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Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Laws

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant LawsThis article is intended to be an online resource for Wisconsin landlords.  We summarize key Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant laws that are most applicable to residential rental units.

This article is not qualified for legal advice.  Individuals seeking guidance need to work with a legal advisor who is qualified in the jurisdiction.  Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Laws and statutes may vary from county to county or city to city, this article provides state-level laws and statutes. 

Also, laws and statutes are subject to change and may cause sections of this article to be outdated.  We provide links to assist landlords and tenants to the state statute page for further research.

Click here if you are seeking renters insurance in Wisconsin.

 

Quick Facts for Real Estate Investors Considering Wisconsin

Wisconsin landlord-tenant laws are considered Landlord-friendly.

There are 5.8m  residents in Wisconsin.  Major metropolitan markets in Wisconsin are:

  1. Milwaukee: Estimated population of 1,575,179, which 40% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $869.
  2. Madison: Estimated population of 664,865, which 39% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $1,009.
  3. Green Bay: Estimated population of 322,906, which 33% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $747.
  4. Appleton: Estimated population of 237,974, which 27% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $764.
  5. Racine: Estimated population of 196,311, which 32% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $825.
  6. Oshkosh: Estimated population of 171,907, which 35% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $738.
  7. Eau Claire: Estimated population of 169,304, which 33% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $767.
  8. Janesville: Estimated population of 163,354, which 34% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $800.
  9. Wausau: Estimated population of 163,285, which 28% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $685.
  10. La Crosse: Estimated population of 136,615, which 37% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $802.
  11. Sheboygan: Estimated population of 115,340, which 31% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $716.
  12. Fond du Lac: Estimated population of 103,403, which 31% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $760.

 

 

SECURITY DEPOSIT LAWS IN WISCONSIN

 

Does Wisconsin require security deposits?

Wisconsin does not require security deposits, however, if accepted then there are laws and regulations.

 

Is a security deposit receipt required in Wisconsin?

Landlords must provide a written receipt when deposits or rent is paid in cash.  Or, if requested by the tenant.  (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.03(2a))

 

How much security deposit can a landlord charge in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin does not state a limit on security deposits.  Generally, landlords will charge one to one-and-a-half month’s rent for a security deposit.

 

 

Storage Requirements for Security Deposits in Wisconsin:

There is no requirement of how the landlord must store.  No statute.

 

 

Can security deposits be commingled with other assets in Wisconsin?

Landlords can commingle deposits with their personal funds.

 

Do landlords have to pay interest on security deposits in Wisconsin?

Landlords are not required to share the interest earned for deposits.  No statute.

  

 

 

When must a landlord return the deposit by in Wisconsin?

Landlords must return the security deposits within 21 days after the termination of the lease and delivery of possession by the tenant.  Or, the date a new tenant’s tenancy begins once re-rented.  (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(2))

 

When can a landlord in Wisconsin withhold a security deposit?

At the end of a lease, the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit.  However, landlords may withhold all or portions of a tenant’s security deposit for (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(3)):

  • Unpaid rent and/or fees
  • Damages beyond normal wear-and-tear
  • Damages from breach of lease
  • Unpaid monthly municipal permit fees
  • Permanent harm or neglect of the premises

 

 

 

Nonrefundable fees:

No Statute.

 

Pet Deposits and Additional Fees:

No statute on pet security deposits.

 

Require a written description / itemized list of damages and charges?

Landlords are required to provide a written and itemized list of damages that are delivered or mailed.  (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(4))

 

What happens to Wisconsin landlords that fail to comply with returning the security deposit?

No statute defines the penalty.  However, Wisconsin statutes indicate penalties found in the  Pierce v. Norwick, 202 Wis. 2d 588 (1996) case.

 

 

 

 

 

RENTAL AGREEMENT LAWS IN WISCONSIN

 

Rental agreements required in Wisconsin:

Rental agreements are required for leases 12 months or longer.  We always recommend having a legal lease agreement to prevent future complications.

If you need a lease, Burbz offers an online Wisconsin rental lease agreement.

 

What are the required lease provisions in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin requires certain provisions to be included in the lease agreement.  Besides both the landlord and tenant names, the landlord should also list:

  • MUST:  Description of the rental unit
  • MUST:  Security deposit amount and terms
  • MUST:  Rent Amount and Due Date.
  • MUST:  Pet policies
  • MUST:  Process for requesting maintenance and repairs
  • MUST:  Security deposit amount and terms
  • Provision defining automatic renewal
  • Late Fees and Penalties
  • Landlords name, address, and phone number
  • Length of the lease agreement
  • Tenants name, address, and phone number
  • Landlord’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Tenant’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Occupancy by children or pets
  • Required deposits and the conditions for their refund
  • Inspection rights by the landlord
  • Other fees
  • Address of rental property
  • Subleasing policy
  • Cleaning Fees

 

 

What are the rental agreement notice requirements in Wisconsin:

Fixed-End or Year-to-Year: Fixed ended leases simply expire.  Any year-to-year lease will require 28 days written notice.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.19(3))

Month-to-Month: Must provide at least 28 days’ written notice at any time. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.19(3))
Read our guide on Month-to-Month rent.

