
Drafted by: Attorney Gregg Willich of Willich Law Office, LLC

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From the Author:

This form (commonly referred to as a “lease agreement”) is the foundation of your rental agreement and can be used by itself or with added addenda. The landlord (or agent) only has to fill in parts of the first and last pages. Please read the entire document carefully. Click here for details on updates made to this form.

Landlords should be aware of the following issues related to rental agreements, entering into rental agreements, and accepting earnest money (pertains to application fees) or security deposits:

1. Provide a Physical Address in Wisconsin for the Person Designated for Service of Process.

A physical address (no PO Box) in Wisconsin must be used for the person/agent designated to accept service of process. That means, if the landlord does not have an agent with a physical address, the landlord needs to provide its physical Wisconsin address for service of process.

2. Give a Copy of the Rules and Regulations BEFORE Accepting Any Earnest Money or Security Deposit and BEFORE Entering into a Rental Agreement.

The landlord must furnish a copy of the rules and regulations, if any, BEFORE accepting an earnest money deposit or a security deposit and BEFORE entering into a rental agreement.

a. Earnest money deposit (§ ATCP 134.02(3), Wis. Admin. Code): “The total of any payments or deposits, however denominated or described, given by a prospective tenant to a landlord in return for the option of entering into a rental agreement in the future, or for having the rental agreement considered by a landlord. ‘Earnest money deposit’ does not include a fee which a landlord charges for a credit check in compliance with s. ATCP 134.05 (3) (incorrect reference – see below).”

b. Credit Check Fee: The credit check fee provisions are actually in § ATCP 134.05(4), Wis. Admin. Code, (not (3)) which permit the landlord to charge a prospective tenant the actual cost of the credit check fee up to a maximum of $20. The landlord must also provide the prospective tenant with a copy of the report. A landlord may not require a prospective tenant to pay for a credit report if the prospective tenant provides the landlord with one that is less than 30 days old and is from a consumer credit reporting agency that compiles and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis.

3. Give a Copy of the Rental Agreement BEFORE Accepting Any Earnest Money or Security Deposit.

The landlord must furnish a copy of the rental agreement, if in writing, before accepting an earnest money deposit or a security deposit.

4. Identify the Unit or Units for Which the Applicant Is Being Considered for Tenancy BEFORE Accepting Any Earnest Money or Security Deposit.

5. Disclose Uncorrected Building Code or Housing Code Violations BEFORE Entering into a Rental Agreement or Accepting any Earnest Money or Security Deposit.

Before entering into a rental agreement or accepting any earnest money or security deposit, the landlord must disclose any building code or housing code violation to which all of the following apply:

  • The landlord has actual knowledge of the violation;
  • The violation affects the dwelling unit that is the subject of the prospective rental agreement or a common area of the premises;
  • The violation presents a significant threat to the prospective tenant’s health or safety; and
  • The violation has not been corrected.

Additionally, the landlord must also disclose the following conditions affecting habitability that are known or could be known with a reasonable inspection before entering into a rental agreement or accepting any earnest money or security deposit:

  • The dwelling unit lacks hot or cold running water.
  • Heating facilities serving the dwelling unit are not in safe operating condition, or are incapable of maintaining a temperature of at least 67° F in all living areas and during all seasons of the year in which the unit may be occupied.
  • The dwelling unit is not served by electricity, or the electrical wiring, outlets, fixtures, or other components of the electrical system are not in safe operating condition.
  • Any structural or other conditions in the dwelling unit or premises which constitute a substantial hazard to the health or safety of the tenant, or create an unreasonable risk of personal injury as a result of any reasonably foreseeable use of the premises other than negligent use or abuse of the premises by the tenant.
  • The dwelling unit is not served by plumbing facilities in good operating condition.
  • The dwelling unit is not served by sewage disposal facilities in good operating condition.

6. Give a Receipt for Any Earnest Money Deposit or Security Deposit. 

The landlord must give the (prospective) tenant a receipt for the earnest money deposit or security deposit, stating the nature of the deposit and its amount, unless payment is made by a check that states the purpose for which it was given (the landlord must still give a written receipt if requested by the tenant).

