Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law

Looking for clear and concise information on Wisconsin landlord tenant law? Get all your answers from this plain English guide to Wisconsin landlord tenant statutes.

WI Landlord Tenant Law:

  • Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 704 - Landlord and Tenant
  • Wisconsin Statutes Chapter ATCP 134 - Residential Rental Practices

Tenant Application

Application Fees

The landlord can ask prospective tenants for up $20 to pay to obtain their consumer credit reports. The landlord has to inform prospective tenants of this fee before obtaining credit reports and shall give them a copy of this report. [WI ATCP 134.05.(4)]

The landlord cannot ask a prospective tenant for the above fee if he or she provides the landlord with a consumer credit report that is less than 30 days old.

Background and Credit Check

Before running background or credit checks on tenant applicants, landlords must first obtain the applicant's written permission. [Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)]

For landlords to run background and credit checks, the tenant application form needs to ask for the applicant's:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • social security number or ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number)
  • current address
  • signed consent (e.g. "I authorize the use of the information and contacts provided to complete a credit, reference, and/or background check.")

Avoiding Discrimination

The federal Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from rejecting prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, nationality, sex, *familial status or physical/mental disability. *Familial status means landlords cannot reject someone for having one or more children under 18. Familial status also includes pregnant women and people planning to have (or adapt) children under 18.

Wisconsin landlord tenant law also disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of age, (lawful) income source and sexual orientation. Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking cannot be discriminated as well.

In addition, some Wisconsin counties and cities have additional protected classes that landlords cannot discriminate against:

Dane County (including Madison City): military discharge status, physical appearance, political beliefs, domestic partnership, tenant union membership, gender identity, citizenship, Section 8 participation, nonreligion, homelessness

Milwaukee County (including Milwaukee City): gender identity, military service, domestic partnership, genetic identity, homelessness

Appleton City: gender identity, physical appearance

De Pere City: gender identity, physical appearance

Oshkosh City: gender identity, physical appearance

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Tenancy Agreement

A tenancy agreement (also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement) can be written or verbal.

The landlord and tenant can choose between a month to month tenancy or fixed term lease. A month to month tenancy is more flexible - The landlord or tenant is free to change the terms of the rental agreement at the end of every month. A fixed term lease typically spans from 3 to 24 months. The landlord and tenant are NOT allowed to change the terms of the lease agreement during the lease duration... unless there is written consent from both parties.

What Landlord Must Disclose

Before entering into a rental agreement, Wisconsin landlord tenant law requires the landlord to disclose the following to the tenant:

  • Code Violations: If the rental unit or its common area has existing housing code violations that affect health or safety, landlord must inform any prospective tenant before entering into a tenancy. [WI 704.07.(2)]
  • Lead Paint: If the property was built before 1978, the landlord must inform prospective tenants if the property contains lead-based paint. In addition, the landlord has to give them a pamphlet of Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home. [Health and Safety Code Section 17920.10]

Required for Tenancy Agreement

Wisconsin landlord tenant law requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details:

  • Disclosure and information of lead-based paint in the property (for housing built before 1978)

Recommended for Tenancy Agreement

  • Name and address of tenant(s)
  • Number of people (occupants) staying on the property
  • Type of tenancy: month to month tenancy or fixed term lease
  • How much is the rent
  • When, how and where the rent is to be paid
  • When is rent is considered late and the penalties for late rent payment
  • How much is the security deposit and pet deposit (if any)
  • Who holds the deposit(s) and where will it be held
  • What utilities and services are provided and who pays for them
  • What are the landlord's and tenant's duties for property maintenance
  • Can the tenant sublet the property or assign the lease
  • When to inform the landlord if tenant will be away for a long time
  • Prohibited activities and items

Disallowed for Tenancy Agreement

According to Wisconsin landlord tenant law, your lease agreement CANNOT [WI 704.44]:

