Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Rights

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Rights

Last Updated: January 12, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

In Wisconsin, a lease is considered binding whenever there is an oral or written agreement to exchange rent for inhabiting a property. Under Wisconsin law, (Ch 704.01) tenants are allowed rights under this agreement, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to take some forms of alternative action.

Landlords also have rights such as the right to collect rent on time and the right to be reimbursed for costs for damages that are beyond normal wear and tear.

Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.

Questions? To chat with a Wisconsin landlord tenant attorney, click here

Landlord Responsibilities in Wisconsin

Landlords in Wisconsin are responsible for providing habitable living space and to make repairs in a “reasonable” amount of time, although reasonable is not defined. If they do not, Wisconsin tenants can move to another place until the landlord can fix the issue and may be excused from paying rent during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance.

Here is a list of essential amenities that Wisconsin landlords may or may not be responsible for:

Item Landlord Responsibility?
Dwelling structures Yes
Heating and air conditioning Yes
Water Yes
Plumbing/sanitation Yes
Electricity Yes
Mold Implied
Bed bugs Yes

Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation for exercising their right to a habitable dwelling.

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Tenant Responsibilities in Wisconsin

Aside from paying rent in a timely fashion, Wisconsin tenants must:

  • Comply with all building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Use all facilities, utilities and appliances in a reasonable manner.
  • Repair or pay for repairs for any damage or infestation caused by the tenant.
  • Keep the unit within cleanliness standards.
  • Not disturb other tenants or neighbors.

Evictions in Wisconsin

Landlords in Wisconsin may evict tenants for the following reasons:

  1. Lease Violation – A tenant can be evicted if they do not uphold their responsibilities under the terms of the lease. Wisconsin landlords are not required to allow their tenants to correct any lease agreement, but it is customary to do so. For tenants who have written leases for a year or less they must be given either a 5-Day Notice to Comply or 14-Day Notice to Quit. For tenants with written leases longer than one year, a landlord may issue a 30-Day Notice to Comply.
  2. No Lease/ End of Lease – If a tenant remains on the rental property after the lease term has expired, the landlord may issue a notice to quit.  The amount of time required in the notice depends on the type of tenancy.
    • Week-to-Week – 7-Day Notice to Quit.
    • Month-to-Month – 28-Day Notice to Quit.
  3. Imminent Harm – If a tenant poses an imminent threat to another tenant (or a tenant’s child) and there is a protection order, a condition of release that prohibits contact with another tenant or a criminal complaint against the tenant for sexual assault, stalking or domestic abuse, the landlord may issue a 5-Day Notice to Quit.
  4. Illegal Acts – If there is illegal activity on the premises then the landlord may issue a 5-Day Notice to Quit. The landlord is not required to give the tenant a chance to fix their behavior. Illegal activity includes criminal activity, drug-related activity and violent acts that affect the health and safety of others.

At-will tenants are entitled to receive at least 28 days of advanced notice before eviction. Also, landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.

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Security Deposits in Wisconsin

  • Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – None.
  • Time Limit for Returns – 21 days.
  • Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Landlords that wrongfully withhold a security deposit may be required to pay the full amount plus extra fees in damages.
  • Allowable Deductions – Missed rental payments and repairs for damages that exceed normal wear and tear.

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Lease Termination in Wisconsin

Notice requirements. Tenants that wish to break a lease in Wisconsin must give the following amounts of notice:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Week-to-Week No statute
Month-to-Month 28 Days
Quarter-to-Quarter No statute
Year-to-Year 5 Days
Questions? To chat with a Wisconsin landlord tenant attorney, click here

Early termination. Wisconsin tenants are allowed to break a lease early for the following reasons:

  1. Early termination clause.
  2. Active military duty.
  3. Uninhabitable unit.
  4. Landlord harassment.
  5. Domestic violence.

Tenants who break a lease early may have to pay the rest of the lease but landlords are obligated to make an effort to re-rent a unit.

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Rent Increases & Related Fees in Wisconsin

  • Rent control. Wisconsin law prohibits rent control policy on both a state and local level, so landlords can charge as much as they want for rent.
  • Rental increases. Similarly, landlords are not limited by how much they can raise rent, but they must give at least 28 days of advanced notice.
  • Rent-related fees. Late fees can be as high as the landlord desires though there is a $20 returned check fee limit.

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Housing Discrimination in Wisconsin

Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, familial status, religion, sex, or disability. Wisconsin also has special protections based on ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, and source of income. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations.

Discriminatory acts & penalties. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Equal Rights Division handles housing discrimination cases. The following behaviors may be considered discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class:

  • Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
  • Falsely denying unit availability
  • Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations
  • Steering tenants into certain buildings or neighborhoods
  • Advertising that indicates discriminatory preferences

If you are the victim of housing discrimination then you can fill out the appropriate form to file a complaint. If the complaint is found to be justified then the tenant has grounds to file civil litigation.

Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Wisconsin

Landlord Right to Entry in Wisconsin

Wisconsin landlords must provide at least 12 hours’ notice before entering a property. This notice requirement does not apply in the case of emergencies.

Small Claims Court in Wisconsin

Wisconsin small claims court will hear rent-related disputes valued up to $10,000 and will hear eviction cases. Written and oral contracts have a 6-year statute of limitations.

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Mandatory Disclosures in Wisconsin

Wisconsin landlords must provide these mandatory disclosures:

  1. Lead-Based Paint – For homes built before 1978, landlords must provide info about lead paint.
  2. Authorized Agents – Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
  3. Code Violations – Wisconsin landlords must disclose any past housing code violations.
  4. Utilities – If utilities aren’t included in the rent, the landlord must disclose this information to the tenant before entering the lease.
  5. Shared Utilities – Applicable to any building with submetering or shared utility meters.
  6. Check-In – A check-in checklist must be provided to the tenant that outlines the inventory and details about the condition of the property.
  7. Pre-Existing Damages – Applicable to any unit that charges a security deposit. Landlords must provide notice to tenants that they have the right to inspect the dwelling for damages.
  8. Domestic Abuse – Landlords must provide a notice about the protection afforded to victims of domestic abuse.
  9. Nonstandard Provisions – Applicable to leases where a landlord and tenant agree on nonstandard provisions to include in the lease.

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Changing the Locks in Wisconsin

Landlords are not allowed to unilaterally change the locks as a form of eviction. Tenants may change the locks provided they give proof that they or their child is in threat of harm.

Local Laws in Wisconsin

Milwaukee Landlord Tenant Rights

Local ordinances in Milwaukee add discrimination protections for people based on their receipt of rental or housing assistance. There are also protections for gender identity/expression.

In addition to the above, check your local Wisconsin county and municipality for additional landlord tenant regulations.

Questions? To chat with a Wisconsin landlord tenant attorney, click here