Looking for Help?

Tenant Resources
Landlord Resources

Tenant Resources

This section is filled with information that tenants and prospective tenants may find usefull. If you can't find what you need, please contact us and we'll do our best to put you in touch with reliable information.

Looking For Rental Housing

Resources for Searching


Looking for an apartment is essentially done on-line. Most of the sites will have the same apartments, but it is always good to check multiple sites.


Affordable Housing

Apartment Finder


Apartment guide

Apartment list



WIHousingSearch.org, a website funded by Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Wisconsin Division of Housing. This website is supported by a toll-free, multilingual call center: 1-877-428-8844, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time. Free for landlords to list properties, and tenants to search.

The Eau Claire County  Aging and Disabilities Resource Center produces a list of landlords in the area.

Choosing a Landlord


Housing is tight and it is tempting just to rent anything that is available. But that is really not wise. Just as a landlord will check out your background, you should check out theirs.

Talk with current tenants (preferably more than one): If you only check one source, it should be the current tenants. Visit without the landlord and explain that you are considering renting and would like their view on a few things. Consider asking the following questions:

• Does the landlord respond quickly when you report repair/maintenance problems?

• Do the heat/air conditioning and appliances all work?

• Were promised improvements (such as paint, new carpet) done before you moved in?

• Are there pests (bed bugs, mice, etc)?

• Are there noise or safety problems in the building or the neighborhood?

• Does the landlord give proper notice before entering the unit?

• Would you recommend the landlord?

Small claims court

Check to see if the landlord has any court cases in small claims court using CCAP(Consolidated Court Automation Programs). This is where you will find eviction cases. If there seem to be an unusually large number based on how many units they have, you will have to go to the Court House to see what the evictions were for.

Consumer protection records

Contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection –DATCP-- ( 800-422-7126) to ask if any complaints have been filed against the landlord. You can find out the number of complaints, the dates and how they were resolved.


You need to check to see how the property is zoned. If it is R1 you can only have 3 unrelated people. 

Police Reports

If you are concerned about the neighborhood, you can look at the community crime map which is updated daily.

What the landlord must disclose prior to accepting an application fee

(All references are to state statutes. Most are found within the statutes administered by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection)

Before you give the landlord any money, you should make sure the landlord does the following:

• Show you the lease ATCP 134.03(1) (See Reading your lease)

Applications and fees



Before a landlord can accept any money from a prospective tenant (PT), they have to do the following:

  • Let you look at the lease. ATCP 134.03(1) Explain which unit(s) you are applying for. ATCP 134.05(1)
  •  Tell you about any building code violations (ie, is there something that the building inspector is looking into?). ATCP 134.04(2)
  • Explain if any of the money will be used to pay for a credit check fee, which is limited to a maximum of $25 per applicant. ATCP 134.05(4)
  • Explain if any of the money will be used to pay for a background check for tenants applying from out of state, which is limited to a maximum of $25 per applicant. ATCP 134.02(3), ATCP 704.085(2), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 41, Eff. 4/18/18.
  • Tell you about which utilities are or aren't included in the rent. ATCP 134.04(3)
  • Explain how the utilities are divided between the units and common spaces, if there are not separate meters for the units. ATCP 134.04(3)

Prior to submitting an application, you should do the following:

• Check that you meet stated qualifications. Some landlords will state the income they require. Others will explicitly state that they will not rent to people with a criminal record or bad credit or previous evictions.

• CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE: There are three credit agencies and you can get a free report from each once a year. For help reading your credit report, go to Nerd wallet


Prior to submitting an application it is good to check that you meet stated qualifications. Some landlords will state the income they require. Others will explicitly state that they will not rent to people with a criminal record or bad credit or previous evictions.


Be sure to check your credit score. There are three credit agencies and you can get a free report from each once a year. 

