Wisconsin HOA Laws

Wisconsin HOA Laws

Last Updated: June 15, 2023 by Corrin Swintosky

In Wisconsin, certain planned communities are governed by a homeowners association (HOA). Their powers and responsibilities vary based on the property type and governing documents.

Who Regulates HOAs in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, there is no state provision governing HOAs. Most HOAs are registered as nonprofit corporations which are regulated by the Wisconsin Nonstock Corporations Act found in Chapter 21 of the Wisconsin Statutes. This act manages the internal affairs and liabilities of members and directors of corporations.

HOAs also have documents that regulate themselves. Every HOA is different, however, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restriction, and other rules.

HOAs in Wisconsin may be subject to applicable federal laws such as:

HOAs may be subject to certain state laws such as:

How to Find HOA Regulations in Wisconsin

The governing documents of an HOA in Wisconsin are up to the discretion of the HOA whether they are public records. Bylaws are optional when an HOA files its Articles of Incorporation as a business entity with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

If an HOA decides to file its bylaws with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution, they can be obtained by ordering a copy of the document through the online Business Entity Search for a fee.

HOA Powers in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, HOAs have the power to:

  • Collect payments to maintain and operate common areas
  • Collect charges for common assessments
  • Levy reasonable fines
  • Foreclose on a home for unpaid liens

Also, HOA governing documents can grant more powers such as restrictions on exterior paint colors, fencing, membership, and parking requirements.

Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, HOAs can impose fines on a homeowner. The type, amount, and notice of the fine can be found in the HOA’s governing documents.

An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit) any of the following:

  • Displaying the American flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law
  • Displaying political signs (in condominiums)
  • Installing satellite dishes and antennas

Reasonable rules and regulations about the placement, manner, and display of the American flag, political signs, and satellite dishes and antennas may be included in the HOAs governing documents.

Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House in Wisconsin?

An HOA in Wisconsin can foreclose on a home within its community. HOAs have the power to place a lien on a property when the owner neglects to pay their assessments. If a lien goes unresolved, the HOA can foreclose on the house

The HOA must wait at least 60 days after unpaid assessments are due before filing a lien against the homeowner’s property. The claim needs to be filed with the office of the clerk of circuit court where the property is located. The court can then enter a judgment that allows foreclosure on the unpaid lien.

There is no provision in the Wisconsin Statutes that govern an HOA evicting a homeowner or tenant. These provisions can be found in the HOA’s governing documents.

Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, there is no state provision authorizing an HOA to enter a homeowner’s property. Clauses of if, when, and how an HOA can enter a homeowner’s house will be listed in its governing documents.

Typically, an HOA may be able to enter a homeowner’s property in case of emergency, maintenance, or violation of any rules or regulations.

Except in the case of an emergency, reasonable notice should be provided to the homeowner before the HOA is to enter the property. A reasonable timeline can range depending on the reason for entry between three days and a couple of weeks.

Where Do Homeowners File Complaints Against Their HOA in Wisconsin?

The appropriate agency to file a complaint against an HOA depends on the type of complaint.

If a homeowner feels they are a victim of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in Wisconsin state, eastern federal, or western federal court.

For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, homeowners may also file in state, eastern federal, or western federal court within one year of the violation date.

A homeowner can bring all other complaints to state court in the appropriate jurisdiction by filing a claim.

Joining and Leaving an HOA in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, there are no specific state provisions regarding joining and leaving an HOA. These processes are determined by the HOA’s governing documents. Documents explaining the HOA and its membership rules should be presented at the closing for a new owner’s home purchase.

Typically, there are two types of HOAs that regulate joining and leaving clauses:

  • Mandatory HOAs. When a person buys a home, they automatically become a member required to abide by any HOA rules listed in the governing documents. This usually includes that a homeowner is not able to leave the HOA freely.
  • Voluntary HOAs. When a person buys a home, membership is a choice for each homeowner. If they choose to become a member, they may leave at any time by stopping their payments with the HOA.

To leave a mandatory HOA, a homeowner can sell their house or try to petition the court to have their home removed. However, there is no guarantee the petition will be granted.

How to Dissolve an HOA in Wisconsin

The process for dissolution of an HOA in Wisconsin may be set forth in the HOA’s governing documents. If not listed, a majority vote of ⅔ or more by members of the HOA is required to move forward with the dissolution.

If ⅔ of the HOA members vote in favor of dissolution, a plan of dissolution needs to be made to distribute assets and debts of the HOA. After the plan of dissolution is executed, the HOA must file an Articles of Dissolution with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Dissolution. The HOA is considered dissolved once filed.