Rights, Regulations, & Landlord Tenant Laws - Wisconsin 
Like in other states, Washington landlords and tenants encounter a complex set of local and state rental laws. Often called landlord-tenant laws, these regulations impact their rights, obligations, and landlord-tenant relationships. Understanding and following these statutes can be a challenge, even for seasoned rental property owners and tenants.
To help overcome this obstacle, we crafted this comprehensive guide, covering crucial rental topics like rental agreements, evictions, security deposits, tenant screening, and more. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, this guide will equip you with a thorough understanding of Wisconsin’s laws, as outlined in WI Statutes Chapter 704.
Landlords will discover how to protect their rental properties and investments, while tenants will acquire the knowledge required to assert their basic rights.
Let's dive in!
Wisconsin landlord tenant law fast facts
Wisconsin landlord responsibilities and rights
Wisconsin law provides landlords with rights that allow them to efficiently run their rental properties protected from both legal and financial issues. A few of those main rights include:
- Charging and collecting on-time rent payments
- Collecting security deposits to cover unforeseen costs at the end of the lease term
- Pursuing a legal eviction if the tenant violates the rental agreement
Wisconsin rental owners also have a set of duties to uphold that ensure a safe and smooth tenancy for their renters. Their key duties include:
- Providing tenants with a safe, habitable rental unit with required amenities like heating and hot water
- Making repairs “promptly” after receiving written notice from tenants
- Returning the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days after the lease term ends
Wisconsin tenant responsibilities and rights
Wisconsin grants renters in the state a set of fundamental rights that protect their safety and well-being while living in a rental property. Their main rights are as follows:
- Living in a habitable rental property that meets health and safety codes and is free of housing discrimination
- Having repairs made promptly after providing the landlord with written notice
- Taking legal action if the landlord breaches the lease agreement
Tenants in Wisconsin also have their own set of duties to manage. Generally, these obligations ensure the rental is maintained and the landlord goes financially unharmed. In Wisconsin, tenants must:
- Pay rent when due
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
- Keep the unit clean, as outlined in the lease
- Comply with all building and housing codes affecting health and safety
- Use all facilities, appliances, and utilities as they should be used
- Make small repairs or pay for repairs for any damage or issues caused by the renter
Wisconsin landlord tenant laws through the rental cycle
Wisconsin rental application and tenant screening laws
South Dakota’s rental application and tenant screening laws are fairly straightforward. There is no limit on how much a landlord can charge for a rental application fee, and it must be refundable if the landlord rejects the prospective tenant or if the applicant withdraws their application. Additionally, landlords may run background checks on an applicant, but only if they’ve provided their written consent.
Wisconsin rental agreement and lease termination laws
Wisconsin lease agreements can be written or oral. However, if the rental agreement is for more than a year, then the lease should be in writing. It’s always advised to document a rental agreement in writing as it grants key obligations to both landlords and tenants.
Beyond mandatory disclosures, Wisconsin lease agreements should identify the involved parties, the land, and both parties’ signatures. Additionally, leases should generally include the landlord’s information, rent amount and due date, security deposit information, lease length, and more. Learn what other information you should include in your rental agreement today.
To terminate a lease in Wisconsin, tenants must provide a notice period. Month-to-month leases are required to provide a 28-day notice, while year-to-year leases must provide a 5-day notice. All other lease types are not required to provide a specific notice period.
Wisconsin tenants can terminate lease agreements early for the following legal reasons:
- Active military duty
- Early termination clause
- Landlord harassment
- Uninhabitable unit
- Domestic violence
Wisconsin security deposit laws
Wisconsin landlords can collect a security deposit at the start of the lease period to cover unexpected costs at the end of the lease term. However, to collect a security deposit, landlords are required to notify tenants of their right to inspect the property and document the condition of the rental unit via a check sheet. Landlords can charge as much as they want for a security deposit and are required to provide a receipt that includes the amount and purpose of payment.
At the end of the lease term, the landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days. Landlords can deduct from the security deposit for reasons including rental property damage exceeding normal wear and tear, municipal permit fees, costs outlined in the lease, and unpaid rent and utilities.
If the landlord fails to comply with the notice period or wrongfully withholds funds, tenants can sue for twice the full security deposit, plus court costs and attorney fees.
Wisconsin rent laws
Wisconsin does not have rent control laws and prohibits its cities and towns from creating their own laws. Thus, landlords can charge any amount of rent and increase the rent amount as often as they choose, as long as it’s not during the lease term (unless the lease allows for it). Wisconsin doesn’t specify how much notice a landlord should provide a tenant before raising rent. Thus, the two parties can come to an agreement on a minimum notice period.
If tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords are not required to provide a grace period before instating a late fee. Wisconsin doesn’t have a limit on how much a landlord may charge for a late fee, but the fee must be reasonable.
Tenants are allowed to withhold rent payments in the case that the property becomes unlivable, the landlord is unable to promptly make the repairs, and if the tenant has to move to another property until the issue is fixed.
