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Community and Campus Resources

What is the Neighborhood Housing Office and what can it help me with?

The Neighborhood Housing Office (NHO) helps students find off campus housing. Neighborhood Housing can connect you with available rental properties and answer any questions you may have about renting in the surrounding communities. The Neighborhood Housing Office will perform a free background check and property check on any city of Milwaukee property upon request.

The NHO can connect you with properties available in the neighborhood near campus through our rental search website: rentoffcampus.uwm.edu

On this exclusive site to UWM students, you can view available rentals, find a roommate, take over a sublease, and view ratings of landlords. The Neighborhood Housing Office does not own or manage any properties off-campus and does not make assignments. 

How is living off-campus different from University Housing?

Again, the Neighborhood Housing Office does not own or manage any properties off-campus and does not make assignments. Living off-campus is an independent process, and students are responsible for searching, calling landlords, and making decisions about where they will live. The Neighborhood Housing Office will offer advice and provide guidance upon request.

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.

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

What police district is UWM located in?
District 1

General Questions

Are there a limited amount of off-campus rentals?

There is no shortage of available rentals off-campus. Do not allow a landlord to pressure you into signing a lease right away before you have taken advantage of the free lease review service the University Legal Clinic provides, and fully understand the terms of the contract.

How early do I need to start searching to have the best selection?

Start searching 2-3 months before you want to move-in in order to have access to the best pricing and largest selection. Searching too early (before February for the next fall) will cause you to over pay for your rent!

How can I be sure I'm finding a good place to live?

Look at other student’s rental company ratings on the rental search website and call our office so we can perform a free a background check on both the landlord and the property.

Are off-campus housing and apartments inspected or approved by UWM?

No.  All units listed on the UWM Neighborhood Housing Office website are private landlords and property management companies.  However, the NHO does operate a Good Neighbor program that awards badges to landlords and rental companies that meet several criteria including:

  • Must have taken the City of Milwaukee Landlord Training Course in the last 10 years
  • Pass a city of Milwaukee property check to ensure they are in compliance with all city ordinances
  • Pass a CCAP background check with no rental related or safety concerns
  • Must not have more than 3 or more unresolved tenant complaints with the University Legal Clinic or the Neighborhood Housing Office from the past 12 months.
Do I need renter's insurance and how much does renter’s insurance cost per month?

Neighborhood Housing strongly encourages all tenants (even students who live in University Housing) to purchase a renter’s insurance plan! This is a low-cost solution to losses caused by incidents such as theft or fire. 

Typically costs range from $10-12.00 per month, for about $20,000 worth of coverage. This is dependent upon the plan and the provider you select. If your parents are homeowners or you and/or your parents have car insurance, you should check with your or your parent’s homeowner’s or auto insurance to see if you can get a discounted rate for multiple policies. 

How many roommates can I have in Milwaukee?

No more than 3 unrelated roommates! We cannot stress enough how important it is to follow this City of Milwaukee ordinance. Do not sign a lease or agree to live somewhere without being on the lease if the landlord is okay with breaking this law. This is a red flag and a preview of how reliable of a landlord they will be and can put students at significant risk for many dangers including unexpected and legal eviction!

What is the best way to communicate with my Landlord?

Get everything in writing. For your protection, make sure all your communication with your landlord or property manager is written down, signed, and dated in the event you need to provide a record of communication.

How do I know if a neighborhood is safe?

Safety is subjective and only a prospective tenant can decide what “safe” means to them 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.

What is a rooming house license?

Some landlords have gotten permission from the City of Milwaukee to allow more than 3 unrelated individuals to live in a signal rental unit.  There are only a few landlords that have this license.  Do not believe a landlord that says they have a license, you should always ask to see the company’s certificate from the city.

 

Can I live in an attic or a basement?

No, landlords cannot legally rent out basements and most attics unless there is a 2nd exit and it complies with Milwaukee building code. In order to be a legal dwelling and rental unit it should have a separate address. If you are unsure if it legal or not you can contact the NHO and we can verify it. 

 

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Parking in the Neighborhood

Where can I find parking for rent off-campus?

