Is a landlord obligated to return the security deposit when the tenant has broken the lease?

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Is a landlord obligated to return the security deposit when the tenant has broken the lease?

Our tenant moved out 2 months prior to his lease being fulfilled to move to a larger home and notified us after the fact. His lease stated that if he were to abandon the premises during the term of the lease, the landlord may obtain possession of the property without becoming liable to the tenant for any damage or payment of any kind whatsoever. Does this free us from any obligation to return the security deposit after damages are deducted, even if we have signed a lease with a new tenant?

Asked on June 4, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In WI a landlord has a right to withhold a security deposit for any of several reasons if the tenant has:

  • damaged the premises (beyond ordinary wear and tear);
  • caused waste and/or neglect of the premises (e.g. leaving hot water running in the bathtub for days);
  • didn't pay all rent due; or
  • didn't pay for utility services (regardless of whether the landlord provided these or the tenant paid for then directly).

Note:  The landlord must give reasons (in writing) for refusing to return all or any part of a security deposit and is required to provide this information within 21 days of the tenant vacating. However, the tenant must give the landlord their new address.


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