  • penalize or charge the tenant because he or she contacted law enforcement services, health services or safety services
  • evict or remove the tenant from the property unless allowed by Wisconsin landlord tenant law
  • make the tenant pay rent in advance due to him or her violating the rental agreement
  • make the tenant pay for the landlord's attorney fees and other legal costs (unless ordered by the courts)
  • permit the landlord or landlord's agent to get a confession of judgment against the tenant (on a claim arising from the rental agreement)
  • state the landlord won't be liable for property damage or personal injury due to his or her negligence
  • make the tenant responsible for property damage or personal injury caused by situations or unrelated people beyond his or her control
  • waive the landlord's duties and responsibilities for property maintenance
  • allow the landlord to terminate the tenancy just because the tenant is a victim of crime on the property

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Security Deposit

Before accepting a security deposit, the landlord has to inform the tenant of the following in writing [WI ATCP 134.06.(1)]:

  • Tenant can inspect rental unit and inform the landlord of any pre-existing damages or defects
  • Tenant can request for a list of property damages or defects that the previous tenant was charged for (if any)

The tenant has to do the above at least 7 days before the tenancy begins (deadline to given by the landlord). [WI ATCP 134.06.(1)]

As long as the tenant is agreeable, Wisconsin landlord tenant law doesn't limit the maximum amount of security deposit the landlord can ask for.

There are no Wisconsin landlord tenant laws on security deposit holding methods and security deposit interest.

Deductions and Returns

Wisconsin landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions. [WI 704.28.(1)]
  
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Wisconsin landlord tenant law) include:[WI 704.28.(1)]

  • Property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by tenant, occupants or tenant's guests
  • Rent owed
  • Utility bills owed by the tenant (that the landlord ended up paying for)
  • Costs and losses incurred by landlord due to the tenant violating the rental agreement

The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. [WI 704.28.(3)] *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use.

Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must refund any remaining deposit within 21 days. WI 704.28.(4)] The landlord should also send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions that individually accounts for all damages and rent owed in writing. [WI 704.28.(4)]

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin WI

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law

Rent

The tenant has to pay the rent without demand or reminders. As long as the landlord and tenant are agreeable, they can choose the time, place and method of rent payment.

Whenever the tenant pays rent in cash, the landlord must provide him or her with a written receipt stating the amount received and payment purpose. [WI - ATCP 134.03.(2)]

If prepaid rent exceeds one month's rent, any excess amount shall be considered as security deposit. [WI ATCP 134.02.(11)]

Late Rent

There are no Wisconsin landlord tenant statutes on imposing charges for late rent payments.

If the landlord wants to impose late rent charges, it has to be specified in the tenancy agreement. While there are no state laws on late fees, landlords cannot overcharge or impose unfair terms. Otherwise the tenant can refuse to pay and challenge the late fees in court.

Most states consider reasonable late fees to be around 3 to 5% of the rent amount. In addition, landlords should wait until rent payment is at least three days late before charging late fees.

Raising Rent

There are no specific Wisconsin landlord tenant statutes on raising rent.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • When can the landlord raise the rent?
  • How many days notice does the landlord have to give before raising the rent?
  • How many days notice does the tenant have to give if he or she is moving out due to the rent increase?
  • Maximum amount or percentage of rent increase (optional)

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Property Maintenance

The landlord has to give every new tenant a check-in sheet that they can use to comment on the condition of the rental unit. This sheet shall be given once the tenant occupies the property and the tenant has seven days to complete and return it to the landlord. [WI 704.08]

Landlord Duties and Responsibilities

The Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Act requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition [WI 704.07.(2)]:

  • Repairs: Make all repairs to keep the property safe and habitable
  • Maintenance: Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen facilities in safe working condition
  • Compliance: Obey all building and housing codes

If Landlord Fails to Maintain Property

If the landlord fails to maintain the property and it affects health and safety, the tenant can EITHER

  1. move out of the property and terminate the lease agreement OR
  2. continue staying on the property and pay less rent (depending on how much the property's rental value has fallen). [WI 704.07.(4)]

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Property Access

When Tenant's Permission is Required

According to Wisconsin landlord tenant law, the landlord is only allowed to enter the property for the following reasons [WI 704.05.(2)]:

  • Inspecting property
  • Performing property maintenance or repairs
  • Showing the property to prospective tenants or buyers

In the above situations, the landlord must inform the tenant 12 hours in advance and only enter the property during reasonable hours.