Wisconsin repair and maintenance laws
Wisconsin state law requires landlords to make repairs “promptly” after receiving written notice from tenants. If the landlord fails to make repairs within a timely manner, renters are allowed to withhold a percentage of the following rent payment. Unlike most other states, tenants can only sue the landlord if the landlord promises to make repairs and then fails to follow through.
Wisconsin notice of entry laws
Landlords can enter rental premises in Wisconsin for reasons including maintenance, inspections, and property showings. Except in the case of an emergency, landlords are required to provide at least a 12-hour notice before entering. Unlike most other states, Wisconsin requires landlords to provide a written notice.
Wisconsin eviction laws
Wisconsin state law allows landlords to evict tenants for certain legal reasons. Depending on the reason for eviction, landlords must provide a notice period before the eviction can start. The reasons for eviction and associated notice periods are as follows:
- Unpaid rent: If the tenant with a written lease of a year or less doesn’t pay rent on time, the landlord may issue a 5-day notice to comply or a 14-day notice to quit. For tenants with written leases longer than a year, a landlord may issue a 30-day notice to comply.
- Illegal acts: If the tenant has been found committing illegal acts, such as drug-related activity or violent acts, at the property, the landlord may issue a 5-day notice to quit. After the notice period, the landlord can move forward with the eviction process.
- Imminent harm: If a tenant poses an imminent threat to another tenant or a tenant’s child, and there is a protection order or a criminal complaint against the renter for domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault, the landlord may issue a 5-day notice to quit.
- No lease/end of lease: If the tenant stays at the property past the end of the lease period, the landlord can issue a notice to quit. The amount of advance notice depends on the length of the tenancy. Week-to-week leases require a 7-day notice to quit and month-to-month leases require a 28-day notice to quit. There is no statute specifying the required notice periods for other types of tenancies.
Wisconsin landlord tenant laws continued
In addition to having regulations on evictions and security deposits, Wisconsin also has statutes covering landlord retaliation, discrimination, and more. Explore some of these laws in detail below.
Wisconsin tenants are protected from housing discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Act. This comprehensive set of laws prohibits landlords from discriminating against renters based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. However, these regulations do not apply to some rentals operated by religious organizations or owner-occupied homes.
If a landlord violates housing discrimination laws, such as by refusing to rent to a tenant or falsely claiming a rental unit is unavailable, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Equal Rights Division.
It’s illegal for landlords in Wisconsin to retaliate against tenants for taking protected actions like reporting landlords to authorities for health and safety violations or joining a tenant union. Evicting, canceling an automated lease agreement renewal, and reducing utility services are all considered forms of retaliation.
Wisconsin state law requires landlords to provide tenants with specific disclosures at the start of a lease period. Those disclosures include:
- Lead-based paint: Landlords who own rental units built before 1978 must provide information about the concentration of lead-based paints.
- Authorized agent: Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Utilities: If utilities aren’t included in the rent, landlords must disclose this information to the renter before entering the lease.
- Shared utilities: This applies to any rental properties with shared utility meters or submetering.
- Code violations: Wisconsin renter owners must disclose if their rental unit had any past housing code violations.
- Habitability: Landlords must report any conditions of the rental unit that affect habitability, like heating or hot running water.
- Domestic abuse: Landlords must provide a notice about the protection afforded to victims of domestic abuse
- Check-in checklist: If a tenant requests an inspection to document the condition of the rental unit prior to the start of the lease, the landlord must provide a check-in checklist.
- Pre-existing damage: Landlords who collect a security deposit must inform tenants that they have the right to inspect the property for damage.
Summing up: Navigating Wisconsin’s landlord tenant laws with confidence
Wisconsin’s rental laws establish a clear framework that outlines the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. By understanding and adhering to these regulations, rental property owners and their counterparts can navigate the entire rental process with confidence. Landlords can safeguard their rental properties, tenants can assert their rights, and both parties can work together to cultivate a positive landlord-tenant relationship. It's a win-win situation for everyone!
Landlords, if you need help with collecting rent or creating a lease agreement, and tenants, if you are looking to boost your credit, Azibo has got you covered. Learn about all of the benefits of using our free rental software today!
Wisconsin landlord tenant law FAQ
Is Wisconsin considered a “landlord friendly” state?
Yes, Wisconsin is considered a landlord-friendly state–evident in its 11th place on the list of landlord-friendly states. The state doesn’t have rental control laws, allowing landlords to set rent prices and increase rent as they choose. Additionally, there are minimal security deposit regulations. Looking to invest in real estate? Learn how to pick a landlord-friendly state now!
What is the limit a landlord or tenant can sue for in Wisconsin Small Claims Court?
Like in other states, Wisconsin’s Small Claims Court handles disputes between landlords and tenants involving only small amounts of money. This allows for cases to be handled in a simplified and quick manner. Landlords and tenants in the state can settle minor disputes without hiring an attorney if the amount of the case is less than $10,000. The process usually takes two to four months.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.