The Basics of Wisconsin’s Security Deposit Law: Important Rules for Landlords and Tenants

If you are a tenant in the state of Wisconsin, you may be required to pay a security deposit before moving in. There are certain rules landlords must follow when they collect, make deductions from and return this deposit. Learn eight legal basic requirements every Wisconsin landlord and tenant should know.


  1. Security Deposit Limit in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, there is no limit on the maximum amount a landlord can charge a tenant as a security deposit. However, you should always check with your local city or town to make sure they do not have different or additional laws that you must follow.


  1. 5 Requirements Before Collecting a Deposit

Before a landlord can collect a security deposit from a tenant in the state of Wisconsin, he or she must do five things:

  1. Provide the tenant with a copy of the rental agreement.
  2. Notify the tenant in writing of his or her right to inspect the unit. The tenant has up to seven days after they move in to do the following:
    1. Inspect the unit and notify the landlord of any already existing damage. AND/OR
    2. Request a list of any damages that were charged to the previous tenant’s security deposit- The landlord can require the tenant to make this request in writing. The landlord must provide the tenant with this list within 30 days of the tenant’s request or within 7 days of notifying the previous tenant of the deductions to his or her deposit, whichever occurs later.
  3. Notify the tenant of any known building or housing code violations which have not been fixed.
  4. Notify the tenant of any habitability issues, such as lack of running water or electricity.
  5. Let the tenant know which utilities are included in the rent or let the tenant know that no utilities are included in the rent. If there is not a separate utility meter for common areas and for individual units, the landlord must disclose how these charges will be divided.


  1. Storing a Tenant’s Security Deposit

In the state of Wisconsin, there are no specific requirements about how a landlord must store a tenant’s security deposit. The security deposit does not have to be placed in a separate account or earn interest.


  1. Written Receipt After Receiving Security Deposit

Wisconsin landlords must provide tenants with a written receipt upon receiving the tenant’s security deposit if the security deposit is being paid in cash or the tenant specifically requests a written receipt from the landlord. If the tenant pays the security deposit by check and the check indicates that the money is for the tenant’s security deposit, the landlord does not have to provide a written receipt.

This written receipt must include:

  • The nature of the payment
  • The amount of the payment


  1. 4 Reasons You Can Keep a Tenant’s Security Deposit

In the state of Wisconsin, a landlord can keep all or a portion of a tenant’s security deposit for the following reasons:

  • Damage in Excess of Normal Wear and Tear
  • Unpaid Rent
  • Unpaid Utilities
  • Money Owed for Violating Nonstandard Rental Provisions
  • In Wisconsin, a landlord can include additional reasons he or she can make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit. These additional reasons must be included as a separate written statement called Nonstandard Rental Provisions. The landlord must show and explain these provisions to the tenant before entering into a lease agreement with the tenant. The tenant must sign this provision.


  1. Is a Walk-Through Inspection Required?

No. A walk-through inspection is not required in the state of Wisconsin when a tenant moves out. A tenant can request that a landlord do a move-out inspection, but it is not required by law.


  1. Returning a Tenant’s Security Deposit

In Wisconsin, a landlord has 21 days from tenant move-out to return all, or a portion of, the tenant’s security deposit. The deposit must be sent by mail or must be delivered in person to the last known address of the tenant. It is the tenant’s responsibility to supply the landlord with a forwarding address where he or she can be reached. Any check or money order must be made out to all tenants who were on the lease agreement unless the tenants specifically designate one individual whom the check or money order should be made out to.

If any amount has been withheld from the security deposit, the landlord must include a written itemized list stating what deductions have been made and the amount that has been withheld.


  1. What Happens to the Security Deposit If You Sell Your Property?

In Wisconsin, if the property is sold or otherwise changes hands, you must either:

  • Return the security deposit to the tenant and notify the new owner that the deposit has been returned to the tenant and the amount that has been returned. OR
  • Transfer the tenant’s security deposit to the new owner. If you transfer the security deposit to the new owner, you must notify the tenant in writing of the name and address of the new owner and the amount that has been transferred.


Wisconsin’s Security Deposit Law

For the original text of the law that governs security deposits in the state of Wisconsin, please consult Wisconsin Administrative Code 134 and Wisconsin Statute § 704.28.

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