Landlord Entry

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According to Wis. Stat. 704.05(2), a tenant has "exclusive possession" (i.e., they are the only ones who may live in their unit) except when the landlord gives advance notice to come in at "reasonable times" to "inspect the premises, make repairs, and show the premises to prospective tenants or purchasers." A landlord may also enter without notice in an emergency.

A landlord has to give at least 12 hours advance notice to enter for inspections, repairs, or showings. A tenant can let the landlord come in with less than 12 hours notice. A landlord must always announce themselves before entering the unit. ATCP 134.09(2) 

Landlord Notice Requirements

Advance notice must be in writing, including email or text. Wis. Stat. 704.10(4), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 42, Effective 4/18/18. The tenant is not required to receive the notice (for example, during an extended absence). ATCP 134.09(2)

Announce and Identify

Before entering, the landlord must announce their presence to persons in the unit and identify themselves upon request. ATCP 134.09(2)(d), MGO 32.05(1)(f), FO 72-29

Exceptions to Advance Notice

Mobile Homes/Manufactured Homes

When the tenant owns a manufactured home but rents the lot (and they live in a mobile home park with two or more units), the landlord may not "enter a tenant's manufactured home without the tenant's permission and reasonable prior notice to the tenant." The landlord may enter without permission and notice if "...entry is necessary because of emergency, or to preserve and protect the manufactured home or the manufactured home community." ATCP 125.09(4)

For all parts of the manufactured home and lot rented by the tenant (not owned), the landlord must follow landlord entry laws for rentals throughout the rest of this section.

Tenant Action if Landlord Enters Without Proper Notice

  • Contact the landlord in writing, citing the dates of illegal entry and 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 complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 1-800-422-7128 or by visiting their website.
  • Contact law enforcement. The police may at least document the incident of illegal entry. A tenant may also call the police if a tenant is 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.

Landlord Entry Facts 

 People are often surprised to discover these facts:

  • Tenants do not have the right to deny the landlord entry if the landlord has given proper notice. 
  • Tenants may not require they be there when the landlord has chosen to enter. 
  • A landlord may not require that a tenant not be there when the landlord has chosen to enter. 
  • A tenant may always let the landlord in sooner than the 12-hour advance notice. If a landlord wants to assume they can come in quickly for a repair request without waiting for the tenant's explicit permission, they must state this in the NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS on the lease.
  • "Landlord," in these laws about entry, means the person who owns the property, the person who is leasing it out, the manager, maintenance, and a real estate agent. It can mean the owner, but it can also mean the agent of the owner. It can be anyone the "real" landlord permits to enter on their behalf. 
  • The law only states that landlords may enter at "reasonable times," but does not clearly define a "reasonable time" or a maximum time window during which the landlord may enter. 

Tips for Landlords:

  • It is a great idea to get some information upfront with your prospective tenant about landlord entry and anything you should know about entering their unit. A sample form is available here.
  • If you know of an upcoming issue where you (or an employee or representative) will need to spend a lot of time in the rental home, address it with your tenant ahead of time. Offer incentives to gain tenant cooperation in dealing with upcoming rental home issues like lengthy repairs or intent to sell the property. 

Tips for Tenants:

  • If your landlord doesn't ask, contact them in writing and tell them your preferred contact methods. You can also mention other relevant details, such as the hours you sleep (for example, if you work 2nd or 3rd shift) and essential details about your pets. 
  • If something isn't working for you, a long repair or renovation, for example, then contact the landlord in writing and explain why you think their actions aren't reasonable and what you'd prefer as a way of resolving your concerns.

Here are two examples of landlord entry disputes:

Example 1:When a landlord sells a home, tenants may face challenges. Realtors, in this case, are agents of the landlords who are free to enter tenants' units as long as they follow all applicable laws. However, they may still ask tenants to move furniture, keep the home clean, and leave during showings, which does not align with landlord entry laws or tenant rights. Tenants should contact the landlord with a letter, offer compliance for a fee, or decline altogether.

Example 2: When tenants ask for repairs or renovations, they might not realize how inconvenient the process can be. Some tenants only want repair workers in their homes for a short time, even if they need the repairs. Tenants can suggest convenient repair times, but landlords are not required to comply. It is best to negotiate a solution that works for everyone, such as a hotel stay paid for by the landlord or a rent discount during the repairs. The tenant could also consider staying with family or vacationing during the repair.

Ultimately, a landlord has control over when they want to come in (as long as they give correct notice), and the tenant may file a complaint with DATCP or sue the landlord if the tenant feels that the landlord didn't comply with the laws.