MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued an opinion Tuesday concerning residential lease provisions that make departing tenants responsible for the payment of carpet cleaning services.

Van Hollen issued the opinion to Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Ben Brancel. Van Hollen concluded that state law does not prohibit residential lease provisions from requiring a departing tenant to pay for routine carpet cleaning.

In his formal opinion, Van Hollen said the provision is not in conflict with a landlord's statutory duty to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair as required by state law. He said that because routine carpet cleaning is not a statutorily imposed obligation of a landlord, assigning the responsibility to a tenant through a lease provision does not void the rental agreement.

Van Hollen said his conclusion does not affect a prohibition against deducting charges from a tenant's security deposit.

"Under your agency's present rule ... landlords are expressly prohibited from withholding security deposits 'for normal wear and tear, or for other damages or losses for which the tenant cannot reasonably be held responsible under applicable law,'" Van Hollen said. "The accompanying note cites carpet cleaning as an example of an impermissible basis for withholding a portion of a security deposit. My conclusion that carpet cleaning provisions are valid does not affect the prohibition against deducting carpet cleaning expenses from a tenant's security deposit as a means of enforcing such provisions."

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