What steps should I take if I am leaving my off-campus rental for an extended period of time?

November 20, 2020

Taking care of your health and safety should be your first priority. Get tested for COVID-19 on campus a few days before leaving, wait to leave until you get your test results and quarantine/isolate as needed. Remember to get tested before you return to campus as well. All students who test positive or are diagnosed with COVID-19 based on symptoms must self-report their illness with the Dean of Students Office.

Other recommended steps:

Make and review plans

  1. Plan to continue paying all of your bills on time to avoid eviction or shut-offs (rent, heat/electric, internet, water/sewer, etc.)
  2. Check your lease to see if you are responsible for lawn maintenance, raking leaves or snow/ice removal. Sign-up for text message alerts from the City of Milwaukee about snow removal operations.
  3. If you are responsible for snow removal, make a plan to avoid being cited by the City of Milwaukee. Remember, people who use wheelchairs, strollers, bicycles and/or other accessibility tools need to be able to safely access curbs and sidewalks.
  4. Stay ahead of the weather by checking the forecast from UWM’s Innovative Weather Center. You can also download the UWM Mobile app. 

Communicate with your roommates, landlord and neighbors

  1. Communicate your plans, including dates and contact information (phone, email and mailing address) during your absence, to your roommates, landlord and neighbors.
  2. Get any agreed-upon adjustments to your bills in writing, signed and dated by all parties.
  3. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your rental unit for suspicious behavior or delivered packages so they can contact you if needed.
  4. Make sure you have renters insurance to protect yourself and any valuables in your rental unit.
  5. Review steps to take in case your heat goes out. If you won’t be returning to your unit, it is important to let your landlord know so they can check on your unit periodically to ensure the heat is still working. Pipes can break during cold temperatures causing major damage. You also should check your renters insurance coverage.
  6. Revisit your plan for isolation and quarantine and discuss expectations with your roommates about returning to your off-campus unit.

Prepare your rental unit

  1. Stop/hold your mail with the US Postal Service or submit a temporary change of address.
  2. Clean, take out your trash and bring your garbage cans back from the curb before leaving.
  3. Close and lock your doors and windows in your unit, including your garage door if applicable.
  4. Keep your thermostat set at 67 degrees or the temperature required by your lease to avoid liability associated with pipes freezing and/or bursting while you are away.
  5. Turn on your porch light and consider leaving a light on inside your unit to deter unwanted visitors.
  6. Winterize your windows by applying plastic window insulation and close your curtains to keep your heating costs down.
  7. Bring school supplies and essential items with you.
  8. If leaving your vehicle on the East Side, lock the car doors and remove all valuables. Make sure you park your car in a location that permits extended parking to avoid citations or being towed. Be mindful of winter parking and snow emergency parking regulations.

If you plan to move out indefinitely

You will still need to pay your rent. Your lease is a legally binding contract that cannot be broken or changed unless you and your landlord mutually agree to end or change the terms of the lease.

Other steps and tips:

  • If you are concerned about finding someone to fill your place on your lease while you are gone, subleasing could be an option if allowed in your lease.
  • Make sure to get any changes to the terms of your lease and all agreements between you and your landlord in writing.

If you are vacating your property, consider contacting the University Legal Clinic. The attorney at the legal clinic can help you type a notice stating that you have vacated. You should give a 60-day notice or whatever is required by your lease. Make sure you have a copy of your 60-day notice in writing. (You can use the University Legal Clinic’s Termination of Tenancy Form.) The University Legal Clinic can help to answer all legal questions regarding your lease.

Other resources include the Landlord/Tenant Guide published by the state of Wisconsin and the Tenant Resource Center.

See also: UWM Neighborhood Housing