We are still making major changes to the website. Please check back to be sure you have the best information available. Unless something else is written in your lease, one of three new laws might change your rights.
Most of this information is available in our brochure for easy printing.
Unless something else is written in your lease, one of three 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 under expected law changes in May 2016
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 double your costs when you sue a landlord.
What Issues Are Covered by Tenant-Landlord Laws?
Tenant-landlord laws address a wide variety of topics, such as:
- Applying for housing
- Returning a security deposit
- Breaking, ending, or changing a lease
- Landlord entry
- Dealing with noisy neighbors
Where Can I Get Help?
The Tenant Resource Center, located in Madison, offers the following services to tenants and landlords throughout Wisconsin:
- Information about your rights and obligations under state law and local ordinances
- Copies of leases, rental applications, and other useful forms and sample letters
- Materials in Spanish
- Referrals to private attorneys, legal services, and other agencies
- Assistance locating emergency rental assistance (Dane County only)
- Publications for tenants and landlords
- Presentations to groups and organizations (fees if outside Dane County)
- Mediation for tenants and landlords in eviction court or in other rental disputes (Dane County only)
- Housing and resource lists
- Limited case management (Northside residents of Madison)
What Issues Are Covered by Fair Housing Laws
Fair housing laws address illegal discrimination in the housing market. In Dane County, it is illegal to deny housing or treat someone differently based on:
- National Origin/Ancestry
- Family Status (household composition, including presence of children in a household)
- Marital Status
- Victims of Domestic Abuse or Other Crimes
- Sexual Orientation
- Lawful Source of Income
- Arrest/Conviction Record DCO 31.11(1)(e), former MGO 39.03(4)(d), Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(a)1.e
- Physical Appearance
- Political Beliefs
- Military Discharge Status
- Student Status
- Gender Identity (City of Madison Only)
- Receipt of Section 8 Resources (Dane County and City of Madison)
- Citizenship Status
- Not Providing a Social Security Number on an Application (City of Madison and Dane County only) DCO 31.15, MGO 32.12(7)(b), former MGO 39.03(4)(d), Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(a)1.f
Where Can I Get Help?
The Fair Housing Center of Greater Madison serves residents of Dane County. These services include:
- Intake of fair housing complaints, case management, and counseling complainants on options for legal remedies
- Investigation on behalf of people alleging housing discrimination
- Fair housing presentations to housing consumers, providers, and the general public
What Kind of Housing Question Do You Have?
Frequently, housing questions involve either tenant-landlord or fair housing law:
- A landlord told me he wouldn't rent a second-floor unit to me because I have children. Is this legal? This is a fair housing question - call the Fair Housing Center.
- I moved out a month ago and haven't heard anything about my security deposit. Can the landlord just keep my money? This is a tenant-landlord question - call the Tenant Resource Center.
- My rental manager is trying to charge me a monthly fee for my service animal. Is this legal? This is a fair housing question - call the Fair Housing Center.
- I found a 5-day eviction notice for nonpayment on my door today. Does this mean I was evicted and have to move? This is a tenant-landlord question - call the Tenant Resource Center.
- A landlord told me no apartments were available, but I still see the complex advertised. I'm African American; could this treatment be because of my race? This is a fair housing question - call the Fair Housing Center.
- My apartment complex is falling apart and the landlord refuses to make repairs. Doesn't he have an obligation to make them? This is a tenant-landlord question - call the Tenant Resource Center.
These two areas of housing law are separate in our state and local laws, but they are often experienced simultaneously or in combination.
For example, the same tenant who feels she's been illegally denied an apartment because of her race may also be having trouble getting her application fees back from the landlord who denied her. This person would want to contact both agencies.
Find Out More About Your Rights
If you are not sure whether you have a fair housing or tenant-landlord question, call either agency. After talking with you, the counselor will suggest that you contact the other agency if that seems like an appropriate referral.