For help reading your credit report, go to Nerd wallet


The way in which you fill out this form can greatly affect whether you are successful in getting the rental unit you want. Prospective tenants often fail to fill out the application form completely and accurately. Doing it completely and accurately will make a favorable impression on the landlord.

EARNEST MONEY (Application fee)

You will almost certainly be asked to submit a fee with your application. There are specific statutes governing this money.

If the landlord does not accept your application or if you withdraw your application before the decision (in writing) earnest money must be refunded except for the actual cost of a credit check and a background check for out of state residents. The refund must be done by the next business day.

IMPORTANT POINT: A landlord has to accept your copy of your own credit report if it is less than 30 days old.

Wis. Stat. 704.085(1)(a) & (b), ATCP 134.05(4) Otherwise, they can charge you up to $25.00.

If your application is accepted, but you do not take the apartment, the landlord can deduct specific costs related to re-renting the apartment (advertising, etc) from your application fee.

If your application is accepted and you sign a lease, the landlord must either return your earnest money or apply it to a security deposit or first month’s rent.

NOTE: If the landlord does not return your money, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection (DATCP) on-line or go to small claims court. Often writing a letter indicating that you intend to do one of these things will resolve the issue.

TIP: Since you will not get your application fee back if you do not take an apartment when you are accepted, be careful about how many apartments you apply for.

Security deposits


At the time of lease signing, most landlords will require a security deposit (in addition to rent).

When collecting a security deposit in Wisconsin, your landlord must notify you of:

• Additional utility costs

• Non-typical security deposit deductions

• Existing violations or conditions affecting the habitability of the rental unit

Initial Inspection: At the time a security deposit is collected, landlords must provide tenants with a check-in sheet and notify tenants in writing of their right to do the following within 7 days after the start of the tenancy:

  •  You can conduct an initial inspection and notify the landlord of any damages or defects to the rental unit.
  • You can also request a list of damages or defects, if any, deducted from the previous tenant’s security deposit, and whether or not they were repaired (landlords can require tenants to request this in writing) If you request a list of previous damages or defects, the landlord must provide it within 30 days after you make the request or 7 days after the landlord notifies the previous tenant of security deposit deductions, whichever is later. The landlord is not required to disclose the identity of the previous tenant or the amounts withheld from the security deposit.

Landlords in Wisconsin must provide a receipt for the security deposit that includes the purpose of the payment and the amount.


Emotional Support/Service Animals

Emotional Support/Service Animals

Emotional Support Animals, Service Animals, companion animals are all names that people use to refer to the animals that help individuals with disabilities in their day-to-day life. However, they aren't all the same thing. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is defined by Wis. Stat. 106.50(1m)(im) as "an animal that provides emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship for an individual but that is not trained to perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

However, the difference between ESAs and service animals isn't relevant for those in rental housing. Both service animals and ESAs count as reasonable accommodations for a disability within fair housing law. Therefore, no matter what you call the animal - the animal is allowed, as long as: the tenant has a disability and the animal is necessary to treat the disability, as confirmed by reliable documentation.


When can a tenant request an ESA?

In order for you to request a support/service animal as an accommodation for a disability, the animal must be necessary to afford you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling or to participate in the housing service or program. Further, there must be a relationship between your disability and the accommodation the animal provides. If these requirements are met, a housing provider must permit the assistance animal as an accommodation.

 Landlords may request documentation:

  1. Landlords can request two pieces of formal documentation: Confirmation that you have a disability. Wisconsin law states that if the disability is immediately apparent, a landlord may not request any disability related information.
  2. Confirmation that the animal is necessary to treat a medical condition or a disability.

Federal law states that the tenant must supply “reliable documentation”

A landlord cannot require you to:

  •  Reveal what kind of disability you have, or what disability is treated by the companion/service animal (Tenants are protected by HIPPA, which does not require the tenant or the health professional to disclose the nature of their disability or other medical details. Wis. Stats. 106.50(2r)(bg)2. & (1m)(mx), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Secs. 29 & 30)

•   Require that the tenant/prospective tenant prove the animal has been specifically trained

Who can provide documentation for animals?

