For a condensed version of the information below, click here for a printable pdf.
Unless something else is written in your lease, one of five new laws might change your rights.
Purple text applies to leases and events as of 12/21/11 (2011 Wis. Act 108)
Orange text applies to leases and events as of 3/31/12 (2011 Wis. Act 143)
Green text applies to leases and events as of 3/1/14 (2013 Wis. Act 76)
Blue text applies to leases and events as of 11/1/15 (CR 14-038)
Maroon text applies to leases and events as of 3/2/16 (2015 Wis. Act. 176)
More information on law changes is available here. Have your lease available when calling the Tenant Resource Center so we can help you know what your rights and remedies are, including whether you can sue a landlord for double damages, court costs and reasonable attorney fees.
What Does a Credit Bureau Do?
There are three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These bureaus gather information about a consumer's credit history from banks, loan companies, and other creditors and compile it into a credit report. The credit report is made available to other potential creditors, such as financial institutions and lenders, as well as insurance companies and landlords. Credit reporting agencies do not decide whether you are eligible for credit, but credit reports have a huge impact on your ability to receive credit.
Who Can Obtain My FREE Credit Report?
Credit bureaus do not need your approval before they release your report, and they do not have to notify you after they release it. However, federal law limits the situations in which credit reporting agencies can release your credit report. They may do so only:
- In response to a court order
- By your written request
- In connection with a credit transaction for which you are being considered (with or without your knowledge) or are otherwise involved, such as a loan application
- For employment or investment purposes
- For the purposes of underwriting your insurance
- If you apply for government benefits, or
- For any other legitimate business purpose, such as renting.
Why Should I Look at My Own Credit Report?
Since credit reports often have mistakes in them that can hurt your ability to get credit (including a lease from a landlord), it is a good idea to see a copy of your credit report once a year to check its accuracy. This provides you with the opportunity to correct errors and protect yourself from identity theft.
Where Can I Get a Copy of My Credit Report?
If you have been denied credit (including denied for an apartment), you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report. Simply request a copy from the credit-reporting agency that supplied the report to the creditor/landlord.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as of September 20, 2010 all Wisconsin residents may request one free credit report per year from each credit bureau. Your FREE annual report MUST be ordered through a central clearinghouse:
Annual Credit Report Request Service - FREE Annual Credit Reports here!
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
NOTE: You can pay for additional copies of your credit report by contacting any of the three major credit bureaus. By law, they may charge up to $11.50 for each credit report. Please note: These are the same bureaus that supply the free annual credit reports, but they ONLY offer those through the central clearing house listed above.
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
What Can I Do if I Believe the Information in My Credit Report is Inaccurate?
Write to the credit bureau immediately and describe the error in as much detail as possible. The agency must investigate your request and correct the error if one is found. If a correction is necessary, the agency must inform every business that has recently received your report that a correction has been made. If the dispute is not resolved, you have the right to file a brief statement describing the nature of the dispute with the credit reporting agency. This statement, or an accurate summary of the statement, must be included in any future credit report concerning you. Since the reports from the three major credit bureaus may contain different information about you, it is a good idea to obtain a report from each of them. Additionally, you should contact the company that provided the incorrect information. It may verify the mistake and write a letter on your behalf requesting that the credit reporting agency fix the error.
How Do I Protect Myself from Ruining My Credit Score?
Protect yourself because no one else will. Remember that it is your responsibility to know how much credit you are able to pay off each month. Creditors make money when you stretch out your payment or pay late. At the very least, make the minimum payment on all your bills. Late fees are expensive and many contracts say that missing one payment will result in a higher interest rate. Warn your kids that credit card debt can ruin their credit. Young adults are targets for credit cards they cannot pay off; educate them about responsible credit use.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a government agency that enforces federal fair credit reporting laws. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-653-4261).
Used with permission of Consumer Law Clinic
UW-Madison Law School - Intakes: (608) 263-6283
How do I get a free credit report?
Go to this website: Annual Credit Report Request Service
Click to request report and decide if you want one or all three. Answer some quick information about your address and past address. The reports will all be available on line nearly immediately and you can print or save as a pdf after you answer some additional financial information only you would know.
Will I get my credit score with my free report?
No. The reports give you all the relevant information about late payments, who has requested your score, negative findings, etc, but to get the score they will ask for an additional fee. Remember, if you are denied by a landlord due to your credit score, you are entitled to see a copy of that report.