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.
Wiring, outlets, fixtures, and other components.
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.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause from negligence or improper useof 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 bygiving 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 landlordscannot refuse to make repairsthat 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 arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile 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 tenantscan withhold a proportionate percentage of rentwhen 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 arenot allowed to arrange for repairs and deductfrom the rent.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin tenants aregenerally 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 tenantsusually can’t suefor failure to make prompt repairs. There’s an exception, when the landlordpromisesrepairs 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 tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat 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.
In Wisconsin, it’s illegal for landlords to retaliate byevicting, canceling an automatic lease renewal,reducing utility services,or any other act that’sconstructively evictinga tenant who has taken one of the following protected actions:
“If the premises become untenantable because of damage by fire, water, or other casualty [including landlord’s pervasive interference with possession; seeLedvina v. Puksich, 687 N.W.2d 548 (Wis. Ct. App. 2004)] … the tenant may remove from the premises unless the landlord… [promptly] eliminate[s] the health hazard or the substantial violation … [or] if the inconvenience to the tenant by reason of the nature and period of repair, rebuilding, or elimination would impose undue hardship on the tenant. … [If] the condition … substantially affects the use and occupancy of the premises, rent abates … [but may not] be withheld in full, if the tenant remains in possession. If the tenant justifiably moves out under this subsection, the tenant is not liable for rent after the premises become untenantable … This subsection is inapplicable if the damage or condition is caused by negligence or improper use by the tenant.” Wis. Stat. § 704.07(4) (2022)
“Notice by the tenant or a person in the tenant’s behalf must be given under this chapter by one of the following methods:
“(a) By giving a copy of the notice personally to the landlord or to any person who has been receiving rent or managing the property as the landlord’s agent, or by leaving a copy at the landlord’s usual place of abode in the presence of some competent member of the landlord’s family at least 14 years of age, who is informed of the contents of the notice;
“(b) By giving a copy of the notice personally to a competent person apparently in charge of the landlord’s regular place of business or the place where the rent is payable;
“(c) By mailing a copy by registered or certified mail to the landlord at the landlord’s last-known address or to the person who has been receiving rent or managing the property as the landlord’s agent at that person’s last-known address; “(d) By serving the landlord as prescribed in s. 801.11 for the service of a summons.”
Required disclosures regarding habitability provide archetypal examples: “[T]he landlord shall disclose to the prospective tenant… The following conditions affecting habitability, the existence of which the landlord knows or could know on basis of reasonable inspection, whether or not notice has been received from code enforcement authorities: 1. The dwelling unit lacks hot or cold running water. 2. Heating facilities … are not [safely] capable of maintaining a temperature… of at least 67° F (19° C) during all seasons … 3. The dwelling unit is not served by electricity, or the electrical wiring, outlets, fixtures or other components of the electrical system are not in safe operating condition. 4. Any structural or other conditions in the dwelling unit or premises which constitute a substantial hazard … 5. The dwelling unit is not served by plumbing facilities in good operating condition. 6. The dwelling unit is not served by sewage disposal facilities in good operating condition.”
“An appliance that cannot be used as intended without creating a risk of fire or electrocution is not in reasonable working condition. Further, such a condition constitutes a ‘substantial violation . . . materially affecting the health or safety of the tenant.’”
“Section 704.07(4) provides the tenant with the remedy of rent abatement if the land-lord fails to fulfill his repair duties and to the extent the tenant is deprived of use of the premises, but § 704.07 does not provide a private cause of action… This only means that a violation of the statute, in and of itself, is not an independent or automatic basis for suit. We do not intend to extinguish any other causes of action.”
“(1) Every promise or representation made by a landlord to a tenant or prospective tenant to the effect that the dwelling unit or any other portion of the premises, including furnishings or facilities, will be cleaned, repaired or otherwise improved by the landlord shall specify the date or time period on or within which the cleaning, repaaymakerirs or improvements are to be completed. …
“(3) No landlord shall fail to complete the promised cleaning, repairs or improvements on the date or within the time period represented under sub. (1), unless the delay is for … causes beyond the landlord’s control. The landlord shall give timely notice to the tenant of reasons beyond the landlord’s control for any delay in performance, and stating when the cleaning, repairs or improvements will be completed.”
“Any person suffering pecuniary loss because of a violation by any other person of s. 100.70 or any order issued under this section may sue for damages therefor in any court of competent jurisdiction and shall recover twice the amount of such pecuniary loss, together with costs, including a reasonable attorney fee.”
“No landlord shall terminate a tenancy or give notice preventing the automatic renewal of a lease, or constructively evict a tenant by any means including the termination or substantial reduction of heat, water or electricity to the dwelling unit, in retaliation against a tenant because the tenant has: (a) Reported a violation of this chapter or a building or housing code to any governmental authority, or filed suit alleging such violation; or (b) Joined or attempted to organize a tenant’s union or association; or (c) Asserted, or attempted to assert any right specifically accorded to tenants under state or local law.”