Federal and State laws disagree on the type of documentation required for emotional service animals. Wisconsin laws require the documentation related to the disability-related need for an emotional support animal to come from a licensed health professional, defined as “a physician, psychologist, social worker or other health professional” who is licensed or certified in Wisconsin and is acting within the scope of their license or certification.

On the other hand, federal law only requires the person with a disability must provide "reliable documentation.” (FHEO 2013-01).—which, for example, could include professionals from other state.

Animals can be denied in specific circumstances:

A landlord can deny a service or companion animal:

• If the landlord lives in the unit, and they or a member of their immediate family have an allergy to the animal.

• If that specific animal has aggressively threatened someone. (This must be the specific animal in question, and not based on beliefs about behavior from that breed, size, etc.)

• The service animal or emotional support animal would impose an undue financial or administrative burden that would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing program or services.

• The specific animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of a person that cannot be reduced by another reasonable accommodation.

• The specific animal would cause substantial physical damage to a person's property that cannot be reduced by another reasonable accommodation.

Charges and restrictions:

A landlord cannot charge the tenant extra pet fees for a service animal or emotional support animal since they are considered medical equipment needed for accommodation. Additionally, landlords cannot apply other pet policies like breed or weight restrictions to service or emotional support animals.

A landlord is able to charge a tenant for damages done by their ESA or service animal. Wis. Stat. 106.50(2r)(bg)3.

A landlord could require renters insurance, if they require it of everyone.

Questions tenants often ask:

Should I tell a prospective landlord about my ESA when I'm applying for a rental home? Laws do not require tenants to disclose ESAs or service animals when applying for housing. It is helpful to tell your landlord that you have an ESA or service animal before you move in so that if they have a legal reason to deny your ESA, you can work out those reasons or find different housing. Here's a possible series of steps you might follow when applying for housing with an ESA:

  1. Apply for housing, without mentioning your animal.
  2. Once you have proof (preferably in writing) that you're accepted into the rental home and not denied for other legal reasons, send the landlord a letter saying that you have an ESA, with your documentation.
  3.  If you are denied at that point, you could reach out to the landlord asking for the reason for the denial or contact the following agencies for support

U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD has publications available about fair housing and can direct you to your local fair housing office.

o Disability Rights Wisconsin is a statewide organization that provides information about the legal rights of persons with disabilities.

o Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center.

 My landlord wants more information than the documentation you list above. Should I give it to them? You do not have to provide additional information, however, you certainly can. Landlords cannot deny your request if you didn’t provide additional information. You are also not liable based on discrimination laws if you choose to give them more information.

Do I need to pay a pet security deposit or rent for my ESA? No, landlords may not charge the tenant extra pet fees for a service animal or emotional support animal since they are considered medical equipment needed for accommodation. Additionally, landlords cannot apply other pet policies like breed or weight restrictions to service or emotional support animals.

Should I pay to register my ESA online? No. An ESA registry is a website that asks for money to confirm that you have a registered emotional support animal. This is not required by law and is not, in any way, a replacement for the "reliable documentation" needed to receive accommodation

Subsidized Housing


There is a variety of types of subsidized housing for low income individuals and families in Eau Claire County. Generally, households earning up to the income limit in the table below for their household size are eligible for units participating in a HUD rental assistance program in Eau Claire. Programs either require you to be at 30% or below the Area Median Income (AMI) or 50% or below.

2021 Area Median Income

AMI  1 Person    2 Person   3 Person   4 Person   5 Person    6 Person    7 Person  8 Person

30%  $18,800    $21,500    $24,200    $27,750    $32,470    $37,190    $41,910    $46,630

50%   $31,350    $35,800    $40,300    $44,750    $48,350    $51,950    $55,500    $59,100

80%   $50,150    $57,300    $64,450    $71,600    $77,350    $83,100    $88,800    $94,550


The housing choice voucher program, usually referred to as “Section 8” is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. It is administered by local city or county Housing Authorities.

