Wisconsin Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. All plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning must be kept in good repair (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant can withhold rent, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit, but does not have right to repair and deduct (read more).
  • Retaliation. Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under Wisconsin law. (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Wisconsin does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyYes
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsNo
RV parksNot addressed
Mobile home parksYes
CondosNot addressed
Hotels/MotelsOnly if person resides in hotel/motel for more than 60 consecutive days

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Wisconsin, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water.Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment.Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cookingNot addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).Not addressed
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectorsNot addressed
Provide a mailbox.Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances.Not addressed
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer.Not addressed

Disclosing Habitability Issues

Wisconsin landlords are required to disclose any of the following conditions to prospective tenants prior to signing a lease:

  • Lack of running water
  • Non-working plumbing or sewage disposal systems
  • No electricity or bad wiring, dangerous outlets, etc.
  • Heating system does not work
  • Structural or other issues that could affect a resident’s health or safety

However, tenants may still choose to rent units that have these issues.

Note that Wisconsin law doesn’t address landlord responsibilities in detail at the state level; however, landlords are required to maintain “fit” premises and comply with building and housing codes.

In addition, the municipality in which the rental property is located may have additional requirements that landlords must follow.

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord and it must indicate when the repairs need to be made. The tenant must allow a reasonable amount of time for the landlord to make necessary repairs.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants 12 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Wisconsin landlord tenant law does not authorize tenants to withhold rent in response to habitability issues. Tenants can, however, move to another place until the landlord’s fixes the issue, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord’s noncompliance.
  2. Repair and deduct – tenants do not have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent.
  3. Lawsuit – tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

Landlords may not evict or retaliate against a tenant (by doing things like turning off the heat, water or electricity to the dwelling unit) because the tenant has:

  • complained about a building or housing code violation to government authorities;
  • joined or organized a tenants’ union;
  • exercised their legal rights as a tenant.

Sources