Renting FAQs

What is the Neighborhood Housing Office?

The Neighborhood Housing Office, or NHO, helps students find off campus housing. This office would be best suited to provide a list of available rental properties and answer any questions you may have about renting in the surrounding communities.

How long are leases?  

Most leases are 12-months in length, but can also be available in month-to-month, three month, six month, and nine month durations.

When do leases typically start and end? 

Since many students are around for the Fall and Spring semesters, many leases become available in June, July, August, and September. However, Milwaukee is an open housing market so there are often houses/apartments available throughout the year.

Automatic Lease Renewal

Tenants with a year lease must be reminded 15 to 30 days in advance of the landlord automatically renewing or extending the lease – assuming there is a provision in the lease.

Do people actually read their lease before signing?

Yes, it is always important to read the fine print before signing. UWM’s University Legal Clinic can provide additional help understanding the contract before signing. Never feel pressured to sign something right then and there. A tenant should be given a copy of the lease and any rules or regulations referred to in the lease after both the landlord and tenant have signed. If the landlord does not voluntarily give the tenant a copy of the lease and rules and regulations, the tenant should request a copy in writing. Since the lease spells out the tenant`s and landlord`s responsibilities, it is important for both parties to have a copy of the lease to answer any questions. Asking the landlord for an emailed copy of the lease may be helpful.

What is Earnest Money? 

Earnest money is a money paid to the landlord to hold the apartment/house pending the application process. The landlord has 3 days, however this can be extended in writing up to 21 days. If a landlord approves the application, the prospective tenant is legally obligated to enter into a lease. If the prospective tenant timely withdraws the application with the landlord before they accept the application, the landlord is legally required to mail or deliver the Earnest Money by the end of the next day. If approved, this changes to be the tenant’s security deposit.

Rent Increase?

If a landlord is raising the rent, they have to let the tenant know. On a month-to-month lease, the landlord has to tell the tenant 28 days in advance.

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Notice to Terminate for a month-to-month lease

28 days

Notice to terminate for non-payment or Breach of Lease—year lease

14 days

Entry allowed with Notice for maintenance and repairs

12 hours (may be shorter with tenant consent or for emergency situations)

Late Fees

It is legal for a landlord to charge late fees, but all fees must be disclosed in the lease. A common example of late fees pertain to rent. Rent is typically due by the 1st of everyone month. A landlord can choose to charge a late fee if tenants pay the rent late. Any potential late fee charges will be specified on the lease.

What is a security deposit?

It is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities on the lease are performed. In addition, this covers the cost if damage comes to the house/apartment while the tentant is leasing it. This is a one-time payment and is typically required by the landlord when you sign your lease. The landlord will return this deposit in full or part, depending on damages and additional costs caused by the tenant(s), upon move out. The landlord has 21 days from the move out day to return the deposit. The security deposit is divided by all roommates, so if there are 3 tenants on a lease, it will be split up evenly between the three. Note: All tenants need to pay the entire security deposit. However, all roommates and co-signers are joint and severally liable. This means if one roommate doesn’t pay rent, it falls on the other roommates. If all tenants are on the same lease, a landlord can legally choose to send the entire security deposit to only one person on the lease, even a co-signer. This is uncommon, but good to be aware of.

Charging me for a credit check? What’s this all about? 

Many landlords check a prospective tenant’s credit history with at least one credit reporting agency to see how responsible the prospective tenant is with managing money. The average price for this is around $20. The landlord can only charge the amount required for the check, and must refund any extra money. Additionally, the landlord may charge prospective tenants for background checks, eviction and court records, employment history, and rental history.

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What do I need to do when I first move in? 

Always walk through the apartment with the landlord and note any damages that are already present. It can be useful to take pictures or a video and fill out a check-in sheet (available upon request in the Neighborhood Housing Office). Landlords are also legally required to give you a check-in sheet upon move-in.

Check out a PDF example of a check-in sheet

What is a check-in sheet? 

Once a tenant moves into a rental unit, they have 7 days to report any pre-existing damages to the landlord. The check-in sheet is available in the NHO for UWM students. This should be filled out within the 7 day period and returned to the landlord at the tenant’s earliest convenience. It is also recommended to fill out this sheet with the landlord when moving out to ensure the tenant isn’t charged for previous damages. Before moving in, taking pictures and videos may act as time-stamped proof of any pre-existing damages if necessary.

What form of payment can I use for rent? 

Form of payment is at the discretion of your landlord. The safest options are check, money order, or online through direct withdrawal from your bank account. Landlords can refuse to accept cash. We recommend avoiding paying in cash regardless, so that the tenant has a paper trail to protect them in case a landlord claims they did not receive rent payment.

What will I need if I want to apply for an apartment/house?

Complete the application and co-signer application. You will need to provide your driver’s license, and whatever else the landlord/company is asking for. Applications are uncommon for houses/duplexes, but co-signers are usually required whether the rental is a house or apartment.

What is a co-signer? 

A co-signer acts as a guarantor, promising to pay rent if a tenant cannot complete the payment. Usually, a co-signer is required if a prospective tenant has a minimal or nonexistent rental history, poor credit background, or doesn’t have enough income. A co-signer is typically a relative or guardian.

Should I have roommates ready by the time I sign the lease? 

Yes, all tenants need to sign the lease and understand the contract each tenant is liable for. If choosing to sign a lease without having roommates ready, the tenant would be liable for the entirety of the rent if unable to find roommates. The Neighborhood Housing website also offers services to help connect potential roommates.

