Wisconsin Rental Laws

Written on September 26, 2013 by , updated on January 11, 2019

Join the Apartment Association of Southeastern 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: Please refer to 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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422 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Tony

    Do landlords in Wisconsin have to provide their tenants with a ‘Certificate of Rent Paid?” I know they do this in MN, but not sure of the rules in Wisconsin. Thanks.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey Tony,
      Thanks for asking that question. I was able to find the answer in ATCP 134.03 and have added it to this article.

      In Wisconsin, a landlord has to give a receipt for rent only if it was paid for with cash. Read the link above for the details.

  • Jim

    My lease for a small office that I rent expired, and the landlord did not offer a renewal, or just plain did not notice that we needed to renew the lease. There were no automatic renewal clauses in the original lease.
    I did notice that the lease was terminating, but kept on paying rent for the past two months. Now I would like to leave at the end of this month. Am I legally required in Wisconsin to provide 30-days notice to get my security deposit back?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jim,

      The statutes mentioned in the article are specific to residential leases.

      Typically when a tenant continues to pay rent after a lease has expired, and the landlord continues to accept the payment, a month-to-month lease is created by default. I believe this would be the case in your situation.

      As with any month-to-month lease in Wisconsin, you would be required to give 28 days notice (if it’s a residential lease). You might want to continue to do some research, or talk to an attorney, about whether this applies to commercial leases as well.

      • Jim

        thanks for your analysis Lucas. This jives with what the landlord has indicated. I am just relieved that I can get out without owing for the full year of rent.

  • Mike M

    My lease is coming to an end March 31. I told my landlord I would not be renewing my rental agreement but instead will be moving out. She says I am required to give a 60 day notice (which means I would be obligated to pay rent until May 31). This makes no sense to me as my rental agreement is for 1 year and is scheduled to end March 31. Can she force me to stay 14 months if my lease agreement is for 12 months?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mike,
      You’ll have to follow the rules in the lease. She’s probably not just making it up. It’s common for a lease to say that a tenant needs to give XX days notice of non-renewal at the end of any lease term, otherwise, the tenant is responsible for XX days of rent.

      Perhaps your leases requires you to give 60 days notice from the 1st of a month. So, she’s forcing you to give 60 days from April 1st. It’s a little drastic, and a little uncalled for. In most parts of the country, 60 days notice should be sufficient regardless of if it’s the first of the month or not – however that’s just my opinion and I don’t know Wisconsin rental markets.

      Bottom line: You have to do whatever your lease says unless conflicts with a statute. She can’t make you live there, but she can hold you responsible for rent for those extra days that you failed to give proper notice.

  • jen c

    It has been recommended that I put each of our 3 rental properties in different LLC’s, right now they are all in one. When I change them should I have the tenants sign a new lease or can I write an addendum stating the new name of the LLC that we both sign?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jen

      I’m not an attorney, and I only recommend getting LLC advice from a lawyer.

      I don’t know what’s best for your situation but I can tell you what I did.

      When faced with the same situation, I chose to setup an LLC for my rental business but not have one for each property. I wanted to reduce my personal liability but all the properties were in my name. The mortgage companies wouldn’t let me transfer the deed to a LLC, so even if I set up a business for each prop, the actual prop would still be in my name.

      If a tenant wants to sue someone, they are allowed to sue anyone connected to the property. Even if it was managed by an LLC, they can (and should) sue the homeowner. So, building a separate LLC for each house didn’t protect me and only made everything more complex.

      So, I have 1 LLC to handle the operation of all my properties, but not one for each. I do however recommend a separate bank account to put the deposits from each property so they can separated from other money and grow in interest – which you often have to give to the tenant.

      You’ll want to talk to a tax attorney because if you do transfer the deed of a prop to an LLC, you might miss out on $1,000’s in personal tax advantages.

      In my opinion, the only time it make sense if you can buy the property with an LLC in the beginning or you don’t have a mortgage telling you what to do.

