Wisconsin Rental Laws

Written on September 26, 2013 by , updated on October 30, 2017

flag-of-wisconsinThis article summarizes some key Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant laws applicable to residential rental units.

We’ve used the Official State Statutes and other online sources cited below to research this information and it should be a good starting point in learning about the law.

With that said, our summary is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal advice. Laws and statutes are always subject to change, and may even vary from county to county or city to city.

You are responsible for performing your own research and complying with all laws applicable to your unique situation.

If you have legal questions or concerns, we recommend consulting with the appropriate government agencies and/or a qualified lawyer in your area. Your local or state bar association may have a referral service that can help you find a lawyer with experience in landlord-tenant law.

Official Rules and Regulations

Details

Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: No Limit! (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06
  • Security Deposit Interest: No (source)
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No
  • Pet Deposits and Additional Fees: No separate pet deposit needed since there is no limit on what you can charge for a security deposit.  Landlords can charge up to $20 to a tenant to perform a background/credit check (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.05(4))
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 21 days after either the date on which the tenant’s rental agreement terminates or the date on which a new tenant’s tenancy begins if the landlord re-rents the premises before the tenant’s rental agreement terminates. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(2))
  • Receipt of Deposit: Written Receipt is required if the deposit is paid for in cash, or if requested by the tenant. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.03(2a))
  • Require Written Description / Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(4))
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute

Lease, Rent & Fees:

  • Rent Increase Notice: 28 days notice for a Month-to-Month lease (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.19(3))
  • Late Fees: Allowed, but all fees must be disclosed in the lease. (source)
  • Prepaid Rent: Any rent payment that is more than one month’s prepaid rent is considered to be a security deposit. Nothing in the rules prevents a landlord from collecting more than one month’s rent as security. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.02(11))
  • Returned Check Fees: No Statute
  • Receipt of Rent: Written receipt is required if tenant pays rent with cash. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.03(2b))
  • Pre-examination and Copies of Lease: Rental agreements and rules and regulations established by the landlord, if in writing, shall be furnished to prospective tenants for their inspection before a rental agreement is entered into, and before any earnest money or security deposit is accepted from the prospective tenant. Copies shall be given to the tenant at the time of agreement. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.03(1))
  • Automatic Lease Renewal: Tenants with a yearly lease must be reminded at least 15 to 30 days in advance of the landlord automatically renewing or extending the lease – assuming there is a provision in the lease. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.15)
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Shelter, Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, if the property is severely damaged or uninhabitable (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.07(4))
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: No Statute
  • Self-Help Evictions: No (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.09(7))
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney’s Fees: Yes (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 799.25(10))
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: Yes (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.29(2)(b))

Notices and Entry:

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Rules:

  • Information Check-in Sheet: Landlord must provide a new residential tenant a check-in inspection sheet at the beginning of occupancy. Tenant has 7 days to complete and return it to the Landlord (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.04(8))
  • Check-in Procedures: Tenants who pay a security deposit have 7 days from the start-date of the rental agreement to inspect the property for previous damages. Tenants should provide a written list of damages to their landlords, and keep a copy of the list for their personal records. Photos are also recommended. A tenant may also request a list of physical damages or defects, if any, charged to the previous tenant’s security deposit. The landlord may require the tenant to make this request, if any, in writing (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(1)(a)).
  • Pre-existing Damages: If a tenant makes a request, the landlord shall provide the tenant with a list of all physical damages or defects charged to the previous tenant’s security deposit, regardless of whether those damages or defects have been repaired. The landlord shall provide the list within 30 days after the landlord receives the request, or within 7 days after the landlord notifies the previous tenant of the security deposit deductions, whichever occurs later. The landlord may explain that some or all of the listed damages or defects have been repaired, if that is the case. The landlord need not disclose the previous tenant’s identity, or the amounts withheld from the previous tenant’s security deposit. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.06(1)(b))
  • Special Treatment: A landlord cannot end or refuse to renew your tenancy based upon the fact that you or a member of your household is a victim of a documented act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 106.50(5m)).  A landlord may not evict a tenant solely because of their status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 106.50(5m)(dm)).  Landlords are still allowed to evict anyone because of non-payment or a lease violation.
  • Termination of Tenancy for Imminent Threat: Landlord and Tenant may terminate a tenancy if a tenant or a child of the tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if the tenant remains on the premises. (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.16)
  • Locks: Landlord must change the locks within 48 hours of tenant providing a certified copy of an injunction or criminal complaint in which the tenant is in jeopardy.  The tenant is responsible for the cost of changing the locks.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.16)
  • Abandoned Personal Property:  If a tenant leaves behind personal property, the landlord may presume, in the absence of a written agreement between the landlord and the tenant to the contrary, that the tenant has abandoned the personal property and may dispose of the abandoned personal property in any manner that the landlord, in his/her sole discretion, determines is appropriate (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.05(5)(a)). If landlord sells or auctions any of the tenant’s personal property, the proceeds must be given to the Wisconsin Department of Administration, which uses the money to help feed the homeless (Wis. Stat Ann. §§ 704.05(5)(2)).  The specific time required between giving notice and selling the property are outlined in the 2011 Assembly Bill 561.
  • Pesticide Use: Wisconsin’s pesticide law also requires that pesticide applicators provide residents with certain information at the time of the application. The information must be in writing and it should be left with an adult at the residence or placed near the entrance to the dwelling. (source)
    Residents must be told:

