It’s Check-in Time for Residential Tenants!

Using the New WRA Information Check-In Sheet


 Debbi Conrad  |    August 01, 2012
CheckinLRG

The new Wis. Stat. § 704.08 requires a landlord to provide a new residential tenant with an information check-in sheet. This may not be new to many property owners and managers who have voluntarily followed this practice in the past, while for others the new statewide requirement might be unfamiliar. Even for those who are accustomed to providing a check-in sheet when a tenant moves in, the statute includes a twist that may require a practice adjustment for even seasoned landlords who have provided check-in reports in the past.

The New Requirements

Wis. Stat. § 704.08 states: “Information check-in sheet. A landlord shall provide to a new residential tenant when the tenant commences his or her occupancy of the premises a standardized information check-in sheet that contains an itemized description of the condition of the premises at the time of check-in. The tenant shall be given 7 days from the date the tenant commences his or her occupancy to complete the check-in sheet and return it to the landlord. The landlord is not required to provide the information check-in sheet to a tenant upon renewal of a rental agreement. This section does not apply to the rental of a plot of ground on which a manufactured home, as defined in s. 704.05 (5) (b) 1. a., or a mobile home, as defined in s. 704.05 (5) (b) 1. b., may be located.” 

Breaking this down, this new statute appears to require the following for this new Information Check-In Sheet:

  1. The landlord gives the Check-In Sheet to new residential tenants, but the statute does not apply to commercial tenants.
  2. The Check-In Sheet is provided when the tenant commences occupancy of the premises.
  3. The Check-In Sheet provided by the landlord contains an itemized description of the condition of the premises at the time of check-in. This appears to require something new: the landlord is to complete the Check-In Sheet in some fashion to describe what the condition of the premises was at check-in time. The landlord is to provide a description of the condition of the premises at the time the tenant checks in.
  4. The tenant has seven days from commencement of occupancy to complete the sheet and return it to the landlord.
  5. No Check-In Sheet is required for a renewal.
  6. This statute does not apply to lots in a mobile home park or other ground areas where manufactured or mobile homes are placed.

Unanswered Questions

  1. Neither “occupancy” nor “time of check-in” is defined, so it is not clear if these would necessarily be the same.
  2. The landlord is to provide a “standardized” Information Check-In Sheet, but there is no indication what the standard might be or how that would be determined.
  3. It is not clear what is required for an “itemized description of the condition of the premises” — how much information needs to be given? “Itemized” generally means to set down in detail or by particulars, or included on a list of items.
  4. It is generally assumed that the tenant “completes” the Check-In Sheet by commenting on the condition of the premises as is done in many markets already, but the statute does not specify what the tenant must do. 

Using the New Information Check-In Form

The WRA has updated a few landlord/tenant forms based on the recent Wis. Stat. chapter 704 changes, including the WRA Move-In/Move-Out Report form. This form has been split into two new forms: the Information Check-In Sheet that meets the new § 704.08 requirements and a separate Check-Out Report/Security Deposit Withholding form. 

  1. Introductory Information: The Information Check-In Sheet begins by indicating that the landlord is providing the form as legally required by § 704.08 and giving the tenant basic directions: the tenant should complete the form and return it to the landlord within seven days.
  2. Premises, Landlord/Manager and Tenants: The landlord should fill in the address or other description of the premises at top, complete the landlord or property manager’s name and contact information, list the tenants, and indicate the date the Check-In Sheet was given to the tenants so that everyone can keep track of when the seven days typically would begin.
  3. Conditions Noted by Landlord: The box entitled “Conditions Noted by Landlord” is a new feature. This box is smaller and does not contain the detail included in the “Conditions Noted by Tenant” section because the landlord will be more familiar with the property and can zero in on any notable conditions that have not been already remedied via repairs or replacements. The landlord’s information may be derived from personal knowledge, prior tenants’ check-out forms, maintenance workers or inspection of the premises. The “Conditions Noted by Landlord” provision states that the landlord is providing the premises in normal condition and good repair except for any listed conditions, and a box is provided for the landlord to check if there are none. Some landlords may also choose to use this box to document new carpet, fresh paint or a new appliance since there is nothing to say that the noted conditions must be adverse and cannot highlight desirable features.
  4. Tenant Directions: Next are more instructions for the tenant: the tenant is to note any conditions the tenant observes that were not listed by the landlord. The tenant is told that if the tenant does not complete and return the Check-In Sheet that the landlord may conclude that the tenant found the condition of the premises to be acceptable.
  5. Conditions Noted by Tenant: The “Conditions Noted by Tenant” section resembles the customary tenant check-in forms used in many Wisconsin rental markets. There are boxes for a wide variety of rooms and areas that might be found in a traditional apartment as well as a rented single-family home. At the same time, the form does not presume to list prompts for assorted features in various rooms because the potential variety is too great to effectively anticipate.
  6. Note a Maintenance or Repair Request: At the bottom of the second page, tenants are cautioned to separately request any needed maintenance or repairs. The Information Check-In Sheet is not the proper vehicle for these requests.
  7. Withholding from Security Deposits: Finally the tenants are advised that the information on the Information Check-In Sheet may be used by the landlord when determining whether any of the tenant’s security deposit will be withheld for damages beyond normal wear and tear. This is followed by a summary of the bases for withholding amounts from a security deposit, now stated in Wis. Stat. § 704.28.

The WRA Information Check-In Sheet conforms to the current statutory requirements for a mandatory Information Check-In Sheet for new residential tenants. Going forward, there may be modifications to this law, perhaps giving answers to some of the unanswered questions or eliminating the “Conditions Noted by Landlord” feature, which is disfavored by many rental property owners and managers. Some are unhappy with the record-keeping and documentation burden the current version of § 704.08 generates, particularly when a large number of units are involved in a concurrent turnover, such as with university student housing.

Additional Information

New Forms Available on zipForm® and in paper copies to replace the old WRA-M Move-In/Move-Out Report:

WRA-CIS Check-In Sheet (the § 704.08 Information Check-In Sheet)
WRA-Check-Out Report/Security Deposit Withholding

Wis. Stat. § 704.08 at docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/704.pdf
“Landlord-Tenant Law: New Check-In Sheets & Property Disposal Procedure” in the May 2012 Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine at www.wra.org/WREM/May12/LandlordTenant.
“Best of the Legal Hotline: Landlord and Tenant Questions” in the July 2012 Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine at www.wra.org/WREM/Jul12/LegalHotline

Debbi Conrad is Senior Attorney and Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

 

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