In Wisconsin, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by Wis. Stat. Prop. § 704.07. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.
Applicable Dwelling Types in Wisconsin
The implied warranty of habitability in Wisconsin does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.
|Dwelling Type||Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?|
|RV parks||Not addressed|
|Mobile home parks||Yes|
|Hotels/Motels||Only if person resides in hotel/motel for more than 60 consecutive days|
Landlord Responsibilities in Wisconsin
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 Issue||Landlord 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/cooking||Not 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 detectors||Not 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.
These disclosures are not included in owner-occupied buildings with four or more dwelling units. 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.
Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Wisconsin
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 in Wisconsin
If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rent Abatement – If a tenant remains in the unit while there is an issue that is materially affecting the tenant’s health or safety, rent abates to the extent the tenant is deprived of the normal use of the dwelling unit. Although the amount of rent abatement is not clear, the tenant may not withhold rent in full.
- Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
- 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 in Wisconsin
Landlords may not increase rent, evict, decrease services or retaliate against a tenant 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.