Parking will be listed as on-street, meaning you park your vehicle on the street or off-street, meaning you will parking your vehicle on a slab, lot, or in a garage. The listing service has a parking tab with parking for rent in the neighborhood. Some rentals will include parking or offer it at an additional charge. It’s always a good idea to ask your landlord.

Can I park my car on the street during the day and night?

Parking on the street on a regular basis requires a permit both during the day and night. Make sure to pay attention to all street signs and pay close attention to time and day limits.
Read more information on daytime parking. Go to the City of Milwaukee website for information on overnight parking.

What are the Winter Parking rules for the City of Milwaukee?

City of Milwaukee winter parking rules go into effect on December 1st, with or without snow! Know where you can park by reviewing the City of Milwaukee rules, and sign up for parking text alerts to notify you of when you need to move your car.

Applications and Leases

What is a lease?

A lease is a binding contract between you, your landlord and any roommates.  Unless you have individual leases (see Rooming House license) you and all of you roommates are jointly liable for rent and damages.  Make sure that you read your lease completely and carefully before signing.  The University Legal Clinic will be available to review a lease with you.  Make sure that all blanks are filled in and obtain copies of the lease and any other documents attached to it.  Always keep your lease in a safe place, in case you need to reference it in the future.  

 

What should be included in the lease agreement?

Landlords must disclose the name and street address of the landlord or agent the tenant is to contact for any issues during the tenancy. Also, if the utilities are not included in the rent the landlord must disclose this and also inform the tenant how the charges are allocated to them if there are not separate meters. Landlords are also required to disclose any uncorrected municipal code violations to prospective tenants. It is a great idea to have the University Legal Clinic review your lease for free so you can be sure your lease has everything it needs to protect you!

  

Are there any prohibited or illegal provisions a landlord is not supposed to include in the lease?
 

Landlords may not have Lease provisions which allow for “self-help” evictions, accelerate the rent remaining on the lease in the event of default, require tenants to pay the landlord’s attorney fees, confess judgment against the tenant, limit the landlord’s liability to the tenant for negligent acts of the landlord, impose liability on the tenant for damages beyond their control, and waive the landlord’s duty to provide habitable housing to the tenant. ATCP 134.08 Leases which contain any of theses provisions may be unenforceable against the tenant. Landlords cannot charge for routine carpet cleaning.

There are many provisions that can make a lease void and unenforceable which is why it is so crucial to have the University Legal Clinic perform a free lease review for you before you sign anything.

 

What should I do if there is something that needs to be fixed prior to moving-in?

Make sure that all verbal agreements with your landlord are written into a lease. This is especially important in the case of promised repairs.  Be sure to include a completion date in the clause.  Only a written agreement assures you that the promises will be fulfilled. 

 

What will I need if I want to apply for an apartment/house?
  • All your roommates and co-signers
  • Proof of identity
  • Social security number
  • Checkbook to pay for application fee
  • Anything else the rental company may request-so make sure to ask!
    • If you are unsure about what a landlord is requesting, contact the University Legal Clinic to get your questions answered!
How long are leases?

Most leases on the East Side of Milwaukee 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.

What is an Automatic Lease Renewal

Automatic Lease Renewals are clauses included in leases that will automatically extend your lease for another lease term unless the tenants give notice they plan to leave the lease. Tenants with a year lease must be reminded 15 to 30 days in advance of the date the tenants are required to give notice to the landlord that they are staying or leaving the lease.

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.

Do people actually read their leases before signing?

Yes, it is always important to read the fine print before signing. UWM’s University Legal Clinic can provide help understanding the lease contract before signing. 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, especially if you plan to have the Legal Clinic review the lease for you for free.

I just attended a showing and the landlord told me there are several people looking at the apartment and they expect the apartment to go fast. The landlord recommended we sign the lease right then and there. Should I sign the lease quickly to ensure I get the apartment first?

Never feel pressured to sign something right then and there. If you encounter a landlord that is pressuring you into signing something quickly, walk away! Landlords who pressure you are likely trying to prevent you from noticing something and carefully considering your decision. This is a preview of how this landlord will be if end up living there. A tenant should be given time to review 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.