Who is eligible: Individuals and families with income of 50% AMI or below are eligible, but 75% of the vouchers have to be given to households with AMI of 30% or below. You must be a citizen (with a few exceptions). People with certain criminal convictions can be denied.

How does it work: The household is issued a voucher and given 60 days to find an apartment. Once the apartment is located, the local housing authority will do an inspection to ensure that it meets basic health and safety standards. HUD determines the maximum rent that it will pay, based on comparable rents in the area. You will be required to pay 30% of your income in rent and the Housing Authority will send the other 70% to the landlord. 

How do I apply for the vouchers: All Section 8 programs in the Eau Claire area have long waiting lists (often over 300) and currently the waiting lists are closed. Once you get on one it can take up to twenty-four months to be selected. Having said that, you should check periodically to see if the waiting lists open up. There is no downside to trying!

The following Housing Authorities have section 8 vouchers:

Eau Claire City Housing authority, administered by the Central Wisconsin Community Action Council

Eau Claire County Housing Authority

In addition, the Veterans Administration has vouchers (VASH). Contact your local Veterans office.


Each of the above Housing authorities own their own housing units.

City of Eau Claire Housing Authority

  •  Administers TBRA (Tenant Based Rental Assistance voucher program) which is similar to Section 8 vouchers except     they are limited to two years.
  • Owns over 300 housing units for the elderly, disabled and families.

  One application is used for both. 

Eau Claire County

  •  Has 14 scattered site large family units and
  •  Administers 36 units for the city of Altoona.

 One application is used for all county housing, including Section 8

Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association owns 15 housing units


The following units are independently owned, but built with HUD money and therefore require proof of low-income status. They all have separate applications.

 Englewood Barrington (2 and 3 bedroom apartments for families)

 Biscuit Lofts

Rose Gullerud Villa (for people with disabilities)

Sessions Street Apartments

Jeffers Road Apartments


Otter Creek


Park Tower and Owen Rust are owned by the city of Eau Claire; use the application at the Housing Authority site.

Grace Barstow Apartments

Colony Park East & West (Landmark Properties)

Rose Gullerud Villa (for people with disabilities)

St. John’s apartments

Golden Acres I and II (Altoona)

Fall Creek Commons

LowIncomeHousing.us. is a good source of information on all low income housing in the Eau Claire area, including applications.

The Aging and Disabilities Resource Center of Eau Claire County has a useful guide to housing that includes good information on each apartment complex.

Mobile Homes


Mobile home tenants and operators (landlords) have many of the same rights and responsibilities that apply to a rented apartment or house. But there are additional protections for mobile home tenants because of the money generally required to purchase the mobile home and to attach it to the lot.

Mobile homes (also called manufactured homes) and their lots can be set up for rental and ownership in different ways. The applicable laws and regulations depend on the set-up.

Rental set-up-- Applicable laws and regulations

    ATCP ch. 134 , ATCP ch. 125

Lease Requirements

Wisconsin law (ATCP 125.03) requires that:

• Lease must be in writing

• If the tenant is also purchasing a mobile home from the operator, the lease must be given to the tenant before signing the home purchase contract

• Lease must be for at least a year, unless tenant requests a shorter period

• Lease must include:

  1. Amount of rent
  2.  What tenant receives for the rent
  3.  Security deposit and any other charges not included in the rent, including utilities. The exact method for calculating utility charges must be included.
  4. Community rules
  5. Lot size and location
  6.  Parking fees
  7. Fees and approximate due dates of government-assessed fees, including those for waste and recycling
  8.  Notice that operator reserves the right to screen purchasers of the home
  9.  Information about emergency shelter (It is not required that the operator provides or has access to an emergency shelter.)
  10. In addition, the operator must provide to tenants contact information for maintenance and services (ATCP 125.03).