  • elizabeth

    I have had tenants that have ran the lp out of my house since febuary and have not lived on the property since then. All there stuff is still at my property and they haven’t paid rent for march I was wondering if I can legally remove their property? they do not have a lease and they did not change the electric out of my name either and owe me a little over 3000

  • Lucas Hall

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Wisconsin has strict rules on how to handle abandoned personal property. I briefly mention the rules, and cite the statutes in the disclosures section above: http://www.landlordology.com/wisconsin-landlord-tenant-laws/#disclosures.

    If I were you, I would also file a small claims lawsuit against them immediately to try and recover your losses.

  • Kristina

    We were without a working refrigerator for over 48 hours and had a significant amount of food loss, just over $400. Are we able to deduct that from our rent?


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kristina,

      First, try to claim it on your rental insurance policy because they will cover it. If you don’t have one, then you will have to ask your landlord for compensation.

      If the landlord failed to act timely and responsibly in repairing or replacing your fridge, then you can make a strong argument that it’s the landlord’s fault that you lost your food. If the landlord called a repair man or placed an order for another fridge fairly quickly after you notified him/her, then your losses would not be his/her fault. Sometimes repairs take time.

      Stuff is going to break, and all parties have to participate in mitigating damages. You could have bought a bunch of dry ice to keep things cold too.

      If you think the landlord is responsible for your losses/damages, then you’d have to take him to small claims court (assuming he refuses to pay voluntarily). Wisconsin doesn’t have a statute on “repair and deduct”, however this doesn’t really fit into that category, since you’re not repairing anything. It would be a different story if you paid to have the fridge repaired.

      In my opinion, you can’t withhold rent for this, but I’m not a lawyer and I can’t tell you what you can or can’t legally do.

  • Lnda

    My renters of two years have not signed their renewal but pay rent on time. Is the unsigned lease by the tenants become an automatic month to month in the state of WI Waukesha County? Thanks for your help.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Linda

      I have no idea what the laws are in Waukesha county.

      Typically if there is no active lease, and then you accept a monthly rent payment, then you are allowing them to be monthly tenants-at-will and you would need to give 28 days notice to terminate. (See statute above)

      It’s not that the lease automatically rolls over into a monthly lease, but rather that you are choosing to accept monthly rent that creates the tenancy.

      If you want your tenants to sign the renewal, then just tell them that they have to sign it or you will be terminating their tenancy.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, but rather just an experienced landlord, and this is not legal advice.

  • Diane

    We have moved out of our rental and it’s vacant, BUT, our lease goes until the end of May. We are planning on paying for the month of May to meet our obligation of the lease. Our landlord promised last year when we resigned to paint within three months…that would have been by September…it was NEVER painted…Now our landlord wants access to the duplux to go in and paint in May in order to have it freshly painted for his new tenants… he says he only has to give us 24 hour notice and we are saying that he can only have access for repairs…. Do we have to let him have access to paint?????

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Diane,
      This is a tricky situation. This statute seems to give him the right: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/704/05/2

      There have been cases where a tenant can deny access even if the landlord gives the proper notice. But you’d better have a really good reason… like fear of being harmed, or previous instances where the landlord has demonstrated erratic behavior or drunkenness.

      Just ask yourself, if the landlord were to take you to court, or visa-versa, would the judge agree with your reason? Since you’ve already moved out, and the house is vacant, the only logical reason is that you are doing this out of spite – since there is not threat of harm to you or your belongings. Now, I see your side of it, but in my opinion, it’s not a valid reason to restrict access and could get you in trouble.

      Further, the statute says he has the right to enter the premise to “inspect” it, so it doesn’t even have to just be for repairs.

      FYI, I’m not a lawyer, I’m just an experienced landlord. You should read the statute yourself and base your actions on your interpretation or the interpretation of a lawyer.