How much notice is legally required to terminate for a month-to-month lease

28 days

How much notice is required to terminate for non-payment or Breach of Lease—year lease

14 days

How much notice does a landlord have to provide to enter your unit for maintenance and repairs

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

What is a co-signer and why do I need one?

Talk to your parent(s) or guardian(s) about being a co-signer. As a student new to renting without strong credit, an income two-thirds the amount of monthly rent, or a rental history, you will be required to have a co-signer sign your lease as a person who will be held responsible if you fail to pay rent or the cost of damages. 

Please note: the University will not and is not able to co-sign for any student.

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

Yes, absolutely! Under no circumstances should you sign a lease without your roommates! 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, or if roommates not on the lease fail to pay their rent or follow the terms of the lease. The Neighborhood Housing website also offers services to help connect potential roommates.

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

What is a sublease and do I need permission from my landlord to sublease my room or entire unit?

Many student-tenants seek subleases when their circumstances prevent them from continuing with their lease. Some examples of this include:

  • Studying abroad
  • Financial concerns/inability to pay rent
  • No longer attending the University
  • Roommate concerns that cause you to move

In these circumstances, tenants can seek someone to take over their lease. Landlords must approve any sublease and will require the new tenant to sign an agreement between the subleasing tenant and the landlord.

This is something you should talk to your landlord about BEFORE you sign a lease, even if you are not sure you are going to be subleasing. If your landlord will not help you write a sub-lease agreement you can contact the University Legal Clinic for help. 

Money and Finances

How do I use Financial Aid to cover rental expenses?

Many students come to college on financial aid whether it be scholarships, grants, or loans. It is important to know when financial disburses and that financial aid is only able to be disbursed directly to the student or University expenses like tuition and fees. The University will never disburse aid to an outside entity. Learn more about using financial aid and working with your landlord. For questions related to financial aid, please contact UWM’s Financial Aid office.

What should I do if I can't pay my rent on time?

Communication is key! Call your landlord and discuss your current situation with them to see if they can be flexible. Check your lease to see what your grace period is, and if/when late fee charges will be assessed. If you are paying your rent late, make sure to note on the check or in the description within the web-portal what month the rent is for so you don’t continue to be assessed late fee charges.

Charging me for an application fee/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 an application fee the amount required for the credit 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.

How do Late Fees work?

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 and how does it work?

It is a one-time deposit of money given to the landlord at the time of lease signing to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities on the lease are performed. This covers the cost if damage comes to the house/apartment while the tenant is leasing it. Upon the end of a lease, the landlord will assess the damages to the rental unit, take out any charges from the security deposit and return the remaining deposit.
The landlord has 21 days from the move out day to return the deposit. Because of Joint and Several liability the security deposit is only required to be delivered to 1 tenant or co-signer on the lease. Some landlords will honor a request for the money to be divided by all roommates, so if there are 3 tenants on a lease, but this is not a requirement by law.

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 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.

How do Rent Increases work?

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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Moving-In/Living in a Rental Unit

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. 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. Landlords are legally required to give you a check-in sheet upon move-in.

Check out a PDF example of a check-in sheet.

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 in any circumstance so that the tenant has proof of payment protection in case a landlord claims they did not receive rent payment.

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 do I need to know about Trash and Recycling?
  • You are responsible for maintaining a clean neighborhood. Visit https://tinyurl.com/mketrash to learn when your trash and recycling days are.  
  • Unless you schedule a pick-up with the city or a local 2nd-hand store, placing any furniture or trash on the curb outside of your trash and recycling cans is illegal and may result in fines from the city of Milwaukee.  
  • If there were items left on the curb from previous tenants when you moved in or if you are missing trash or recycling bins, contact your landlord or property manager as soon as possible.
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. 

Repairs

Who is responsible for repairs?

First things first, check your lease!

Generally speaking, unless the damage is caused by the negligence of the tenant (tenant action or inaction), responsibility to make major repairs such as heat, air conditioning, electric, plumbing is with the landlord. Minor inexpensive items are the responsibility of the tenant. Wis. Stat. 704.07(1) and (2).  The landlord’s promise to repair must be in writing and have a completion date if it is made prior to the lease being signed. The landlord is also required to notify the tenant in writing of unavoidable delays which make the completion of the repairs impossible to complete prior to the initial promised date. A completion date has to be given in any case. ATCP 134.07. 