Substantial Changes During a Lease

During a lease, operators cannot change rules that “substantially affect the rights or duties of tenants or the operator.” This includes rules on:

  • occupancy limits
  • sheds
  • parking
  • pets
  • overnight guests
  •  repairs and maintenance requirements
  •  tenant and operator rights and responsibilities
  • outdoor antenna and satellite dishes

Other Changes During a Lease

Operators can make other, non-substantial changes to community rules during the term of a lease if they provide at least 28 days notice and an opportunity to meet with the operator before the new rule takes effect. Notice must be given in person or by mail.

General Prohibitions

Mobile home operators may not:

• Charge entrance or exit fees to move in or out of the community (ATCP 125.04(1))

• Restrict who the tenant may hire for work at or on the mobile home (ATCP 125.04(2). This prohibition generally does not apply to utilities, installing or removing the home, snow removal, lawn care, or similar types of maintenance.

• Tie rental of a lot to specific requirements, including purchasing a home from the operator (ATCP 125.02)

• Require the tenant to relocate their home during the term of a lease or to pay for the cost of a required relocation under a new or renewed lease, except in an emergency or if a tenant violated lease or if tenant has vacated the home (ATCP 125.07)

• Require tenant to pay for or make permanent improvements to the community (ATCP 125.09)

• Enter tenant’s home without tenant’s permission and reasonable advance notice, unless it is an emergency and the tenant cannot be reached (ATCP 125.09)

• Consider the age of a home when deciding whether to lease, renew a lease, remove a home, or other similar decisions (Wis. Stat. 710.15(3), ATCP 125.06)

• Require removal of a home solely or in part because ownership or occupancy has or will change (Wis. Stat. 710.15(4), ATCP 125.06)

• Require tenant to designate a particular person (including the operator) as agent for the sale, or otherwise impose unreasonable restrictions on the sale of the mobile home (ATCP 125.06)

• Ask for or receive payment or anything of value as a condition of a transfer of ownership or sublease (ATCP 125.06)

• Refuse to rent a site to a home purchaser except for a valid reason under 710.15(5m) (ATCP 125.06)

• Restrict advertising for the sale of a home unless the same restrictions are imposed on all sales including the operator’s (ATCP 125.06)


Operators must notify a tenant at least 28 days in advance of a renewal of any change in rent, fees, or other “substantial change” in the terms or conditions of the lease. Any substantial changes must be specifically noted in a separate document.

Lease Termination and Non-Renewal

Under ATCP 125.08 and Wis. Stat. 710.15(5m), leases can be terminated or renewal denied only if the reason is provided in writing and for “good cause.” Good cause includes:

• Nonpayment of rent or other breach of the lease

• Disorderly conduct or conduct endangering health or safety of others in the community

• Vandalism or waste

• Violation of community rules that endangers health or safety of others or disrupts the right to the peaceful enjoyment of the premises, but only after written notice has been provided to the tenant of the violation

• Violation of a law relating to mobile homes, but only after written notice has been provided to the tenant of the violation

• The community will be permanently taken off the rental market

• Condition of home endangers health or safety of occupants or others in the community

• Tenant provided false information in their rental application about something important to the application (a “material misrepresentation”)

• “Other good cause”

A lease can also be terminated due to imminent threat of serious physical harm as defined in Wis. Stat. 704.16 (Wis. Stat. 710.15(5t)).

Operators must follow the 5-day and 14-day notice requirements in Wis. Stat. 704.17 (Wis. Stat. 710.15(5r)).