Week-to-Week: Must provide at least 7 day’s written notice with the termination date specified in the notice. 

 

Rent Increase Notice:

For leases that are month-to-month, landlords must provide at least 28 days written notice.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.19(3))

Rent Grace Period for Residential:

Wisconsin has a 5 day grace period that landlords must wait before sending a written notice.

 

 

Prepaid Rent:

Landlords may collect prepaid rent, however, anything more than one month’s rent is considered part of the security deposit.  (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.02(11))

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATE FEES AND LIMITS IN WISCONSIN

Late Fees for Residential:

Wisconsin landlords can charge a late fee but it must be stated in the lease agreement.

 

 

 

 

WISCONSIN LEASE TERMINATIONS / NOTICES TO QUIT

 

In Wisconsin, lease agreements between landlords and tenants can be terminated.  Read our blog for landlords about handling early lease terminations.  Here are the cause and effects:

 

What is the Pay or Quit for Nonpayment requirement in Wisconsin?

If the lease is for one year, Wisconsin landlords must wait 5 days before sending a 14-day notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.17(2)(b))

If the lease is longer than one year, Wisconsin landlords must wait 5 days before sending a 30-day notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.17(3))

 

 

How many days must a landlord allow before terminating for a Lease Violation?

Same statutes apply for breach of lease.  If the lease is for one year, Wisconsin landlords must wait 5 days before sending a 14-day notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.17(2)(b))

If the lease is longer than one year, Wisconsin landlords must wait 5 days before sending a 30-day notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.17(3))

 

 

Any actions that result in an immediate lease termination?

No statute.

 

 

 

 

WISCONSIN LAWS ON REPAIRS

 

Wisconsin requires landlords to provide a habitable property for tenants to live and enjoy.  There are specific provisions defining how tenants can remedy repairs if the landlord fails to do so. 

How many days must the tenant give for non-emergency repairs? 

No statute.  Tenants typically need to provide a reasonable notice which varies state by state.  That typically ranges from 7 to 30 days for non-emergency.

 

Can tenants withhold rent for landlords’ failure to provide essential services (i.e. water, heat, etc.)?

Wisconsin allows the tenant the following remedies to handle repairs if the landlord fails (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.07(4)):

  • Pay for essential services during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance and deduct their actual and reasonable costs from the rent
  • Recover damages based upon the reduction in fair rental value of the dwelling unit, provided tenant continues to occupy premises
  • Procure reasonable substitute housing during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord’s noncompliance

 

 

WISCONSIN LANDLORD LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Landlords have an obligation to the tenants, which include:

  • Remain in compliance with all applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety
  • Make repairs to keep premises in a fit and habitable condition
  • Keep all common areas of the property in a clean and safe condition

 

 

 

WISCONSIN TENANT LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Generally, tenants must dispose of all rubbish and garbage, refrain from unreasonable use of electrical, heating, and plumbing fixtures, meet all obligations lawfully by the code enforcement agency, refrain from willfully destroying or damaging the structure, take in additional occupants, rent or sublease without the owner’s consent.  

 

 

 

 

 

WISCONSIN EVICTION LAWS

 

Can landlords do a ‘self help’ eviction?

In Wisconsin, it is illegal for landlords to cause the tenant to quit the rental unit involuntarily.

Are landlords allowed to lockout tenants by changing locks?

The landlord cannot change or remove the doors or locks.

 

Are landlords allowed to turn off utilities?

The landlord cannot change or turn off utilities.

 

 

 

Do landlords have to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages when re-renting the rental unit?

Yes.  Landlords must attempt to minimize damages. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.29(2)(b))

 

 

 

WISCONSIN LAWS ON RETALIATION

 

Wisconsin laws state a landlord cannot terminate a lease, refuse a lease renewal or raise rents, terminate a periodic tenancy, or threaten to bring an action of possession when (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.45):

 

  • Tenant submitted, or threatened to, a complaint to a government agency for building or health code violation
  • Tenant has sent written complaints to the landlords about repairs
  • Tenant has exercised any lawful they are entitled to

 

Massachusetts does not define a period that would result in retaliatory action. Other states typically range from 6 months to 1 year.

