Friday, January 31, 2014

Rental Regulation in LaCrosse, by Crystal Oravis

Finding an apartment or house to rent requires thorough inspections to ensure the quality of the residence before signing a lease.  It is a tenant’s right to thoroughly inspect a residence before renting. The city of La Crosse’s Building and Inspections Department provides a booklet with information that all tenants should know regarding health codes, lease-specific agreements, breaking leases, security deposits and more.
State code requires landlords to comply with city inspection and licensing. When renting in LaCrosse, a tenant should ask to see the certificate for proof that the residence is up to code.
Once signing a lease, a tenant has 7 days from the first rental date to inspect the residence, reporting back to the landlord with any defects so that it will not be unfairly taken from the deposit once vacating. A landlord is also required to supply a tenant with a furnished copy of a written lease or agreement, which should always be kept for records.
When viewing an apartment, make sure that the landlord is showing the actual residence interested in and not a “show” unit. Some landlords use this tactic when they claim to have multiple units that are of same size and layout.
Check for electrical, plumbing and other safety hazards. Turn on all light switches to be sure that they work, as well as outlets. If outlets or sockets do not work, there could be dangerous defects in the electrical system that could cause fires. Often overlooked when viewing a residence is plumbing. Turn on the faucets of the sinks and bathtub/showers to check for working hot water and leaks.
Always remember to look up. Check for signs of mold and water stains or cracks in the walls and ceilings. These may indicate a leaking roof, defective rain gutters, or defective plumbing on an upper level, all of which could possibly result in collapse of the walls or ceilings.
For safety, check the deadbolts and locks on the apartment doors and exterior doors. Also, check that there are smoke detectors throughout the entire building. Open all cabinets and closets, checking for roaches, ants, rats, mice, and animal droppings.
While renting, landlords are required to make repairs that are necessary to comply with local housing codes to keep the premises safe. If a landlord does not do so, a tenant is able to file a report to the local building or health inspector.
Landlords have the right to inspect, repair, and show the residence at reasonable times. Unless in the case of an emergency, a landlord must give a 12 hour notice before entering an apartment or house, unless the tenant allows entry on a shorter notice.
If a tenant chooses to “break” a lease by moving out early, the tenant may be obligated to pay rent for the remainder of the term of the lease unless a new tenant to take over the lease is found. In the state of Wisconsin, tenants are allowed to sub-lease out to other people, or a landlord must make a reasonable effort to find a substitute tenant. A landlord may not confiscate personal belongings, turn off utilities, lock the tenant out, or use force to remove them. If moving out early, the tenant must notify the landlord in writing after vacating the premises in order to start the “21 day clock” for the return of the security deposit.
For any deductions made from the deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written statement itemizing the amounts withheld.
If a problem occurs between a tenant and landlord, there are services available for tenants. Information and assistance is available from various local groups and agencies, including housing code officials, landlord and tenant associations, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, and Trade and Consumer Protection.