Operators may not retaliate against a tenant for any of the reasons in Wis. Stat. 704.45. In addition, under ATCP 125.08, operators may not terminate a lease, refuse to renew a lease, or refuse to enter into a lease with a tenant because:

• tenant reported a legal violation to a

Reading a Lease

Reading Your Lease

It is absolutely crucial that you read the ENTIRE LEASE, no matter how long it is. And remember, in most cases all tenants are responsible for actions (financial and otherwise) of all the tenants in your apartment.

Start with the obvious:

  • How much of a security deposit is required? (It is often as much as first and last month rent)
  • How much is the rent and when and in what way is it to be paid? (Automatic deductions from your checking account is often the safest way to pay.)
  • Is there a grace period and if so, is there a late fee?
  • What utilities and other monthly fees are included? (heat, electricity, water, garbage)
  • Who is responsible for lawn care and snow removal?
  • Are pets allowed? If so, is there an extra fee?
  • Is parking provided? If so, is there a charge?

There are other things that you might not think about:

  • For what repairs is the landlord responsible and for what are you responsible?
  • Does the lease specifically list what appliances, furniture, etc. come with the apartment?
  • Who is responsible for pest control?
  • Are you allowed to sublet and what does the landlord require for you to do that?
  • What happens if you need/want to break the lease and leave early?


Prior to moving in it is important to do a thorough review of the property with the landlord. If you don’t do that, you could be charged for damage that you do not create. The same check-list should be used when you check out. For a VERY thorough check-in, check-out list, go to UW Extension’s Rent Smart.


Renting with Disabilities


For specific information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, please visit the ADA website.

See number 5: Paying Rent Late Because of Social Security, bullet point 3 on the TRC website linked above, there is a broken link to the Wisconsin Legislation site. Click to see information about 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 51.

UWEC Housing Resources for Students

Click here to find the My Housing Portal and on-campus housing resources.

Click here for off-campus housing resources.

While You’re Renting a Unit

Roommates 101

Roommates 101

Check Out Potential Roommates

Roommates can affect each others' lives personally and financially. Roommates who sign one lease are "jointly and severally liable" under that agreement. This means that any or all roommates can be held responsible when one does something wrong like not paying rent, violating a lease clause, or damaging the apartment. Very little tenant-landlord law deals with roommates, so choose your roommates carefully and work with them if problems come up.

Choosing A Roommate

If you will be living with people you do not know, consider asking the landlord to let you sign a separate lease. The lease should make you responsible only for your share of the rent and for damages caused by you or your guests. Landlords may, but do not have to, let you and your roommates sign separate leases.

  •  Consider asking for references and providing your own (from previous landlords, roommates, etc.)
  •  If you have any concerns, check out CCAP (Consolidated Court Automation Programs) to see if they have any legal issues.
  •  Do not assume that a best friend will make a great roommate. After you move in, you may find you have different ideas about cleaning, parties, bills, or other issues which could become major problems. Check out this discussion of “Living with roommates” for things to think about.

Roommate Agreements

To prevent roommate conflicts, you should discuss the issues below with all prospective roommates and sign a roommate agreement. The roommate agreement should be detailed and feel fair to everyone. All roommates should sign and date the agreement and get a copy. Here is a sample

Some items to think about:


• Will one person pay the rent or will each roommate send a separate check to the landlord?
• What will happen if one person cannot pay the rent one month?
• Will one roommate pay extra for special privileges such as a parking spot or a bigger room?

NOTE: If the landlord only wants to accept one check, then work out a payment plan. Make sure the plan is in writing and keep good records.

Shared Bills

• Whose name will be on shared bills (cable, internet, electricity, etc.)?
• Will you pay with separate checks?
• Will other people on the lease pay directly to the person whose name is on the bill or to the company involved

  • Does one person have a waterbed? An extra air conditioner? Like it warmer in the apartment? Will they pay more
  • Who will pay any late charges?

NOTE: Some utility companies let you put several names on the bill. This may encourage all roommates to pay their bills on time.

Household Duties

Who will be responsible for the following duties:

  • Taking out the garbage?
  • Doing the dishes?
  • Cleaning the bathroom?
  • Vacuuming the living room??

