What is considered excessive damage that warrants keeping the security deposit?

rental property with excessive damage so landlord can keep security depositA security deposit is standard operating procedure for most landlords; charging a fee to cover any excessive wear and tear to the rental unit is a protection for the landlord.  While that protection is completely logical, the reasons for keeping the security deposit may not be as obviously logical; for example, worn carpet or dirty curtains does not qualify as valid legal reasons to keep the security deposit in Wisconsin.

What is considered excess damage?

Note the first part of this phrase: excess.  The Wisconsin legal system assumes that all units need to be cleaned after the tenant has moved out; therefore the damage that warrants retention of a security deposit needs to be extreme. To make sure the landlord has all legal bases covered, documentation of the condition of the unit before the tenant moves in and after the tenant moves out is important.

What is excess damage that would warrant keeping the security deposit?

This list is not an all inclusive list; however, this list can give you an idea of “excessive” damage situations that warrant keeping the security deposit:

  • Drywall damage (large hole or many small holes)
  • Broken bathroom faucets
  • Missing window treatments
  • Insect/pest problems that require an exterminator
  • Rips in the carpet or excessive stains
  • Mold on the walls

Again, all of these issues need to be problems that weren’t present at the time of move-in; thorough documentation of the unit before the tenant moves in is key.

When do I have to return the security deposit?

In Wisconsin, a landlord has to return the security deposit within 21 days after the tenant has moved out. If the tenant threatens any kind of legal recourse, a landlord can contact a local attorney for information specific to the local regulations.

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