For a condensed version of the information below, click here for a printable pdf.
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 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 double your costs when you sue a landlord.
The Real Deal with Landlord Entry
Tenants in Wisconsin have the right to exclusive possession of their apartment. This means that a landlord cannot enter without advance notice and that they can only enter at reasonable times and for certain reasons. This notice can be waived on a temporary case-by-case basis, if outside the City of Madison (MGO 32.7(14)(f), or through a NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISION clause where the tenant and landlord agree to alternative rules in writing. MGO 32.07(14)(f), MGO 32.05(1), Wis. Stat. 704.05(2), ATCP 134.09(2)(c), 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 2
How Much Notice is Required for a Landlord to Enter My Rental Unit?
Wisconsin landlords cannot enter an apartment unless they give at least 12 hours notice to the tenant. Notice may be verbal (including leaving a message) or in writing. There is no requirement that the tenant actually receive the notice (for example, during an extended absence). ATCP 134.09(2)
Your local ordinances may require additional notice. In the Cities of Madison and Fitchburg, landlords must give at least a 24-hour notice to enter the tenant's premises to inspect or make repairs. To show the apartment for sale or rental only requires a 12-hour notice. MGO 32.05(1)(d), FO-29(4), Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(d)1, 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 2 Eff. 3/1/12.
What are the Reasons My Landlord Can Enter?
State law permits landlords to enter a rental unit only for the following purposes:
- To inspect (Examples: a routine inspection, to check out a problem prior to making requested repairs, or to inspect for occupancy.)
- To make necessary repairs.
- To show the premises to prospective tenants or buyers. Wis. Stat. 704.05(2), ATCP 134.09(2)(a)1
A Landlord may Only Enter Without Advance Notice Under the Following Circumstances:
- If the tenant, knowing the proposed time of entry, requests or consents to the entry. ATCP 134.09(2)(b)1
- If there is a "health or safety emergency". ATCP 134 does not define a "health or safety emergency". ATCP 134.09(2)(b)2
- To protect the premises from damage when the tenant is absent. ATCP 134.09(2)(b)3
What Can I Do if My Landlord Enters Without Proper Notice?
- Write your landlord a letter. Be sure to cite the dates of illegal entry as well as the applicable laws prohibiting it–ATCP 134.09(2), MGO 32.05(1)(d), or FO 72-29(4). More information on how to write a letter is here.
- File a written complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 1-800-422-7128 or by visiting their website.
- Call the police. The police may say that this is a civil matter, but the tenant can at least request that a police report be written to document the illegal entry. You can also call the police if you're home when the landlord tries to enter illegally. In Madison, the police can give the landlord a $600 ticket if the landlord does not cooperate.
It is illegal to enter the apartment unless it is an emergency, the tenant lets the landlord in on a case-by-case basis, or they have given proper notice. Illegal entry does NOT allow you to get out of your lease. For more information, see Ending Your Lease.
Former City of Madison Laws:
NOTE: Many laws remain in the City of Madison ordinances. Most of the preempted laws are still on the books and there is still no sponsor to remove City and County provisions from local ordinances. Looking at the City and County ordinances may be very confusing. Only the Madison Equal Opportunities Ordinance has been updated. The City of Madison has specifically refused to remove some of its laws (required disclosures about smoke detectors under 2013 Wis. Act 76 in particular, by a unanimous vote) and indicated they may prosecute landlords and fight any legal challenges to local control. The City of Madison is also pursuing charter ordinances to override the statewide pre-emption.
Showing Premises for Rental Purposes. No landlord may enter leased premises for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective tenants until one-fourth (1/4) of the lease period has passed. This provision does not apply to:
(a) entry for the purpose of subletting or if a lease period is less than nine (9) months; or
(b) if a summons and complaint for eviction has been filed.
Notice of Entry limited to 3 hours a day and 3 days
Entering upon a tenant's leased premises solely to show the property for sale or lease without at least twenty-four (24) hours notice, the notice shall indicate the exact time of entry and the length of stay not to exceed a combined total of three (3) hours per day and shall cover not more than three consecutive days, unless the tenant approves a shorter period of notice or a larger window of availability on a case-by-case basis. Am. by ORD-10-00016, 2/18/2010, MGO 32.05(1)(e), Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(a)4, Eff. 12/21/11