 

 

 

 

LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

Wisconsin states a landlord cannot discriminate against victims of domestic or sexual violence.  Landlords are required to change locks if requested.  Victims are allowed to terminate their lease agreements.

If you are a victim, please search The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence  site for a helpline:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

 

 

 

WISCONSIN LAWS FOR LOCKS AND LANDLORDS

Wisconsin does not have any statewide laws regarding locks for landlords.  The tenant cannot remove, replace, or add a lock without the written permission from the landlord.  If the tenant does with permission, they must provide the landlord with a key. 

Landlords must replace the locks within 48 hours of a tenant providing a certified copy of a criminal complaint or injunction stating the tenant is in jeopardy.

 

 

 

 

WISCONSIN PET LAWS & PET POLICIES

Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Laws does have any specific pet laws.  The lease agreement needs to state whether pets are allowed and any type of pet deposit that will be charged.

Landlords are legally allowed to create their own pet policies and requirements.  Including tolerance for breeds, size, types, and more. 

Read our guide to pet policies.

 

 

 

 

 

DO LANDLORDS IN WISCONSIN NEED A RENTAL LICENSE?

 

Wisconsin does not require landlords to have a business or rental license.  Local cities may have different requirements, we recommend you research the local city-specific laws. 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTICE OF ENTRY LAWS IN WISCONSIN

Do landlords in Wisconsin have to provide notice of entry? 

Wisconsin state laws require landlords to provide a 12 hour notice.  It can be shorter if the tenant agrees.  This includes:

  • Non-emergency maintenance and repairs
  • Improvements to property
  • Inspections
  • Showing prospective tenants, contractors, mortgagees, or buyers.

 

When can a landlord enter without notice:

Landlords may enter due to an emergency or set of circumstances demanding immediate action. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(2))

 

 

Can landlords enter for non-emergency maintenance and repairs?

Yes, with proper 12 hour notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(2))

 

 

Can landlords enter for showings?

Yes, a 12 hours notice.   (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(2))

 

 

 

Can landlords enter for emergencies without notice?

Yes, when there is an immediate threat to the safety or health of persons using or near the premises. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(2))

 

 

Can landlords enter during Tenant’s extended absence?

Yes, no notice is required if the tenant has abandoned the property.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(2))

 

 

Can landlords enter for pesticides?

Yes, with proper 12 hour notice. Madison requires a 24 hour notice.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(2))

 

 

 

 

 

WISCONSIN SUBLEASE AND ASSIGNMENT PROVISIONS

Landlords should include a clause in the lease agreement to prevent subleasing.  Otherwise, the tenant may sublet the rental unit.

 

 

 

 

TENANT ABANDONED PROPERTY IN WISCONSIN

 

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Laws state a tenant who leaves property behind is presumed to have abandoned the personal property and the landlord may dispose of it in any manner, unless the tenant has provided a written notice and agreement with the landlord.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(5)(a)):

Landlords that sell or auction the tenants personal property must provide proceeds to the Wisconsin Department of Administration, which will use the money for homeless shelters.

If the lease does not contain specific noitce regarding abandoned property, they must:

  • Providing a 10 day notice to take possession of their personal property.
  • Landlord will hold onto the property for another 30 days after the initial 10 days and may then dispose of the personal property.

 

 

 

 

REQUIRED RENTAL AGREEMENT DISCLOSURES FOR WISCONSIN LEASES

 

Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Laws requires the following be included with all Rental Agreement Disclosures:

 

Lead Paint Disclosure:  Yes.  Federal law requires every landlord to disclose known information on lead-based paint and hazards.  Landlords must provide this EPA-approved pamphlet.

Information Check-In Sheet:  Landlords must provide a check-in inspection sheet at the beginning of every residential occupancy.  Tenants have 7 days to complete and return.

Identification of Landlord or Authorized Agents:  Landlords must disclose the names and addresses of all persons authorized to receive rent, manage the property or have ownership in the property.   (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.04(1))

 

 

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

 

Wisconsin Stat. Ann. §§ 704.01 – 704.50 – Chapter 704 – Landlord and Tenant Statutes

Wisconsin Way: Guide for Landlords and Tenants

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Guide

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Wisconsin

Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center

 

 

 

WISCONSIN RELATED COURT INFO & LINKS

 

Wisconsin Small Claims Court Limits:

$10,000 is the limit for small claims court.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 799.01(2))

 

Wisconsin Eviction Cases Allowed in Small Claims:

Yes. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 799.40)

Wisconsin Small Claims Court

Wisconsin State Courts

Wisconsin Attorney General

 

 

 

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