  • Ann Vaughn

    My 19 year old signed a lease with two other students and now he is not going to attend the University, which is located almost 4 hours from our home. They haven’t moved in yet. Can he get out of his portion of the lease?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ann,

      Once the lease is signed by all parties, it’s officially ratified and therefore it’s a valid contract. There’s no way to get out of the lease unless the landlord agrees to it.

      There may be an early termination clause that allows you to pay a fee in order to be released.

      Alternatively your child might be able to find a replacement tenant in which the landlord might agree to swap the names on the lease.

      I suggest reading the lease very very very carefully to see if there any other loopholes that my allow you to get out of the agreement.

      Good luck!

  • Dennis

    My elderly mother-in-law is in a rehab center. She rents a house month to month. She will not be able to return to her rental house and will be moving to Texas after her rehab. She hired a couple people to move her belongings to storage. Her landlord doesn’t like the people my mother-in-law hired and changed the locks on the house so they couldn’t enter it. She now refuses to give a key to my mother-in-law. This landlord has been going into the home and going through my mother-in-laws property. Some items were removed from the house before the landlord changed the locks so the landlord called the police to report them stolen. The items were removed from the property because my mother-in-law didn’t trust the landlord. I need advice on what I can legally do to protect my mother-in-laws property. There’s much more to the story than what I’ve said here. The small town sheriffs department has never run into anything like this and aren’t sure how to proceed. I’ve never heard of a landlord doing this and I need guidance. Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Dennis,

      This is similar to a lock-out, and is prohibited by law. If the landlord is trying to “protect” your mother-in-law’s belonging, then you should have a heart-to-heart conversation with her about allowing you (or a supervised moving company) access to the unit to remove belongings.

      If she denies your request, you could say to her: “well, then I consider this and theft and report it to the police.” Since you’ve already called the police, I don’t know how useful this threat would be.

      Further, the landlord is not allowed to enter a property without giving 12 hours notice in WI. If she hasn’t been giving notice, then you can point out the statute (linked above) and explain that you will be taking legal action against her for violating state law.

      The goal here is to get access to the unit to get the belongings. I’m sure the last thing you need is an actual lawsuit.

  • Ann

    My husband and I live in Texas, but he has a 2 unit rental house in Racine. Some time back he hired a man to remodel and make repairs on the house after the last renters vacated 1 of the units. This worker moved in, with all of his belongings stored in the attic, garage and basement. He has never had any contract with us and has not paid rent. He has however had his mail delivered to this address. He felt that any work that he did on the house would be in exchange of rent, but he has not done ANY work whatsoever and continues to live there free. We are at a loss as to how to proceed with evicting him, since he has never really had any sort of a lease with us, and is more or less like a ‘squatter’. Can you possibly offer us any advice as to how to proceed with this situation?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ann,
      I suggest calling the Racine police and telling them your story. Ask them what the best course of action is. You may have to go through the formal eviction process, but since he was never given permission to move-in in the first place, you might be able to treat him like an intruder.

      Then, if the police aren’t any help, you’ll need to talk to a lawyer about an eviction lawsuit. It’s times like this that I wish self-help evictions (lock-outs) were legal.

      Also, could your husband fly back to move back into the unit – even if for a week. I wonder if the worker would voluntarily move if the owner came home all of a sudden. You could even give him a heads up saying: “Surprise! we’ve decided to move back next weekend. We’re going to spend the next couple weeks hunting deer and other large game. My husband will be driving from Texas because the airlines won’t ship more than 3 guns in his checked luggage”. He might just be moved-out when you get there! Then change the locks.

  • Ann

    I am interested in renting from someone in WI and they are requesting I complete my own background check prior to viewing the property (bring it to the viewing or email it to them prior to the viewing). The link they emailed me to acquire a background check will cost me $40. Is this legit or a scam?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ann

      It all depends on the site that they asked you to use. If it looks like a legitimate background screening company, then the landlord is probably just trying to weed out the tire-kickers.

      If there is high demand for a property, this is a way separate the serious applicants.