How often will the apartment be cleaned?

Cooking/use of kitchen

  • Will you share some food? Who will buy it and who will pay for it?
  • How will you divide up space for each person’s individual food?
  • How will you determine times to use the kitchen?
  • Will you share dishes, cooking utensils, etc.?

Bathroom Use
How will you determine when people use the bathroom(s) for showers, etc?

Dispute Resolution
How will you deal with problems if any occur? Bringing in a neutral third party to mediate a conversation between you and your roommate(s) can be a good option.

Destruction of Property
What will happen if something gets broken? Will everyone be equally responsible or will you agree that the person who broke/destroyed the property will be responsible?

Security Deposit

Who paid the security deposit, who will get what amount returned to them, and whose name(s) should the landlord put on the check? Under the new DATCP regulations, landlords no longer have to make checks out to everyone on the lease, but they do have to follow anything the tenants put in writing. It is now even more important to make sure you do this. Some tenants will have one person receive and process the check, which is easier. Other tenants will require all of their names to be on it, since this makes them more accountable to each other regarding the final amount. It's up to you, just make sure the landlord knows what to do. ATCP 134.06

What policy do the roommates have regarding subletting?
Roommates can sublet only with the consent of all other roommates.
Do the roommates agree not to withhold their consent unreasonably?
What happens to a roommate's security deposit if they sublet?


• Are overnight guests allowed?

• When, how often, and for how long may guests visit?

• Where will overnight guests sleep?

Quiet Hours

• What hours, if any, will be designated as quiet hours?


• Will parties be allowed?

• Will alcohol be served?

• What size, when, and how often will parties be allowed?

• What will you do if the police are called?


• What bedrooms will each person get?

• Will roommates be switching bedrooms at any point during the lease?

• Will those with larger rooms pay more rent?

• Will those sharing a room pay less rent?

Shared Belongings

• Will any of the following items be shared: clothing, DVDs, books, or any other property?


• Are people allowed to enter each others’ bedrooms? Under what circumstances?

• Are there other spaces in the apartment that are off-limits during certain times?


• Will smoking be permitted in the apartment? If so, when and where?


• Will any of the roommates have pets?

• What types of pets are acceptable?

• Who is responsible for taking care of any pets?

• How will any costs arising from pet damages be allocated?


• Where will you leave messages and mail?


• Are there any other issues that are important to you and your roommates? Issues might include things like allergies, regular religious practices, or being LGBT-friendly. Think carefully about your living space and talk through these things ahead of time to avoid problems.

Exclusive Possession/Landlord Entry



In Wisconsin, a tenant has the right of Exclusive Possession, which means that the landlord cannot enter the premises at will, but must abide by the law and the terms of the lease.

Landlord entry can be for one of three reasons:

  •  to show the unit to a prospective renter,
  •  to do maintenance, 
  • or to deal with an emergency
  • For showings and maintenance, the landlord must provide reasonable notice (usually a minimum of 12 hours, but check your lease for the terms that apply.) The notice can be verbal or in writing, but there is no requirement that the tenant actually receive the notice—for instance if the tenant is not at home. Wis. Stat. 704.05(2) ATCP 134.09(2)

Before entering the unit, the landlord must announce their presence to anyone in the unit and must identify themselves if requested to do so. ATCP 134.09(2)(d), MGO 32.05(1)(f)

In an emergency, or to prevent damage to property when the tenant is not present, a landlord is allowed to enter the unit without prior notice. ATCP 134.09(2)(b)2 ATCP 134.09(2)(b)3

What to do if a landlord illegally enters the property:

  • Write the landlord a letter that states the dates and times of the illegal entries, and include the appropriate laws as listed above.
  • File a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. 
  • Call the police. Law enforcement is likely to tell you that this is a civil matter, but you can request that you be allowed to file a report so that the illegal entry is documented.

