This is a summary of Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the Wisconsin Statutes, the Wisconsin Administrative Code, and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about Wisconsin landlord-tenant laws, Wisconsin eviction laws, and Wisconsin renters’ rights. 

However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer.  If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, you seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.

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Rules and Regulations Governing Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Laws

Wisconsin Lease Terms Provisions


Security Deposits

  • What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
    There is no Wisconsin law limiting security deposits.
  • Are security deposits required to earn interest?

No. There is no Wisconsin law requiring security deposits to earn interest.

  • Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account? 

No. There is no Wisconsin law requiring security deposits to be stored in a separate bank account.

  • Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?

No. There is no Wisconsin law forbidding non-refundable fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge. 

  • How long do landlords have to return security deposits?

Either 21 days after the end of a tenancy or the date a new tenancy begins, if less than 21 days. (Wis. Admin. Code § 134.06(2))

  • Can landlords withhold security deposits?

Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover accrued rent, to repair any damages to the property caused by the tenant, and for unpaid utilities or municipal fees. (Wis. Admin. Code § 134.06(3))

  • Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?

Yes. An itemized list, detailing the amount withheld and the reasons for withholding, must be provided along with any unused funds. (Wis. Admin. Code § 134.06(4))

  • Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?

Yes, if the deposit was paid in cash, or upon request of the tenant. (Wis. Admin. Code § 134.3(2))

  • Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?

No. There is no Wisconsin law specifying record-keeping requirements.

  • What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required timeframe?

The Wisconsin statute does not specify what are the consequences for improper withholding of a security deposit.

Rent

  • Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)

No. There are no rent control laws in Wisconsin.

  • When is rent due?

There is no statute governing when rent is due in Wisconsin.

  • Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?

No. There is no Wisconsin law requiring a certain payment method for rent.

Fees

  • Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?

Yes. There is no Wisconsin law forbidding late fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.

  • Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?

No. There is no law governing grace periods in Wisconsin.

  • Can landlords charge application fees?

Yes. There is no Wisconsin law forbidding application fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.

  • Can landlords charge returned check fees?

Yes. There is no Wisconsin law forbidding returned check fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.

Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Relations

Notices

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?

Yes. For month-to-month or longer-term leases, the notification must be 28 days before the proposed raise. For shorter leases, one pay-period notification is sufficient. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.19(3))

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?

No. There is no Wisconsin law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.

  • What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?

There is no statute governing this issue in Wisconsin.

  • What notice is required to terminate a week-to-week periodic tenancy?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 5 days’ written notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.17(1))

  • What notice is required to terminate a month-to-month periodic tenancy?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 28 days’ written notice. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.19(3))

  • Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?

There is no statute in Wisconsin law covering this issue. 

Entry Provisions

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises with notice?
    • To inspect the premises. 
    • To make necessary or agreed to repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements.
    • To show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen, or contractors. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(2))
  • What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?

Landlords must give advance notice and enter only at reasonable times. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(2))

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants?

If the landlord believes the tenant is absent from the premises and the landlord believes the entry is required to protect the premises. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(2))

Landlord’s Duties (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.07(2))

  • Landlords must comply with applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Landlords must make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition.
  • Landlords must keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.
  • Landlords must maintain in good and safe working order all facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.
  • Landlords must repair or replace any plumbing, electrical wiring, machinery, or equipment furnished with the premises and no longer in reasonable working condition.

Tenant’s Duties (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.07(3))

  • Tenants must comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Tenants must use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises in a reasonable manner;
  • Tenants must repair or remediate any damage or infestation caused by their acts or inactions if requested by the landlord.
  • Tenants must pay the landlord for any repairs or remediations the landlord undertakes to fix any damage or infestation caused by the tenant’s acts or inaction.

Required Landlord Disclosures

  • Landlords are required to disclose in writing the names and business addresses of: 
    • the person authorized to manage the premises.
    • the owner of the premises or a person authorized to act for and on behalf of the owner for service of process and receiving notices. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.04(1))
  • Before accepting any money from a prospective tenant, landlords must disclose any building code or housing code violation they are aware of that has not been fixed. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.07(2)(bm))
  • Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards.

Wisconsin Renters’ Rights

  • What are Wisconsin renters’ rights if landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)

If a dwelling becomes untenable, the tenant can remove themselves from the premises, and, unless the landlord promptly repairs or eliminates the health hazard, are not required to pay the landlord rent for the period of untenability. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.07(4))

  • Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?

There is no statute governing this issue in Wisconsin. 

  • What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their Wisconsin renter’s rights?

Wisconsin law prohibits landlords from increasing rent, decreasing services, bring or threaten to bring an action for possession, or refuse to renew a lease if the tenant has complained to a governmental agency, complained to the landlord about a breach of landlord’s duties, or exercised a legal right relating to residential tenancy. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.45(1))

Wisconsin Eviction Laws

  • What are the reasons that landlords can evict tenants under Wisconsin eviction laws?
    • Nonpayment of rent 
    • Violation of lease terms / rental agreement 
    • Illegal activity
    • The tenant remains in possession without the landlord’s consent after expiration or termination of the term of the rental agreement (holdover tenancy) 
  • The tenant is an imminent threat to others on the rental premises.  (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.16-19)
  • What notice do Wisconsin eviction laws require that landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process?
    • For evictions based on non-payment of rent or violation of the lease terms, landlords can either give a 14-day notice to quit or a 5-day notice to pay/comply before bringing an eviction action. The 14-day notice does not require the landlord to allow the tenant to cure the breach, while if the tenant pays/corrects the issue during the 5 day notice period, the landlord can not proceed with an eviction. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.17)
  • For evictions based on holdover tenancy, if the lease is week-to-week, a 7-day notice to quit is required, while for month-to-month or longer tenancies, a 28-day notice to quit is required before filing an eviction action. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.19)
  • For evictions based on a tenant being an imminent threat to another tenant (including another tenant having a protective order against the tenant), a 5-day eviction notice is posted. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.16)
  • For evictions based on illegal activity, a landlord must provide 5-day notice before filing an eviction action. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.17)
  • Do Wisconsin eviction laws allow landlords to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities? 

No. Landlords are not allowed to exclude or forcibly or constructively evict a tenant, except through authorized eviction proceedings. (Wis. Admin. Code §§ 134.09(7))

  • Are landlords permitted to recover damages from an evicted tenant?

Yes.  Landlords can recover damages of twice the daily rental value for each day a tenant remains past their notice to vacate, as well as other damages. (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.27)

COVID-19 Changes to Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Laws

  • The CDC has passed a national eviction ban through December 31, 2020, that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants  who meet the following criteria for nonpayment:
    • Have used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent.
    • Expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return).
    • Are unable to pay their full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of income or employment, or extraordinary medical bills.
    • If evicted, will have no other housing options.
  • The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires landlords to provide a 30-day notice to tenants before eviction. However, the CARES Act only applies to properties that are supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or the United States Treasury (Low Income Housing Tax Credit), and properties with federally-backed mortgages, such as FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

Related Links

Government

Legal Aid

Attorney Referral Services

Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations

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