By Attorney Tristan R. Pettit
Petrie & Stocking S.C.

It is not often that I get to report good news for landlords, so when the opportunity arises I am especially happy to do so. The Wisconsin Attorney General issued a formal legal opinion on July 30, 2013 that states that it is legal for a residential landlord in Wisconsin to require an outgoing tenant to pay to have the carpet in the unit professionally cleaned and to include such a provision in the rental agreement.

It is well known that in Wisconsin a residential landlord cannot withhold the costs of having the carpet professionally cleaned from a tenant’s security deposit (unless there is damage to the carpet.) What had been unclear until now is whether or not a landlord could make a tenant pay for the cost to have the carpet professionally cleaned upon vacating and to include such a provision in the rental agreement

Wisconsin landlords are now on solid ground in knowing that they can require a tenant to pay to have the carpets professionally cleaned upon vacating and that they can include such a provision in their rental agreement.

Under Wisconsin law a landlord is statutorily required to keep a rental unit in a “reasonable state of repair” and such repairs cannot be assigned to a tenant as a result. The Attorney General explained however that routine carpet cleaning is not considered to be a “repair.” The AG’s analysis then points out that the landlord-tenant statutes do not assign cleaning responsibilities to either the landlord or the tenant. As such, the parties are free to assign the responsibilities for cleaning the rental unit – including the carpet — in the rental agreement.

It is important to remember that while the Attorney General’s legal opinion does allow a landlord to charge a tenant for the costs of having the carpets professionally cleaned, it still does NOT allow a landlord to deduct those costs from the tenant’s security deposit (even if the landlord includes such a clause in the Nonstandard rental Provisions). So if the tenant doesn’t pay for the carpet cleaning as stated in the rental agreement, a landlord’s only recourse is to sue the departing tenant.
To read the entire legal opinion of the Attorney General please go to www.landlordtenantlawblog.com.

Attorney Tristan R. Pettit
Petrie & Stocking S.C.
111 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Suite 1500
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 276-2850
Fax: (414) 276-0731
Email: tpettit@petriestocking.com

For more information, visit: Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Laws Wisconsin Landlord Forms
Screening and Qualifying Prospective Tenants
Rejecting A Rental Applicant: The Do’s and Dont’s

The American Apartment Owners Association provides tenant screening background checks nationwide. Looking for a tenant screening report in a state other than Wisconsin? Visit our tenant background checks page to learn more.