      You can always say “no thank you, I’d like to wait until I see the place first” but it might delay your application if you end up really liking it.

      If the website seems like a fraud, it probably is a scam.

  • Don

    I live in Wisconsin. My wife and I are renting a house with a year lease. We had a oral agreement with owners that the money we are paying towards rent would be used for a down payment to purchase the house. 2 months ago the landlord texted my wife and told her they were putting the house up for sale. We have 6 months left on our lease and today the owner text my wife and told her we have to be out by July 19th. What do we do, this puts us in a real bind. Do we get an attorney, we have followed all the lease agreements. We even let the real estate agent show the house. We are trying to get a loan to purchase the property.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Don,

      If the house is sold, the new owners simply step into the shoes of the old owners, and become your new landlords. Legally, you should be allowed to finish out your lease.

      Because you only have a oral agreement, it will be tough to prove to the new owners that you had a lease at all. And, when talking with a lawyer, it will be tough to prove anything that you claim. When talking with a lawyer, you should ask whether or not tenants have first right of refusal in your area, when a house is put up for sale. If you do, then the house can’t be sold to anyone else without you first refusing the property.

      It’s a shame that you didn’t get anything in writing, because without the landlord’s cooperation, you might not have anyway to prove your down payment.

      Please do talk to a lawyer, because you are going to need his/her help.

  • Cheryl

    I have a question, I signed a lease in December, the landlord has turned out to be a moron (sorry no other way to put it), he rents one of the units in our apartments to a drug dealer, there are people coming and going constantly, I have called the police and told the landlord he is refusing my calls and another renters calls too, I have children and 2 are disabled as am I. I want to know, as it is said in the lease no drug use or sales on property since he is not evicting them am I in my rights to break my lease as I have never rented before, I need ot know what will happen to me if I do.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cheryl,
      I think you’re going to need more help than what I’m able to provide. I’m not sure how your lease is effected by the lease that the landlord has with other tenants. You should probably contact a licensed attorney in your area to get legal counsel.

      You could also try contacting these guys: http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/

  • Dana

    Hi. We moved out from a unit in Milwaukee 28 days ago. Our landlord found cigarette burns that caused damage to an exterior covering on the back porch. She wants us to pay her an extra $400 after already keeping our security deposit.

    She now says we didn’t give her any security deposit. We have a lease agreement and receipts that show we did. She’s threatening to take legal action if we don’t pay for the damages.

    While we lived there, she consistently allowed herself into our unit without permission and admitted to going through our belongings on occasion while we were at work.

    Can she force us to pay more money after already keeping the entire security deposit? Btw. We never received any notice in writing why our security deposit was kept. She gave us permission to smoke in the unit, which we never did. We only smoked outside. Granted, the damage was caused by us, but we were unaware that any damage was happening.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Dana,

      If you have receipts and proof that you gave a deposit, then you have nothing to worry about in that regard. If I were you, I tell her that you have receipts and you’ll be happy to display them in court. You could even give them a copy of the receipts if they ask for it.

      In regards to paying more than your deposit, the short answer is “Yes”. Any tenant who causes damages above and beyond what their deposit covers, is still responsible for the damages – even if they were unaware of it.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, and this is just my opinion as an experienced landlord. You’ll need to talk to an attorney if you want legal advice.

  • Alyssa

    Hi Lucas,

    My boyfriend and I moved into a new duplex two weeks ago and suddenly or landlords put a sign in the front yard saying the whole place was for sale. We want to live here for more than a year, and this action has us worried. Do we get first dibs on renting again in a year, or even purchase of the property? I also know our neighbor doesn’t want to move, and we are all afraid of being asked to leave if it is sold. Also, are we required to let strangers in for showing off we aren’t home?


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Alyssa,

      I can’t speak to the specifics of your county/city, but usually when a property is sold, the new owner becomes the new landlord. The tenant is allowed to finish out the lease term, and the lease is not automatically terminated just because the property is sold.