    • The applicator’s name, address and license number.
    • A phone number that the resident can call for more information on the application.
    • The brand name, product name or common chemical name of the pesticide applied.
    • Amount of pesticide used and area treated or the concentration and total quantity of each pesticide applied.
    • Any needed precautions such as how long to stay out of the treated area. If residents cannot enter the treated area, the applicator must also post a warning sign.
    • The date and approximate starting and ending time of the application.
    • Notice that a copy of the label is available upon request.
  • Retaliation: A residential landlord may not increase rent, decrease services, bring an action for possession of the premises, refuse to renew a lease or threaten any of the foregoing, if there is evidence that the action or inaction would not occur but for the landlord’s retaliation against the tenant for doing any of the following (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.45):
    • Making a good faith complaint about a defect in the premises to an elected public official or a local housing code enforcement agency.
    • Complaining to the landlord about a violation of s. 704.07 or a local housing code applicable to the premises.
    • Exercising a legal right relating to residential tenancies.
    • Note:  A landlord may bring an action for possession of the premises if the tenant has not paid rent (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.44(2))
  • Code Violations and Conditions Affecting Habitability. Before entering into a rental agreement or accepting any earnest money or security deposit from the prospective tenant, the landlord shall disclose any code violations and conditions affecting habitability. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.04(2))
  • Identification of Landlord or Authorized Agents: Landlord shall 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))

Court Related:

Business Licenses:

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403 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Emre

    hello, I am living at Lacrosse, WI. I have a problem with my landlord I just moved this apartment before 27 days ago. I filled a sheet about what should be fixed, refrigerator is leaking water and making ice and there is some missing screen on the windows. There is some cracked windows and one is not closing even. Someone tried to get in one night and push the door. I was scaring during 20 days and one day there was storm and ı recognized my roof is leaking on my room. the carpets was all wet I putted something plastic bowl. This is wisconsin and there is a lot rain even at summer. they come checked and left. they already did not fixed first problems that we agreed to fix and now my roof is leaking and I can not sleep 2-3 days at my house.

    • Emre

      Because of my refrigerator. I putted $60 for garbage. Because of the rain some of my university books get damage that worth $300. During one week I am waiting them to contact with me about what they gonna do with the roof raining( it is like raining inside and I have video too). Can I break my lease and get my deposit back because I am feeling like they do not care. My landlord told me ohh that can be issues can be normal at least you lost your books, it is okay. I was nearly getting pissed off.

  • JOSIE Seidel

    Moved out of a townhouse in LaCrosse,Wisconsin the end of July. Hired a cleaning service before leaving. We had a pet that we paid a extra $100.00 a month to have him there, 12 month lease. The landlord said since we had a pet, we have to pay a professional to have ALL carpeting cleaned! We told him that’s not our responsibility, he said only if you don’t have a pet! We put a $1,000.00 deposit down and he claims that we won’t get much back! The dog was in a kennel and house trained! Is the landlord correct?

  • Jake

    My previous landlord/property manager allowed us to paint walls and hang things (such as pictures, posters, etc) since this was all verbal my current landlord is hanging onto every word of the lease, unless if anything is in writing. If I can get my previous landlord to acknowledge they did in fact allow the painting and hanging of pictures/posters can I prevent my landlord from charging me out of my security deposit to fix these things?

  • S. D.

    I had a tenant for 3yrs who just moved out. She left it disgusting! I’ve read that all though the carpets are dirty & she had 2 walls with a botched paint job, those can be considered ‘normal wear and tear’. I also just discovered that although pets are not allowed, she had a cat. The lease states: “Tenant also agrees not to keep any pets in the home. Any pets to be acquired during the lease term must be approved by the landlord and may require an additional rent and/or security deposit and must sign an addendum with any additional rules that may apply. If determined the tenant has any pets in the home, the tenant is considered by the landlord to be a breach of this lease.”…Can I deduct anything for her having a cat w/o approval?

    • S. D.

      To be more clear….Had I agreed to allow her to have a cat, I would have charged $25/mo in addition to her rent.

      ALSO, she gave me a 28-day notice on 7/15 indicating that she would be out by 8/15 and would pay 1/2 of August. Again, she is month-to-month and her rent is due on the 1st of every month. In the State of WI, is it literally 28 days from when notice is given and rent for Aug would then be pro-rated? Or, is it 28-days prior to when the next rent is due, in her case, would she have to pay all of Aug because her notice was only 15 days prior to the due date of 8/1?

      • Lucas Hall

        Hi S.D.

        While I can’t give you legal advice, I can tell you what I would do.