If my landlord isn't making repairs or returning my phone calls, should/can I refuse to pay rent until the repairs are made?

You can withhold the rent from your landlord, but you have to do it legally and through the city of Milwaukee.  Contact the University Legal Clinic to find out more about this process and to get legal advice. You can also directly contact the city of Milwaukee for more information on how to withhold your rent legally. 

If you choose to withhold rent without going through the city, your landlord can legally evict you for not paying your rent!

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Roommates

I'm having a roommate conflict what should I do?

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

What is the fine for having an illegal house party?

How do I find a roommate? 

You can either choose your roommates through people you already know that you think you would be happy living with or you can use our services to find a roommate.  You can visit the Neighborhood Housing Office website and put yourself on the roommate list. By putting yourself on the list of students who is currently looking for a roommate you will be able to view and contact other people looking for roommates and other people will be able to see your information to contact you. When you fill out your roommate profile on the website you can fill in certain preferences you are looking for in a roommate, such as sex, age, loud/quiet, international students, etc. You can also search for roommates based on this criteria.  

How do I avoid roommate conflicts?

Start with a roommate agreement. This can seem trivial and unnecessary, especially if you and your roommates are best friends. However these situations tend to be most likely to have roommate conflicts! Roommate agreements are available in the Neighborhood Housing Office and are a great tool to start the conversation, and help you set healthy boundaries.

To ensure a healthy living situation with roommate be sure to discuss a variety of issues, prior to signing a lease. Some issues that you might want to consider discussing include:

  • smoking
  • pets
  • overnight guests
  • shared items and spaces (food, TV, stereo, bathroom, kitchen, etc.)
  • furnishings
  • cleaning and other living habits

There are a variety of things you should consider before you choose a roommate, which can help avoid conflicts from taking place. These things include:

  • Studying Habits (What are your class schedules like?, What are your noise tolerances while studying (phone, stereo, TV)?, When/where do you study best?)
  • Sleeping Arrangements (What time do you go to bed/get up? How much sleep do you need?, Noise tolerances/intolerances?),
  • Cleaning Duties (How often and how thoroughly will you clean?, Are you a neat freak or a slob?, How clean should the bathroom be? Kitchen?, How often will the trash be taken out? Who does it?, How will the cleaning be shared?)
  • Guests (Do you like to party? How frequently?, Does there need to be advance warning?, What guidelines, if any, will be set for guests?, How do you feel about guests sleeping over?)
  • Personal Situations (How much personal space do you need?, Do you smoke, drink?, Will pets be allowed?, How we we pay the bills?, How will we keep our property safe? Renter’s Insurance?)

Do you have to notify your roommate(s) if you want to throw a party?

This is the respectable thing for a roommate to do, and you should notify your neighbors too. This is something that you should probably discuss before moving in with someone. If you or your roommate are going to be throwing parties you might also want to discuss individual locks on your bedroom doors and other situations that may arise from a party setting. 

If your roommate(s) move(s) out before the end of the lease, who has to pay the rent?

If a roommate leaves without finding a sublet and their name is on the lease and they did not discuss it with the landlord, legally they have to continue to pay.  On the other hand, if there name is not on the lease and they decide to move out, there is no proof that they ever lived there and they will not be legally help responsible to pay. Also, keep in mind that unless you all have individual leases you are all jointly liable for the lease so you can be charged for their rent if they refuse to pay.  You should attempt to find someone else to move in as soon as possible.

How many roommates can I have off-campus?

No more than 3 unrelated individuals can live in any one rental unit in the city of Milwaukee. A related individual is anyone in your immediate family to your first cousins. Therefore, you may not live with more than two other people who are not in your immediate family or your first cousin.

Ignoring this city ordinance can put everyone at risk for eviction and picking up the tab for rent of anyone who isn’t actually on the lease since they have no obligation to pay rent or stay for the entirety of the lease.

Citations and Fines

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.

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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