      With that said, there is no guarantee that the new owner (or even the old owner) will allow you to renew your lease once the original lease has expired.

      In some localities, the tenant automatically has first right of refusal – which means that the landlord can’t sell it to anyone else without the tenant first passing on the option to buy the property.

      If the landlord says “I have a contract on the house, so you have to move out 30 days”, politely respond by saying “I don’t believe you can terminate the lease just because you sold the property. I will check with my lawyer.” Then, contact a local attorney, and ask for his/her legal advice.

      A landlord is typically allowed to show the unit for re-renting or sale as long as proper notice is given. If you don’t feel comfortable with strangers being in your home, then you have the right to be there. You don’t have to leave every time a realtor brings someone over.

      Anyway, I hope this helps. It’s just my opinion and experience as a landlord. I’m not a lawyer, and you’ll need to talk to one in order to get legal advice.

  • kw

    my inlaws are landlords and their tenant hasn’t paid rent for a long time and we know there is damage to the property they are currently working on an eviction would damage to the building (walls floors etc.) be considered criminal damage to property ? is there a difference between it being a misdemeanor or felony? this is in the state of wisconsin

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi KW,

      I’m not a lawyer, but I *think* it would be considered property damage. To be sure, you should talk to an attorney in your area.

      Further, any damages that your parents incur under 10K should handled in Small Claims court in their county/city. Check with the local courthouse to verify.

  • dana

    If someone has left personal property at my house and has not picked it up can I get in trouble if I dispose of it? No lease or rental agreement was signed?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Dana,

      Regardless of a signed lease, was the person actually a tenant? Meaning, did they pay rent in order to live at the property? If so, I suggest following the rental laws on abandoned property.

      Here’s all I know about it:

      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.

  • Rashad Anderson

    I have lived in baraboo at a house for almost two years it started out as a yeae lease but after the tear we never signed another. I just found out a week ago that me and my family have till july 10 to be out be cause my landlord sold the place yo a company. The hot water has been out for a week and a half and he hasnt sent anypne to fix it. He e pects us tp be out by yhe tenth is this illegal somehow. What options do I have?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Rashad

      Since you never signed another fixed-term lease, it seems like you are a “tenant-at-will” in a month-to-month lease. Either party can terminate a monthly lease with 28 days notice (Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.19(3)).

      So, even if July 10th is not 28 days notice, you will have to move within 28 days from the date that notice to terminate was given.

      A landlord is required to provide hot water. Yes, things break sometimes, but it’s the landlord’s responsibility to get it fixed quickly. Without hot water, the unit becomes inhabitable. You could contact your local housing office, and they will send someone out to inspect the unit. However, if he is selling the property on July 10th, he might long gone before the inspector can come out.

      My suggestion to you is to contact a local landlord-tenant lawyer TOMORROW. There are some links in the article above, and even links to free legal aid.

  • Holly

    Being new to this “rental” arena. Can a perspective landlord deny you tenancy before you even view the property OR fill out a rental application? I responded to a rental property ad via a craigslist ad (blind email) to a Waukesha property management company. The office gal called me & rejected me over the phone based on an admitted CCAP search she did on me, BEFORE she called me, showed me the property & BEFORE I signed any paperwork. There is an OPEN (unresolved, innocent until proven guilty) case on there. Any feedback would be most appreciated, thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Holly,

      It’s okay for landlords to reject applicants based on criminal or court records, but in your case, you don’t have a judgement yet. So, I’m not really sure. If their criteria is that they won’t accept anyone with a “record”, regardless of the verdict, they would have to keep up that criteria with every applicant in order for it not to be discrimination. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

      I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me like they should have given you a chance. If they have more than one person answering the phone, perhaps you cal call and talk to someone else, or maybe even a manager. Don’t get mad, just get them to try to explain their reasoning. If they are not treating everyone equally, then you might have possible discrimination lawsuit – but you should talk to a local lawyer to be sure.