7. Give a Receipt for Rent Paid in Cash.

The landlord must give the tenant a receipt for rent paid in cash or if the tenant requests one.

8. Provide a Check-In Sheet Upon the Tenant Moving In. 

Upon moving in, the landlord must provide a new tenant with a check-in sheet to make comments about the condition of the premises. The tenant must be given at least 7 days from the date the tenant commences his or her occupancy to complete the check-in sheet and return it to the landlord.

9. A Landlord’s Promises to Repair Must Specify the Date or Time Period the Repairs Will Be Completed. 

Every promise or representation made by the landlord to a (prospective) tenant that the premises will be cleaned, repaired, or otherwise improved by the landlord shall specify the date or time period in which the aforementioned will be completed. The landlord must complete the aforementioned promises within the time period represented, unless the delay is for a reason beyond the landlord’s control. In that case, the landlord must give timely notice to the (prospective) tenant of the reasons for delay in performance and when the cleaning, repairs, or improvements will be completed. All promises made before the initial rental agreement must be in writing with a copy furnished to the (prospective) tenant.

10. Note Regarding Late Rent Fees and Pentalties.

Late rent fees are not considered rent and should not be included in a 5-day notice to pay rent or vacate (or if appropriate, a 14-day notice to vacate for failure to pay rent). Pursuant to this form, the tenant is obligated to pay the late fee in the same month it is incurred. If the late fee is not paid by the end of the month, the landlord could give the tenant a 5-day notice to remedy a non-rent default or vacate (or if appropriate, a 14-day notice to vacate for non-rent default).

UPDATE: For rental agreements entered into or renewed on or after April 18, 2018, for Wis Stat § 704.17 (Notices terminating tenancies for failure to pay rent), “‘rent’ includes any rent that is past due and any late fees owed for rent that is past due.”

Additionally, § ATCP 134.09(8) provides three restrictions regarding late rent fees. First, a landlord may not charge a late rent fee unless it is specifically provided for under the rental agreement. Second, a landlord may not charge a fee for nonpayment of a late rent fee. Finally, the landlord must apply all rent prepayments received from the tenant to offset the amount of rent owed by the tenant before the landlord can charge a late rent fee. To put that into context with an example, assume that the tenant’s monthly rent is $600 and that the tenant owes $25 for a late rent fee from the previous month. This month, the tenant pays the landlord $600 on time. The landlord must first apply the $600 rent payment to offset the amount of rent owed, which reduces the tenant’s rent obligation to $0, with last month’s late rent fee still unpaid. This prevents the landlord from first deducting the $25 late rent fee from the rent payment, leaving the tenant $25 short on rent this month, which would then subject the tenant to a late rent fee this month. If the landlord was allowed to first deduct last month’s late rent fee, the tenant would effectively be charged a fee for the nonpayment of a late rent fee, which is prohibited.

Form Updates

4/7/2016 Update

Notable changes:

  • RENT section: extra line added for parking details.
  • NOTICE TO TERMINATE MONTH-TO-MONTH TENANCY (WITHOUT CAUSE) section: added the language “Unless otherwise agreed to in writing” at the beginning of the first sentence. Landlords have noted their interest to have the notice period be greater than 28 days (the default notice period under § 704.19(3), Wis. Stats.). § 704.19(2)(a), Wis. Stats., allows it to be modified. Also added that “Notices must be given pursuant to § 704.21, Wis. Stats.”
  • BREACH AND TERMINATION section: added the language “Notices under this section must be in writing and given as specified in § 704.21, Wis. Stats.”
  • MANNER OF GIVING NOTICE section: removed. Pertinent information from this section was added to the appropriate provisions.
  • Signatory block: changed “LANDLORD/LANDLORD’S AGENT” to “LANDLORD OR LANDLORD’S AGENT” to mitigate confusion. The document only requires the signature from the landlord or the landlord’s agent, not both. There are two lines in case the property is owned by two people (meaning two landlords). If not represented by an agent, it is best to have both owners sign the document, or for one owner to give power of attorney to the other owner.