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What if I have a pet? 

Some rental units in the area allow small animals with an additional security deposit for each pet in the unit. If bringing a pet, look specifically for units allowing that specific type of animal. If unsure, contact the landlord to ask about pet policies. If the animal is a registered service animal, a landlord cannot deny housing due to the animal. The Humane Society provides further information about the Fair Housing Act.

What is the shoveling/grass cutting arrangement? 

The responsibility is that of the party indicated on a lease. There are fines for not completing these tasks, so tenants need to be aware of their legal obligations. When looking over the lease, make note of what needs to be done (shoveling, mowing grass, etc.) in order to properly prepare.

What if I need parking and it is not available?

If you are in need of parking spot, you can use the NHO website and search under the “Parking” listing section. Landlords with spare parking spaces will post here. Generally, these spots run for about $25-75 per month. Another option would be to bring your lease into the 1st district police department, located on 2920 N 4th Street, and obtain a day and night permit. If you are a resident of Wisconsin, you can get a Residential Parking Permit or you can obtain a commuter pass and pay for night parking on Milwaukee’s parking website. Note: If you’re getting passes, make sure you are parking on the correct side of the street since residential parking and day time parking park on opposite sides. Also, you will then need to follow the rules and regulations for parking on the streets. 

Can I break my lease?

A landlord may agree to let a tenant out of a lease early. This should be given to the tenant in writing in case a dispute were to come up. If the landlord refuses to let a tenant out of the lease and the tenant still moves out, the tenant is liable for rent payments throughout the rest of the lease. Finding a subleaser is a good alternative if a tenant decides to leave while the lease is still in effect. The tenant would need to check the lease for any provisions to having a sublessee. If unspecified or unsure, contact the landlord.

Sublease listings

How long should it take to get your security deposit or for your landlord to notify that you will not be receiving any of it back?  

It can take a maximum 21 days for a landlord to return a tenant’s security deposit. A tenant must receive the money and an itemized list of anything that was withheld due to damages no later than the 21st day of when the lease ends.

What is the Dean of Students Office?

The Dean of Students Office provides services to enhance students’ academic and personal success. Students come to seek help resolving problems on campus and to seek support in times of crisis. Additionally, they help guide students to be ethical, responsible, and respectful community members. They addressing conduct on campus and in the surrounding communities.

What is the University Legal Clinic? 

The University Legal Clinic can assist students in reviewing a lease before signing it. They also provide free legal advice and can help with any landlord issues a tenant may be having. Any questions regarding legality and payments as a tenant can be directed to this office located in WG81.

What is UWMPD?

The UWM Police Department is a fully functioning police department located directly on campus. This is a good office to call with any immediate concerns, such as neighbors having a party that is getting out of hand, or if you get locked out of your car. Above all, they are here to ensure students’ safety on UWM’s campus and the surrounding community.

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What services does the City of Milwaukee provide?

Some helpful resources include:

The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD): Non-emergency (414-933-4444) and Emergency (911)

The Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS): Information pertaining to building permits, complaints, inspections, permits, property information, and neighborhood improvement

How do I know if a neighborhood is safe? 

A prospective tenant must decide what “safe” means to them specifically when looking for housing. It may be helpful to contact the 1st district police department and request they look up the address that is being considered for safety statistics. The contact number for any police department is 414-289-CITY. If doing this, check the individual address statistics – not the district. Additionally, try to visit the unit once during the day and once at night. This may help form an opinion about the safety of a specific unit. Check all the locks on the house and doors as well.

Having roommate conflicts? Need resolution? 

Speak with each roommate separately.  Listen to each roommate(s) concern. Affirm and Acknowledge every roommate(s) concerns and feelings. Response in a fair and open-minded way to each of your roommate(s) concerns.  Use a statement like; I feel______ when_____because_____so what I’m hoping is _____.  Below is a link to an article that can help further. Before even moving in, roommates can all sit down and brainstorm ground rules. Talk about things that annoy you. Who will clean when, who will take out trash and when, etc. Take a look at the links below to see other helpful hints to consider.

How to Deal with a Roommate Conflict 

Roommate Issues

Are automatic lease renewal provisions enforceable?

Yes, they are enforceable provided the landlord serves the tenants with written notice no more than 30 days and no less than 15 days from the tenant’s option date to renew the lease. A 60-day automatic renewal clause may be listed in the lease as well. If a lease contains this, the tenant must notify the landlord 60 days prior to the end of the lease with intention to stay or leave. If the tenant does not notify the landlord, the lease will be automatically renewed. The NHO has a non-renewal form in the office that can be filled out and sent to the landlord, giving them a formal notice.

What is the fine for having an illegal house party? 

An illegal tavern costs about $2,500. However, tenants can receive an additional ‘Contributing to the Delinquency of a minor’ ticket for each underage individual in attendance, which is $160. Note: an illegal tavern is when there is a gathering where liquor is being distributed or sold. When giving liquor to minors (under 21), a fine can be given for each underage person there. 

How much is noise fine from the police? 

The cost of a Noise Ordinance ticket is $206 for the first offense. If noise can be heard form 50 feet from property by MPD, there will be a citation. After the first offense, the price rises. After the 3rd, tenants could be evicted.

What police district is UWM located in?

District 1

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Links to helpful resources for tenants:

Neighborhood Housing Office

University legal Clinic

The Basics of Renting University Legal Clinic

Parking Permits

Wisconsin Landlord/Tenant Laws

WE Energies

City of Milwaukee