Waukegan, IL asked in Landlord - Tenant, Real Estate Law and Contracts for Wisconsin

Q: My landlord wants me to pay for professional carpet cleaning, despite not clarified in lease agreement. What do I do?

My landlord just sent us a letter saying that we need to have a carpets professionally cleaned before moving out. However, the lease does not mention the house needing to be professionally cleaned whatsoever. The most it mentions regarding carpets is that it should be "cleaned". And before I signed the lease, I specifically asked him if I could rent out a carpet cleaner for this aspect of the lease, to which he said yes.

I am an overly clean person and even used a black light to detect damage to carpets with no luck.

I've been trying to read up on it, but I've been finding confusing results.

For example, I am finding that, In the state of Wisconsin, landlords can NOT take carpet cleaning out of the security deposit. In fact, they can only subtract a reasonable amount for carpet replacement if there was damage to the carpet that are beyond "normal wear and tear".

But I'm also finding that they can bill you rather than taking it out of the security deposit.

What is true?

2 Lawyer Answers
Jason Anthony Greller
Jason Anthony Greller
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Madison, WI
  • Licensed in Wisconsin

A: Both are true. Landlords cannot deduct this cost from security deposits and may seek to recover the costs through billing or an action to recover the cost.

Under Wis Admin Code ATCP 134.06(3)(c) landlords cannot withhold from a tenant's security deposit for normal "wear & tear" even if included in a nonstandard rental provision. This means that a landlord cannot automatically deduct the cost of routine carpet cleaning from a tenant's security deposit unless the cleaning is necessary as a result of damage, waste or neglect and is, therefore, something more than normal wear & tear.

It is acceptable to indicated in the rental agreement that the tenant is responsible for providing and paying for routine carpet cleaning. See DOJ letter to DATCP dated 7/31/13. But, if the tenant fails to do so, a landlord still cannot deduct the cost of routine carpet cleaning from the tenant's security deposit. Even though a landlord cannot deduct for cleaning specified in the rental agreement, the landlord may bill the tenant and may even file a claim to recover costs associated with carpet cleaning.

Bruce Alexander Minnick and Thomas B. Burton agree with this answer

Bruce Alexander Minnick
Bruce Alexander Minnick
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Tallahassee, FL

A: This is a public forum where experienced lawyers donate their valuable time to answer real legal questions about important matters of general interest to the public. All questions asked are not going to be answered; some are way too complicated to answer online, while others are not answered because they are either not legal questions or are not deemed important enough to answer. Your specific question falls into the latter category, a category best described by an ancient Latin phrase: De minimus non curat lex (small things are not cured by the law).

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