6 Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities During Winter Months in Wisconsin
Brrrr…. Winter is upon us in full force. While the weather isn’t horrible in Appleton, we have seen sleet, ice, snow and slush in an ongoing cycle.
Winter brings challenges to a rental relationship between landlords and tenants. Most of the problems arise from rental lease agreements being unclear about who is responsible for what during the winter and the rights of both landlords and tenants.
Who is responsible for snow removal?
Generally, your lease should tell you if you are responsible for mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, general and safe maintenance of outside walkways and parking spaces. However, if it’s not written in and you haven’t made any verbal agreements with your landlord, check in with them to be sure. You don’t want to pay extra city fines for not shoveling the sidewalk or driveway if it was your responsibility.
Most apartment buildings have a crew come through to clear parking lots and sidewalks but again this isn’t a given. If you are unclear, make a call to your property management company or landlord.
What happens if I fall on the ice outside my building?
Leases should address who is responsible to keep the walkways and driveways clear. If there is language about havi“exclusive possession” of the yard, the tenant is responsible for the walkways and driveways. This means if a tenant slips and falls on ice, they were responsible for clearing, any injury remediation is on them.
If it was the landlords responsibility, the tenant can write them a letter, informing the landlord of the issue and they should take care of removing the ice. Many landlords provide ice melt for the tenant to use as they need to during the winter and are not aware when ice builds up. A friendly phone call to the landlord or property management company can have tenant’s sidewalks clear again.
If tenants are still experiencing problems after informing the property owner, they can call the authorities and have them address the landlord.
On the other hand, if snow removal and clear sidewalks and driveways are in the lease and the tenant is responsible but not taking care of it; landlords can evict with proper notices.
What happen if I can’t pay the heating bill and the utility company turns off the heat?
If the lease states, tenants pay the heating costs and they are unable to do so, they will also be responsible for any repair issues that may arise. One example is if pipes freeze due to having the heat turned off the tenant will have to pay to have them thawed or replaced if pipes rupture.
If a tenant knows they will be unable to pay for heating costs, they should contact their landlord or property management company. There are budget programs and assistance tenants can use to help them with winter heating costs.
Can I move during the winter?
If your lease expires during the winter months and you want to move, you are free to do so. If you wish to stay on month-to-month until the weather is nice and it will be a more pleasant moving experience, most leases allow for the extended time.
However, you must then follow the month-to-month requirements on moving out by giving the correct notice. Read your lease carefully if you are planning on making any changes to your lease dates.
- Can a landlord evict me during the winter?
The short answer is yes. A landlord can evict you at any time for lease violations as long as they follow the proper notice guidelines. However, most landlords do not like having a vacant unit in the winter and may have clauses in the lease stating they will not evict due to certain terms. Read your lease carefully and be a responsible tenant.
What are the landlord’s responsibilities for keeping the heat on during the winter?
If property owners pay for the heating costs in a rental unit, the heat must maintain at least 67°F. According to Wisconsin Law the statue says it’s the landlord’s duty to maintain and repair “all equipment under the landlord’s control necessary to supply services that the landlord has expressly or impliedly agreed to furnish to the tenant, such as heat…,”. You can access the full statue here.
This means landlords must repair or replace heating systems so they work properly to maintain 67°F. If tenants notice their temperature falling below the maintenance temp, a friendly phone call or letter to the landlord or management company should have this taken care of.
Your lease agreement should have all of these questions answered for you. You may have also signed a Nonstandard Rental Agreement when you signed the lease. If you signed the Nonstandard Rental Agreement, you signed a contract and it holds legally like the Residential Lease Agreement signature binds legally. Review both to understand and clarify which responsibilities are yours and which are the landlords.
If you have questions about any of your responsibilities, contact your landlord or property management company such as Day Property Management. They can tell you what your lease says and who is responsible for winter maintenance.