Wisconsin Tenant Rights Laws

Whether you're new to renting or a seasoned tenant, you're probably aware of the multitude of issues that can come up throughout the landlord-tenant relationship. To address many of these issues, Wisconsin has a number of laws governing the parties' rights and responsibilities, in addition to federal and local laws. Read on to learn more about Wisconsin tenant rights laws.

Tenant Rights: Repairs, Security Deposits, and More

Like other states, Wisconsin law protects you against discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, family status, and disability. This includes refusing to rent to someone, applying different terms or conditions, and lying about the availability of a dwelling based on a protected trait.

Your landlord is also required to maintain the premises in a habitable condition. This can mean making structural repairs and repairs necessary for services supplied by landlord such as heat, water, elevator, or air conditioning. However, the landlord is not responsible for repairing damage caused by your negligence or improper use of the premises.

If you do cause damage beyond normal wear and tear, your landlord may retain all or part of your security deposit to cover the repairs, or for unpaid rent or utility charges. In any case, you are entitled to receive the balance of your security deposit within 21 days of termination of the tenancy, as defined in the statute.

Wisconsin's landlord-tenant laws are designed to protect you from unfair practices and clarify your rights and responsibilities. Therefore, it's also important to know that your landlord may not retaliate against you by raising the rent or evicting you simply because you requested repairs or complained about housing code violations.

Wisconsin Tenant Rights Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of Wisconsin state laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship, including links to important statutes.

Statutes

Security Deposits

  • Limit: No statutory maximum
  • Must return all or part of the security deposit within 21 days
  • Part or all may be used for:
    • Damages beyond normal wear and tear
    • Unpaid rent or utility bills
    • Payment due under a nonstandard rental provision agreed to by the tenant

Paying Rent

  • May not raise rent during lease term (e.g. 1 year lease) unless lease allows; may raise rent upon lease renewal with 28 days' notice

Living Conditions

  • With advance notice and at reasonable times, landlord may enter unit for certain reasons including:
    • To make repairs
    • Inspect premises
    • Show premises to prospective tenants or purchasers
    • In emergency (no notice required)
  • Landlord must maintain premises in habitable condition: comply with housing codes, make repairs necessary for services supplied by landlord, make necessary structural repairs; does not include repairs necessitated by tenants’ negligence or improper use of premises

Discrimination

  • No discrimination based on sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status, status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, lawful source of income, age, or ancestry

Ending or Renewing a Tenancy

  • Landlord must give notice to terminate the tenancy:
    • Yearly and monthly tenancies: 28 days
    • Week-to-week tenancies: seven days
    • Lease: as provided in the written lease
    • Eviction: varies based on tenancy and reason for eviction (see §704.17)
  • Eviction: court order required

Retaliation

  • Landlord may not retaliate against tenant for exercising tenant rights

Note: State regulations are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Wisconsin Tenant Rights Laws: Related Resources

Receive a Free Review of Your Tenancy Issues

While many tenancy issues can be resolved amicably with your landlord through clear communication, some problems escalate and require more persuasion. If you're dealing with a rental issue and trying to navigate all of the applicable statutes and code sections, receive a free case review to get help asserting your rights under Wisconsin's tenant rights laws.

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