Wisconsin Rental Laws

Last updated on November 8, 2016 by

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


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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370 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jazmin

    Hello, my husband and I have a month to month lease and there is a no move out clause for the months of December, January, and February. Is there anyway we can still move out during these months or are we stuck? We are renting in Milwaukee, WI.

  • Samantha

    Ppl in my HUDSON Disabled low-income housing have been charging residents to replace damaged areas, mainly rips and burns in linoleum and carpeted flooring. If (albeit minimal) payments are not made, they are evicting or not renewing leases. I have never heard of a tenant having to pay for damages before moving out. Is that legal? Shouldn’t payment for damages be taking out of security deposits? This building has a history of poor management many that resulted in large lawsuits being awarded to the former tenant. My neighbor is severely disabled so I am asking for her and in case this situation occurs to me in the future.

  • Kyle Peters

    I have a tenant who has utility in her name and has not become delinquent on her water and now I have a $950 delinquent water and sewer charge on my property taxes. I am a very new landlord only having owned a rental for two years and have allowed her to bounce two checks over the last year which she has paid with a $50 late fee. She is currently month to month. What is your advice on where I should go from here? I asked her to pay me only after I was billed for the water. I was informed by my utility company that the bill in the tenants name was delinquent. Can I ask her to pay what was already billed to my property taxes? Increase rent to cover and be more diligent in the following tax year about making sure she pays?

  • bill merkey

    our landlord has to do wall repair and put back up the railings going into the basement how long does he have it has been over a month i think.

  • Nicole Esquivel

    Is it legal in the state of Wisconsin for a landlord to prohibit guests? My sister has a one bedroom apartment in Madison wisconsin. I asked her if I could stay for the week of the Christmas holiday and she told me the landlord does not allow overnight guests.

  • CB

    My landlady is very rude. I rented the house about 6 months ago. Dishwasher broke and she is scolding me for braking it and not fixing it. I pay $2050 for a two bed room townhome and dish washer is included. I am a very responsible tenant. I also own two properties in another state so I know how bad I would feel if my tenants won’t take care of the houses. So I take care of the place I live like my own.
    Is there anything I can do to make them fix the dishwasher?

    • Doug

      Quit paying rent. You can with hold rent for deficiency with house and lease. That’ll get landlords attn

    • JC

      If it’s in your lease that the dishwasher is provided landlord must repair . Unless it was negligence on your part. Burden of proof is on Landlord . send certified letter requesting repair

      704.07  Repairs; untenantability.
      2) Duty of landlord.
      (a) Except for repairs made necessary by the negligence of, or improper use of the premises by, the tenant, the landlord has a duty to do all of the following:
      1. Keep in a reasonable state of repair portions of the premises over which the landlord maintains control.
      2. Keep in a reasonable state of repair all equipment under the landlord’s control necessary to supply services that the landlord has expressly or impliedly agreed to furnish to the tenant, such as heat, water, elevator, or air conditi

  • aaron

    My girlfriend received a water bill for 3 months that was $1500 because the toilet was leaking in the basement. Now, wouldn’t it be the owners responsibility to take car of the bill?

    • Doug

      No, the tenant has responsibility towards the obvious. $1500 is a lot of water, she’s either blind and deaf, or didn’t care enough to do something. Common sense definitely prevails here.

  • Kattie

    I want to sell my property…so I take a realtor there to show him the house. When we walk through the house I realized that the tenants children colored all over the walls…can I tell her she has to paint? I did not make her pay a security deposit because she is family..what can I do ?

    • Doug

      Save yourself a world of trouble and heart aches and paint it yourself. Then never ever ever rent to relatives, always always collect security deposit.. before you paint, tell relative this is a freebie, next one cost whatever estimate is.

  • pat niemi

    i live in a seinior living apt low income sponserd by hud wheda and a young girl with severe mental issues has an apartment here for years and does not live in it she stays with her boyfriend and tells the manager she takes care of a dying family member which is a lie its in the lease you have to live in your apt but nobody will do anything about it and when she does come once in a while she screams at old people threatens to kill herself duck tapes the fire exits shut who can i call

    • francine

      Pat-i have a special needs friend who does not take care of her self or her apt. Contact social services, health and human services, contact your fire chiefand take pictures of the duct-tape to show to the fire chief. Even if nothing is done about residency, she is creating an unsafe emergency situation for everyone else.

  • Deborah

    My landlord just raised my rent 50$ because of directv she said I could get it but the dish would have to be in a bucket of cement so that is what I thought I waas doing when I order directv but that is not what the technician did and I didnt notice it until he left I have a one year lease I moved in this past Oct 1 does she have the right to do this can someone answer this question

  • Lisa

    Can a landlord legally charge a $5 a day late fee if the rent is not in by the 1st?? Also, no tv….do not have cable, and cannot get any channels, no antenna hook up cuz there’s no antenna. One more, dishwasher has been broke for well over 2 mos. now…..made several attempts to contact landlord on this, but NO RESPONSE. PLEASE HELP!! Thanks.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lisa

      You’d have to talk to a lawyer about the legality of this practice in your area. But I know that generally speaking, daily late fees are acceptable if they reasonable and are stated in the lease.

  • James

    If youre not on the lease but have lived in the house the whole time. I recieve mail and the courts know this is my residence and my kids are here every other week. Do i have any rights. Or was i taken advantage of

  • kristin

    if my landlord sells the property does the lease I currently have with him stay valid for the new landlord?

  • Bobbie J Wren

    My old landlord never did repairs we lived in mold for four years we were evicted after 4 years we tried to get out on January 1st but there was a snow storm we had a lot left there the landlord refused to allow us access to get the remainder of our property she wanted us to clean up the old tenants stuff left behind next to us. We refused and we didn’t get our property back and we lost in court can we appeal the judges decision? What can we do

  • sue mayer

    Are there any special requirements that a landlord must perform when renting to an immigrant?

  • brian Erickson

    How often can a landlord show the place before we have moved out? We are still living there until the end of the month.

    • macey

      We show the units in our building as soon as we receive the two months notice required from our tenants to move. Why would you think the landlord wants to wait until you move out to show and deal with a potential vacant unit? They need to get it re-rented as fast as possible as they still need to pay the mortgage and most people are looking for a new place 1 or 2 months in advance as responsible people usually do. The landlord should be reasonable not be in there every day though. We have an open house every Sunday to limit disturbance to the current tenants.

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