Wisconsin Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Wisconsin Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: August 19, 2023

Tenants in Wisconsin have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord in writing. Landlords must make repairs “promptly” in response to a request.

Wisconsin Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Wisconsin landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Hot and cold water.
  • Heating.
  • Electricity.
  • Wiring, outlets, fixtures, and other components.
  • Plumbing.
  • Sewage.
  • Provided appliances.
  • Any conditions which substantially threaten health and safety.

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause from negligence or improper use of the rental property. They’re also responsible for repairs that aren’t necessary to basic safety and habitability.

Requesting Repairs in Wisconsin

Wisconsin tenants must request repairs by giving the landlord written notice of the issue. The request can be personally given to the landlord or the landlord’s agents, served by a process server, or delivered via registered or certified mail.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin landlords have to make needed repairs “promptly” after getting written notice. The law requires completed repairs, not just attempted repairs, and prompt action after notice, not just reasonably timely action.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility. It doesn’t matter whether the tenant is current on rent.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin landlords are not required to pay for alternative accommodation while they conduct repairs. However, if the nature of a needed repair would impose undue hardship, the tenant can move out and stop paying rent until the landlord completes repairs.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Wisconsin

Wisconsin tenants have only one remedy for a failure to repair, other than what’s agreed in the lease: rent withholding. The tenant can move out and stop paying rent completely until repairs are finished, or can remain on the property paying reduced rent proportionate to the severity of the issue.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin tenants can withhold a proportionate percentage of rent when the rental property’s use is reduced by the landlord’s failure to repair. This can only be 100% of the rent when the tenant is moving out until repairs are complete.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin tenants are not allowed to arrange for repairs and deduct from the rent.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin tenants are generally not allowed to break a lease. The tenant can stop rent payments and move out in response to a failure to repair, but this doesn’t break the lease. If repairs are made later, the tenant then becomes liable for rent payments again.

Can the Tenant Sue in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin tenants usually can’t sue for failure to make prompt repairs. There’s an exception, when the landlord promises repairs but then fails to make them without a provable excuse (or doesn’t specify a time frame when promising repairs). This lets the tenant sue for twice actual damages, plus attorney fees.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer cites a violation, the landlord is on notice for the purpose of evaluating the promptness of repairs.

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Landlord Retaliation in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, it’s illegal for landlords to retaliate by evicting, canceling an automatic lease renewal, reducing utility services, or any other act that’s constructively evicting a tenant who has taken one of the following protected actions:

  • Reporting or suing over a code violation.
  • Participating in a tenant organization.
  • Pursuing rights under state or local law.

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