Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Laws

Landlord Tenant Laws of Wisconsin: A Brief Overview

Wisconsin has several statutes that govern landlord and tenant relationships. There are many requirements that landlords are responsible for, as well as some governing the responsibilities of the tenant as well. Renting can become a complicated legal matter with just one wrong turn, so it behooves both tenant and landlord to become familiar with the numerous statutes that govern issues and some details involved in tenancy. One of the statutes that is helpful is titled “Landlord and Tenant Statutes” and can be read in Wisconsin’s 704 up to statute 704.50

These laws are complex and reviewing them with an expert is always wise. The experts at the Wisconsin Realtors Association are not only helpful with finding your perfect new rental, but they are also well versed in real estate law, including landlord tenant issues. Beginning your tenancy armed with information can help it be a successful relationship that is mutually beneficial and prevent costly appearances in small claims court.

Security deposits, repairs statutes can be found in the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection chapter 134; Residential Rental Practices. Leasing can benefit both tenant and landlord, and understanding what responsibilities both landlord and tenant have toward one another regarding tenancy. To help keep the peace and ensure each party understands their responsibilities, Wisconsin legislators have developed statutes over the years that make clear what is expected of both parties and any consequences that may occur if statutes are violated.

Sign That Lease

The idea of signing a lease may be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. By understanding what is in a standard lease, you will arm yourself with knowledge. A lease agreement is a legally binding contract. It is an agreement between both landlord and tenant and acts as an official record and legal guide to tenancy.

Your lease will list the amount of security required, the date it was received and the amount paid, your monthly rental obligation, the day rent is due, the length of tenancy or lease period, and many other particulars including who is allowed to live in the property to how many pets you have, their sex and breed and a description. Having a lease guarantees certain conditions will be met that are mutually beneficial to both parties. A lease also protects both parties.

In Wisconsin, there is no statute regarding what day rent is due, but there other statutes regarding rent. A landlord is required to issue a rent receipt if the tenant has paid in cash according to Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.03(2b). If the landlord wishes to increase the amount of rent paid, a 28 day written notice of intent is required §§ 704.19(3). If the tenant is late paying rent, the landlord may only charge late fees if they are included in the lease.

Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.03(1) provides that the landlord shall present to the tenant the lease agreement and other rules for the tenant to examine prior to accepting any earnest monies, deposits and before signing the agreement. The landlord will furnish the tenant a signed copy upon execution of the lease.

When a lease agreement renews automatically, the landlord is obligated to give the tenant a 15 day notice of intent to renew, or a 30 day notice of intent to terminate as regulated under statute §§ 704.15.

Details, Details

If the tenant pays more than the rental amount due, the landlord may keep the overage and apply it to the security deposit as there is no statute governing prepaid rent according to Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.02(11). However, for a tenant that may need to prepay rent, it may be stipulated in the lease as agreed upon by both parties, which would prevent the funds from being diverted to security deposit held.

In the event that the landlord fails to provide the tenant with basic services such water, heat and trash removal, or the residence has suffered damage as a result of fire or other catastrophic event and has become in habitable, the tenant may withhold rent under Wisconsin Statute §§ 704.07(4). However, if the tenant remains in the home, the amount of rent withheld will in an amount that reflects the amount of damages, but never the full amount. If the tenant must vacate the premises, the tenant may withhold the entire amount. There is no statute that allows the tenant to make repairs and deduct those costs from the rent.

The state of Wisconsin prohibits the landlord from creating inhabitable conditions in the effort to force a tenant out. Landlords may not terminate basic, essential services such as heat and water or change the locks, preventing the tenant from entering or any other behavior whose intent and purpose is to force the tenant to vacate as listed in Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.09(7).

In the event a tenant abandons the property or asks for early termination, the landlord is obligated to make a good faith effort to reduce the damages the tenant will incur by re-renting the property as soon as possible. This regulation can be found in Wisconsin statute §§ 704.29(2)(b).

Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.03(2a) requires that the landlord provide the tenant a written receipt if the security deposit is paid in cash, or if the tenant asks for a receipt.

If a landlord incurs court costs and attorney’s fees related to the tenancy, a suit may be filed against the tenant in an effort to recoup them. In Wisconsin, the small claims court limit is $10,000.

Security Deposit and Fees

One of the most unusual aspects of Wisconsin’s security deposit rules is that they have no limit. Agreeing on the deposit becomes one of the most important points of your lease when the sky’s the limit. This interesting bit of legislation can be found under Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.06. Wisconsin has no statutes regarding security deposit interest, requiring separate bank accounts for security deposits, or record keeping of the deposits.

Landlords may charge tenants a non-refundable background and credit check fee of $20 as outlined in Wisconsin Administrative Code  §§ 134.05(4).

The landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days after the lease ends or the date a new tenant takes possession if the tenant vacated before the lease period had ended according to Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.06(2).

Finally, Wisconsin Administrative Code §§ 134.06(4) requires landlords supply tenants with a written itemized list and description of damages withheld from the security deposit.

Can My Landlord Enter My Home?

Simply put yes, your landlord has a right to enter the property to make inspections, perform maintenance and make repairs, to show the unit. Your landlord may enter the dwelling without notice during an emergency and during a period of extended absence by the tenant according to Wisconsin statute §§ 704.05(2). Your landlord must give you at least a 12 hour notice unless otherwise agreed upon.

A landlord may not use lockouts and utility shut offs to effect and eviction as state in the Wisconsin Way: A Guide for Landlords and Tenants.

A Bit of Notice

Tenants in Wisconsin are required to give a 28 day notice to terminate a month to month lease §§ 704.19(3). In a week to week leasing agreement, a five day notice to vacate is required §§ 704.17(1). The same statute allows for the landlord to serve the tenant with a 14 day notice for nonpayment of rent when the rental period is month to month. When the lease period is yearly, and the tenant has failed to pay rent or has violated the lease, the landlord may serve a 14 day notice to tenant asking them to vacate the property §§ 704.17(2)(b). When the lease period is longer than one year, a 30 day notice is required §§ 704.17(3).


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