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.
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, then Wisconsin tenants may partially withhold rent.
Here is a list of essential amenities that Wisconsin landlords may or may not be responsible for:
|Heating and air conditioning||Yes|
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants in retaliation for exercising their right to a habitable dwelling.
Tenant Responsibilities in Wisconsin
Aside from paying rent in a timely fashion, Wisconsin tenants must:
- Keep amenities in working order
- 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:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant is late on rental payments, then landlords may issue a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit after any applicable grace period. Alternatively, a landlord can issue a 14-Day Notice to Quit and not give the tenant the chance to pay.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs then the landlord may issue a 5-Day Notice to Cure or Quit or a 14-Day Notice to Vacate. If the tenant does not fix their behavior or leave, then the landlord can file for eviction.
- Illegal acts – If there is illegal activity on the premises then the landlord may issue a 5-Day Unconditional notice to Vacate. The landlord is not required to give the tenant a chance to fix their behavior.
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.
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.
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|
Early termination. Wisconsin tenants are allowed to break a lease early for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Landlord harassment
- 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.
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.
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.
Mandatory Disclosures in Wisconsin
Wisconsin landlords must provide 3 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. For homes built before 1978, landlords must provide info about concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized agents. Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Code violations. Wisconsin landlords must disclose any past housing code violations.
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.