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Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Laws

A summary of Wisconsin Landlord Tenant Laws based on state law statutes as they apply to residential lease agreements executed between landlords and tenants.

Required Disclosures (by Landlords)

Contact Information: Landlord must disclose to the tenant in writing, at or before the time a rental agreement is signed, the name and address of the person or persons authorized to collect or receive rent and manage and maintain the premises, and who can readily be contacted by the tenant; and the owner of the premises or other person authorized to accept service of legal process and other notices and demands on behalf of the owner. The address must be an address within the state at which service of process can be made in person.(Wis. Admin. Code §134.04)

Access to Property: If landlord wants to enter premises for reasons not specified by law, landlord must disclose the provision in a separate written document entitled “NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS” before the rental agreement is signed. (Wis. Admin. Code §134.09)

Utilities Not Included: If charges for water, heat or electricity are not included in the rent, the landlord must disclose this fact to the tenant before entering into a rental agreement or accepting any earnest money or security deposit from the prospective tenant. If individual dwelling units and common areas are not separately metered, and if the charges are not included in the rent, the landlord must disclose the basis on which charges for utility services will be allocated among individual dwelling units. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.04)

Outstanding Code Violations: Before signing a rental contract or accepting a security deposit, the landlord must disclose to the tenant any outstanding code violation of which the landlord is actually aware, which affects the dwelling unit or a common area and poses a significant threat to the tenant’s health or safety. “Disclosure” consists of showing prospective tenants the portions of the building affected, as well as the notices themselves. (Wis. Stat. §§704.07(2)(bm), 134.04)

Abandoned Property: If landlord intends to immediately dispose of any tenant property left behind after move-out, landlord must notify tenant at the time lease is signed. (But landlord must hold prescription medications and medical equipment for seven days, and must give notice before disposing of vehicles or manufactured homes to owner and any known secured party.) (Wis. Stat. §704.05 (5).)

Move-in Inspection: Tenant has a right to inspect the rental and give landlord a list of defects, and to receive a list of damages charged to the prior tenant. (Wis. Admin. Code § 134.06)

Security Deposit Limit

Wisconsin statutes do not provide a limit. Before accepting the deposit, the landlord must inform tenant of tenant’s inspection rights, disclose all habitability defects including any outstanding building and housing code violations, inform tenant of the means by which shared utilities will be billed, and inform tenant if utilities are not paid for by landlord. (Wis. Admin. Code ATCP 134.06)

Deadline for Returning Security Deposit

Landlords are allowed 21 days to return the deposit after the tenant leaves.

Small Claims Lawsuits

$10,000 is the limit for filing cases in small claims court.

Late Fees

In order to charge a late fee, a provision must have been included in the lease addressing when it can be charged and how much.

Increasing Rent

A 28 day advance notice is required to change any aspect of a month-to-month rental agreement. Leases of a longer duration must address any increases in writing in order to be valid.

Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent

Rent may be withheld by a tenant in accordance with Wisconsin Stat. Ann. § 704.07(4).

Termination and Eviction

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.17 allows a 14 day unconditional quit notice for month-to-month tenants that fail to pay rent, violate the rental agreement, or cause substantial damage to the property.

An unconditional 14 day notice to quit may also be used for those tenants with a lease of less than one year, or year-to-year, for failing to pay rent on time, causing substantial property damage, or violating any lease provision more than once within one year (proper notice must have been issued for the first violation)

A 5 day unconditional notice to quit may be used for any tenant causing a nuisance on the property (a law enforcement agency must issue a written report regarding the nuisance).

All other violations must be served with a conditional 5 day notice to cure or quit.

Access to Property

The law states that advance notice must be given prior to entry. No time frame is mentioned. As a general rule, 24 hours is sufficient.

Wisconsin Lease Agreement

See Wisconsin Residential Lease.

Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant Law Statutes

Wisconsin Stat. Ann. §§ 704.01 to 704.95; Wis. Admin. Code §§134.01 to 134.10.