  • justin

    Hey Lucas i have been living in a apartment complex and we (me & my girlfriend) have been renting since the 14th of March 2014. I was wondering if it is possible to get out of a lease due to the landlords failure to disclose an infestation that has been going on since November of 2013 and has yet to take care of the problem. Multiple people have written him a letter and called for weeks he has yet to take responsibility and keeps “passing the buck” so to speak. He has tried blaming another tenant and as soon as we went to him he looks at us and goes “well, you may be held accountable” even though we have never had a problem with an infestation anywhere we have lived before this is our first place on our own and we are having a nightmare of a time. We have contacted the almost everyone we could think of including the city inspector, Health Department, and others any advice would be amazing

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Justin,

      Yes, it is possible to get out of the lease due to an undisclosed infestation that affects habitability.

      However, if the landlord refuses to take responsibility, I think you’ll need the help of a lawyer.

      A lawyer would be able to help you draft a legal demand letter, requesting your release from the lease.

  • Charlotte

    I have an applicant in the state of Wisconsin that is willing to pay one year in advance but am not able to find clear information online about whether this is legal in our state. Could you clarify if this can be done in Wisconsin and if special precautions need to be taken?


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Charlotte,

      Thanks for your question.

      In my limited research of the state statutes, I didn’t see anything that would prohibit a landlord from collecting 12 months of rent in advance. In fact, I found this paragraph in a guide on page 13 – right column: http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/WisconsinWayWEB.pdf

      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. However, when the tenant surrenders the premises, the landlord must treat any rent
      prepayment in excess of one month’s rent as a security deposit and must account for it as such.

      Further, Wisconsin does not have a limit on the deposit amount nor requires a landlord to collect interest for the tenant.

      Keep in mind, though this guide is from the Wisconsin government, this paragraph is not a statute. Also, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I live in Wisconsin.

      If collecting pre-paid rent or a security deposit – regardless of the amount, I always suggest keeping it in it’s own separate bank account. Under no circumstances should you commingle a deposit with your personal funds unless you are withholding it for damages.

      Here’s a helpful guide: http://www.landlordology.com/how-to-properly-handle-security-deposits/

  • Sarah


    I paid my rent late, but my landlord gave me a 14 day notice to quit after receiving and acknowledging payment. Is that legal? He has never given me any notices before this.

    Thank you

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sarah,

      Wisconsin allows the landlord to give a 14 day quit notice for failure to pay rent. Read statute Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 704.17(2). It seems as if a tenant is allowed to remedy the situation, unless this has happened before.

      However, keep in mind, it would be wrongful for the landlord to keep any rent money that extends beyond the date that he/she is terminating the lease. Meaning, if you paid rent up until the end of the month, and he is terminating your lease on the 28th, then he should give back 3 days of rent.

      I hope that helps. You should research the statute I linked and talk to a local lawyer for clarification.

  • Sue

    I live in a section 42 over 55 community. Upon moving in over a year ago I saw shepherd hooks with plants and bird feeders outside on the property……..I placed a shepherd hook with chimes outside my window and it was there for over 8 months. First the chimes were stolen, then two days later the hook….I told management and they said that had they seen my chimes out there they would have told me they were not allowed and to take them down…..there were never any rules in place until recently after my items were taken…we are not allowed to put anything outdoor by our windows but flowers…I asked management to reimburse me for the loss of the chimes and pole….they said things placed out there were at risk ad they have no insurance to cover theft on their property……could this be true or could it be that the amount is within their deductible?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sue,

      Unless it was management staff who stole your personal property, I don’t see how you could hold them (or your insurance) responsible.

      As with any theft, a police report must be taken, followed by an investigation. If you had renter’s insurance, it would cover your losses (over the deductible).

      The timing of everything does seem suspicious but without proof, you’re just going to have to move on, and follow the new rules.

      Keep in mind, this is just my opinion as a landlord. I’m not a lawyer, nor should you consider this legal advice.

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