When Tenant's Permission is NOT Required

According to Wisconsin landlord tenant law, the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations [WI 704.05.(2)]:

  • Tenant is absent from property and landlord needs entry to protect the property

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Subletting

There are no specific Wisconsin landlord tenant laws on subletting.

We recommend that the landlord and tenant work out the following details and include them in the rental agreement:

  • Is the tenant allowed to sublet the property? If yes, is the landlord's written consent required before the tenant can sublet?
  • Is the landlord allowed to screen and reject every prospective subtenant?
  • Can the landlord ask for additional rent and security deposit if the tenant sublets?

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Madison, Wisconsin WI

Madison, Wisconsin WI

Termination of Tenancy

Number of Days for Notice to Quit

Before terminating a tenancy, Wisconsin landlord tenant law requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit in advance [WI 704.19.(3)]:

Week to week tenancy

7 days

Month to month tenancy

28 days

Year to year tenancy

90 days

TENANT

If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:

Tenant or child is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking

Property damage due to fire, disaster or unavoidable accident

Immediate

Tenant or Child is a Victim of Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault or Stalking

If the tenant or tenant's child is threatened with serious physical harm by another person (the offender) if they remain on the property, the tenant can terminate the rental agreement earlier by giving the landlord a written notice to quit PLUS one of the following documents [WI 704.16]:

  • Court order protecting the tenant against the offender [WI 813.12.(4)]
  • Court order protecting tenant's child against the offender [WI 813.122]  [WI 813.125]
  • Condition of release ordering the offender not to contact tenant
  • Criminal complaint alleging the offender for committing domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking against the tenant or tenant's child

After giving the landlord a notice to quit and moving out of the property, the tenant shall have to pay rent up to the end of the month.

Property Damage Due to Fire, Disaster or Unavoidable Accident

If the property is badly damaged by fire or natural disaster (such as earthquake or flood), the tenant can immediately move out and stop paying rent. The tenant must inform the landlord that he or she intends to terminate the tenancy, and the tenancy will be terminated once the tenant moves out. [WI 704.07.(4)]

After the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit (after any deductions) to the tenant. The tenant won't have to pay rent starting from the date of the fire or natural disaster, so the landlord must also return any prepaid rent to the tenant.

If only part of the property is damaged, the tenant should move out of the damaged area. The rent amount will be lowered based on how much of the property is still livable. [WI 704.07.(4)]

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Eviction

According to Wisconsin landlord tenant law, the following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit [WI 704.17]:

Tenant (or related person) was involved in criminal activities on property

5 days

WEEK TO WEEK TENANCY

Tenant did not pay rent on time

5 days

MONTH TO MONTH TENANCY

Tenant did not pay rent on time

5 or 14 days

Tenant deliberately caused property damage

5 or 14 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

5 or 14 days

YEAR TO YEAR TENANCY / LEASE FOR ONE YEAR OR LESS

Tenant did not pay rent on time

5 days

Tenant deliberately caused property damage

5 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

5 days

LEASE FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR

Tenant did not pay rent on time

30 days

Tenant deliberately caused property damage

30 days

Tenant violated tenancy agreement or didn't perform duties

30 days

Tenant or Related Person was Involved in Criminal Activities on Property

If the tenant (or tenant's household or tenant's guest) engaged in illegal activities on the property, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by sending the tenant a written five day notice to quit. This notice must state the following:

  • Description of the criminal activities
  • Tenant may seek assistance from a legal counsel, legal clinic or tenant resource center
  • Tenant has the right to contest the allegations in the notice

Examples of illegal activities include harassing other tenants, threatening or endangering the landlord or landlord's agent. Unlawful production, sale, distribution or possession of controlled substances are also considered as criminal activities. [WI 704.17.(3m)]

Tenant Did Not Pay Rent on Time

Week to Week Tenancy

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a five day written notice to pay or vacate. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within five days. [WI 704.17.(1p)(a)]

Month to Month Tenancy

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a five day written notice to pay or vacate. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within five days.

