Be a smart renter
People have their own ideas about what is most important when searching for an apartment or house. They consider location, cost and space, as well as:
• Air conditioning
• Electrical outlets
• Exterior lighting
• Noise levels
• Room size
• Special rules
• Type of lease
Before you sign a lease:
- Explore all options before making a final decision about where you will live.
- Ask to see the actual apartment you'll be renting before signing the lease.
- Tour the premises, and talk to current tenants about their experiences with the property and landlord.
- Read the lease in its entirety before you sign! If you have questions, ask the landlord or consult with the Office of University Apartments and Off-campus Student Services.
- Ask questions! A good landlord won't mind. You are about to sign a legally binding contract — you should be well-informed about its terms and conditions.
- Don't be pressured into signing or paying for anything with which you are uncomfortable.
- Get everything in writing. Be sure that everything you and your landlord have agreed to is contained in a written document. If you have any questions about a provision in the lease, request an explanation before signing the lease. If you wish to strike or modify a lease clause, you may be able to negotiate that with the landlord.
After you sign the lease
- Retain a copy of the lease. If you lose your copy of the lease, request that the landlord send you another one. It is also important that the lease contains the landlord's name, address, phone number and emergency maintenance contact information. Keep your lease in a readily accessible file if you have questions during your tenancy.
- Get the landlord to inspect your apartment in your presence to note any damages or defects in the condition of the premises, and sign a rental condition report indicating the date, condition of the premises and unit number. Be sure to keep a copy of the checklist. This will help document any damage to your apartment before you moved in and when you move out. It is also a good idea to take photos of any damages when you move in. Provide copies to your landlord, and keep copies for your records.
- Document any and all requests you make for maintenance or repairs to the apartment or house during your tenancy. Record the times you contact the landlord — date, time, what you talked about, the landlord's response, and when and how the situation was resolved. This will be important information to have when you move out and need to reconcile any deductions from your security deposit.
The Wisconsin Department of Consumer Protection publishes The Wisconsin Way, A Guide for Landlords and Tenants, which explains important legal issues pertaining to renting in Wisconsin. You can download a copy of this 82-page booklet as a PDF on the Consumer Protection website. View a press release from the department that highlights important "numbers" to remember with rental agreements.