        If I had a tenant get a cat without permission, I would replace the carpets. Cat dander and allergies are nearly impossible to get out of carpet – even with a professional cleaning. You can’t charge her for the full price of the carpet, but you can charge her for the remaining life span of the carpet that she ruined. Just search for “Carpet” on landlordology, and you’ll find more details. Also, here’s a good podcast about it: https://www.landlordology.com/ask-lucas/010-carpet-damage/

        Regarding the notice: it seems as if she gave proper notice (28 days) but didn’t do it from the rent period. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems like notice needs to match the rent period – not given halfway through the month: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/704/19/5

        I suggest talking to a lawyer about this too – especially if you think she’s going to fight you on the deposit withholdings.

  • Mary

    I have a commercial unit that I rented and the tenant painted over a custom paint job on all the walls and in one place painted around the large mirror. She was only there for one year. The paint job is terrible and uneven and two tone on one wall. She left the place with patched holes and pencil marks on the wall. She commented after she moved in that she thought about painting. I told her to let me know before she did anything. She didn’t. I do have a signed lease with her. Am I able to deduct from her security deposit to have the walls where the plaster was knocked out repaired, remove paint she got on the terrazzo floor, and to have the place repainted since it is a terrible job and I never gave my permission?

    Thank you
    Mary

  • Andrew Abrams

    My apt in downtown Madison rents all apts on either August 1 or August 15 start dates. I moved in in Feb with a sublet lease until August 1 when it would be renewed. It’s August 30 and I’m still without a lease. What are the rules in terms of what the landlord/resident manager must do regarding this? Are they in breach of contract? Thank you!

    • Ilene Schaffer

      My landlord never gave me a copy of my rental lease either. I moved out. I am wondering if they should be able to charge me for the remainder of the rent ?

  • Crystal Anderson

    I have a question for the landlords. But first some background information.
    My mother in law passed away last month, she had recently in the last 5 weeks moved into a new apartment. My husband is the next of kin. Now, we know we have 60 days before the lease terminates, and that he is the successor of her property inside the apartment. We found out tonight that the maintenance person has been entering the apartment without notifying us. She also Facebook messaged us after entering the apartment asking us questions about when we are getting things out. My question is, in the state of Wisconsin can the landlord or maintenance person legally enter the apartment without notifying us?

  • Mary Reif

    How do we charge for damages for court this Thursday Torn screens, junk left had to take loads to dump and Goodwill nothing cleaned house was filthy. Dog scratches on most doors, window frame chewed up by dogs. Had to refinish wooden floors, we think the fish tank broke gouges in floors from scraping furniture across, refrigerator to dump missing shelves door guards all broken off electricity was off for a couple months smelled, all shelves broken on doors unusable, food left in cupboards, cupboards filthy inside and out, yard FULL of dog doo, gouges in wall from taking furniture out, cracked windows. It was disgusting & smelled awful. We do the work ourselves to fix the property how do you charge for this?

  • Amanda

    Just wondering if there are any rules on heat and a/c in Wisconsin Rental Law. The property I am renting has a furnace with an central air unit, but we also have electric heaters and one really small window air unit for a two story, 3 bedroom unit. This a/c is enought to cool one bedroom, and we have to go but our own to be comfortable anywhere else. The landlord stated they would rather hand out the tiny window unit than maintain a central air unit, which boggles my mind. Any thoughts or advice?

  • Anthony

    I am terminating a lease early due to my landlords failure to enforce the no smoking clause in the lease with other tenants as it is affecting my health. He is making me pay tons of fees and says that even once I am moved out at the end of the month I am still responsible for the rent and utilities even though he is technically in violation of said lease. What can I do?

  • Ariel

    My ex and i had a place together that was a month to month lease. After a few months he was evicted by the landlord. I just recently moved out of that rental after 3 years. I have not received my security deposit and was informed by my ex that he had received half. Our walk thru inspection was clear and all bills were paid on time. Im confused on why he got the security deposit?? His name was signed off the lease when he was evicted and remained only my name.

  • TAH

    My landlord won’t fix my bathroom sink, oven, over heats, my air conditioner this summer which if I would run would cost me 60.00a week. Then when new tenants moved in and had there’s running non stop. I had this awful noise from there air conditioning units in my apartment. I couldn’t sleep and he said I was just sensitive to noise.the air conditioning man said it was the condescension units. I contact the city inspector she said if he thinks it’s working. He don’t have to fix it. I have to hire someone to come and check things out and prove to him, that there not in working order. I’ve rented for the past 30years and never had a problem with a land lord like this.. Who do I contact for help with a slum lord? HELP…

  • Bart K

    If something is not in the actual lease (additional $250 per security deposit) but in email only, can this hold up in smalls claims if I’m seeking to get my deposit back?

  • Anna

    I just signed a lease in Milwaukee. I didnt notice until I came home my first night in the house that there is no entry way light at the side/ back door, there is no wireing for one at all. I have a 3 year old and with all the crime lately I feel there should be something. It is very dark at night because that side of the house, where the back door is, is very close to the neighboring house and there is no street light shining there either. I dont feel very safe without a light. Am I able to have one installed if the landlord does not allow it? I can pull out my flashlight phone, but not always convenient if I have my hands full of stuff and my 3 year old with me. I dont want to be a pain, but I cannot believe there is not one there. Thanks

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