Alternatively, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day notice to vacate. In this case, the tenancy will terminate even if the tenant pays the overdue rent. [WI 704.17.(1p)(a)]

Year to Year Tenancy / Lease for One Year or Less

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a five day written notice to pay or vacate. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within five days.

However if the tenant fails to pay rent on time again within one year, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day notice to quit. In this case, the tenancy will have to terminate. [WI 704.17.(2)(a)]

Lease for More than One Year

If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a 30 day written notice to pay or vacate. This notice must state the amount of rent owed and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if rent isn't paid within 30 days. [WI 704.17.(3)(a)]

Tenant Deliberately Caused Property Damage

Month to Month Tenancy

If the tenant (or tenant's occupant or tenant's guest) deliberately caused damage to the property, the landlord can send the tenant five day written notice to remedy or quit. This notice must state what are the damages and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if the tenant fails to make repairs in five days.

Alternatively the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day notice to vacate. In this case, the tenancy will terminate even if the tenant makes repairs. [WI 704.17.(1p)(b)]

Year to Year Tenancy / Lease for One Year or Less

If the tenant (or tenant's occupant or tenant's guest) deliberately caused damage to the property, the landlord can send the tenant five day written notice to remedy or quit. This notice must state what are the damages and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if the tenant fails to make repairs in five days.

However if the tenant causes property damage again within one year, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day notice to quit. In this case, the tenancy will have to terminate. [WI 704.17.(2)(b)]

Lease for More than One Year

If the tenant (or tenant's occupant or tenant's guest) deliberately caused damage to the property, the landlord can send the tenant 30 day written notice to remedy or quit. This notice must state what are the damages and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if the tenant fails to make repairs in 30 days. [WI 704.17.(3)(a)]

Tenant Violated Tenancy Agreement or Didn't Perform Duties

Month to Month Tenancy

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement, the landlord can send the tenant a written five day notice to remedy or quit. This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if the tenant fails to correct the problem in five days.

Alternatively the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day notice to quit. In this case, the tenancy will terminate even if the tenant corrects the problem.

Year to Year Tenancy / Lease for One Year or Less

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement, the landlord can send the tenant a written five day notice to remedy or quit. This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if the tenant fails to correct the problem in five days.

However if the tenant violates the tenancy agreement again within one year, the landlord can send the tenant a 14 day notice to quit. In this case, the tenancy will have to terminate. [WI 704.17.(2)(b)]

Lease for More than One Year

If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement, the landlord can send the tenant a written 30 day notice to remedy or quit. This written notice has to state what is the tenant's violation and that the rental agreement shall be terminated if the tenant fails to correct the problem in 30 days. [WI 704.17.(3)(a)]

Unlawful Eviction

According to Wisconsin landlord tenant law, the landlord CANNOT force the tenant to move out by shutting off utilities (electricity, water, gas, sanitation), changing the locks, taking the tenant's belongings or taking possession of the property by force without a court hearing. [WI ATCP 134.09.(7)]

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Abandonment

When is it Abandonment?

According to Wisconsin landlord tenant law, the tenant has abandoned the property when BOTH conditions are met [WI 704.19.(6)]:

  1. Tenant is late in paying rent.
  2. Tenant vacated the property without informing the landlord.

Dealing with Abandoned Belongings

If there are (tenant's) belongings left on the property after the tenancy has terminated or the tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord gets to decide what to do with them (unless there is a written agreement stating otherwise). [WI 704.05.(5)]

If there is prescription medication or medical equipment, the landlord has to hold them for seven days. If the tenant doesn't claim the medical items within seven days, the landlord gets to decide what to do with them.

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Resources

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Law:

Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Handbook: Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Guide

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