Timely Rental Reminders For College Students
April 19, 2011
Contact: Brock Bergey, (608) 224-5007
MADISON – Many Wisconsin college students are in search of off-campus housing for the 2011-2012 academic year. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection reminds tenants to do their homework before signing a rental agreement.
“Rental agreements are legal documents,” said Sandy Chalmers, Administrator of the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “Tenants need to carefully review the wording of these agreements. It is especially important to find out who is responsible for utility payments, and make sure that information is included in the contract.”
Tenants have the right to physically inspect a property before renting it. The Bureau of Consumer Protection suggests the following checklist:
Turn on each light switch to see if it works.
Check electrical outlets and sockets – defects could cause fires.
Turn on sink and bathtub faucets – check for leaks, proper drainage, and water temperature.
Flush toilets – look for leaks.
Look for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Check ceilings and walls for cracks and water stains.
Look for deadbolt locks on apartment and exterior doors.
Make sure windows are secure and their latches are in good working order.
Check for window storms and screens.
Test the furnace (even in the spring/summer) – turn up the thermostat to make sure it works.
Check for water heater leaks.
“State law holds landlords responsible for making any repairs that are necessary to comply with local housing codes and to keep the property safe,” added Chalmers. “Any additional repair promises should be put in writing and include a completion date.”
If a security deposit is required, tenants have seven (7) days – from the first rental date – to inspect the premises and provide a written notification to their landlord of any problems to avoid unfair charges at the time of move out. For example, if a lease begins on August 15 – tenants have until August 22, to complete an inspection. Tenants should always keep a copy of their inspection report.
“In addition to knowing their rental rights, college students need to consider the possible financial consequences of entering a multi-tenant lease,” Chalmers concluded. “If one or more tenants decide to move out, the remaining tenants are responsible for full payments through the duration of the lease – unless otherwise agreed upon with their landlord.”
Additional information about tenants’ rights and responsibilities is available in an online publication called The Wisconsin Way: http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WisconsinWayWEB.pdf. A condensed fact sheet-version of this information is also online: http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/TenantsRights143.pdf.