Solving problems with a roommate


The best way to PREVENT problems with your roommate is to have a roommate agreement.  Then, if problems arise you can go back to that agreement.

However if you don't have such an agreement or if it doesn't cover the issue you are dealing with, here are some helpful hints.

Think about what you will do if the situation isn't resolved; are you able or willing to move out?  What would be the minimum solution you would expect.

Clarify and listen. It’s important to establish a shared understanding of what is happening. Make sure that both parties are seeing/hearing/noticing the same things. Listen carefully. If the other person doesn’t feel heard, they are less likely to participate in finding solutions.

"I see ____."

"I notice that ____."

"I hear ____."

"You are saying ____."

Repeat this step until you both have the same(ish) understanding about what's going on.

Be willing to compromise. Being open to the possibility of there being more than one solution to the problem makes it more likely to find a mutually beneficial solution. (Again, know how far you will go to compromise before you start the conversation.)

Be careful that your words are not combative. This is not the time to hash over past mistakes or misunderstandings. Keep focused on positive teamwork to find a mutually beneficial solution.

Talk it out as soon as you calmly can. Putting off difficult conversations can make a hard situation even more difficult.

Explain how you feel. Try to make a connection with the other person, and create a shared desire to resolve the problem for a positive outcome.

"I am feeling ____."

Note: "I feel that you ___" is not a feeling phrase, it’s an accusation. Accusations put the other person on the defense and can result in an escalating argument. This isn’t likely to result in a positive result.

Say what you need. Focus on the true need, rather than the immediate action you’re prompting. So instead of saying “I need you to do the dishes” try “I need the kitchen to be clean so that I can make dinner.”

"I need ____."

"I need [something] to be [different somehow]."

Ask for help in meeting your need. You are on the same team, finding a solution to a mutual problem. Assume the best, and encourage positive behavior. Bonus points for finding a solution that also creates a benefit for the other party (such as the delicious dinner you’ll make in the clean kitchen.) Avoid oppositional behavior such as assuming the other person is wrong or that there is only one solution, as this sort of communication is less likely to get you what you want.

"Can you help me figure out a solution?"

"Will you please ____?"

"Can we make a plan to ____?"

Note: Always do your best to get things in writing.  

Can you Legally Break a Lease in Wisconsin?

Conditions for Legally Breaking a Lease in Wisconsin

It is important to note that we are not attorneys at EC-TLRC and we are unable to give legal advice. What follows is information from our friends at the Madison Tenant Resource Center. 

There are several reasons why a tenant can legally break a lease in Wisconsin without penalty. Each is explained below.

Early Termination Clause

Some modern lease agreements may provide specific terms that would allow a tenant to terminate a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. Read over the lease and look for language that outlines agreed-upon terms for ending the lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the amount of the fee (i.e., equal to 2 month’s rent) and the amount of notice required (i.e., 30 days).

If a lease agreement contains an early termination clause, before executing it and paying the penalty fee, read further to learn about other conditions that, if met, would not require a penalty fee to be paid.

Active Military Duty/Service

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. The protection begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30-90 days after the date of discharge.

To break a lease in accordance with the relief act, a tenant must:

  • Prove the lease was signed before entering active duty.
  • Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days.

Deliver a written notice to the landlord accompanied by a copy of the orders to deploy/Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.

With that said, the lease does not terminate immediately. Once the notice is delivered, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period. For example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st. Therefore, rent is still due for the month of April.

   Note: In Wisconsin, the term “service member” means a member of the armed forces, commissioned corps of the         National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the       activated National Guard.

Unit is Uninhabitable

Most states have specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units, and Wisconsin is no different. If those standards are not met, and proper notice is given by the tenant, and the repairs are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted.” As a result, the obligations of the tenant under the lease are no longer required, given that the landlord has not met their own responsibilities under the Wisconsin landlord-tenant law.

According to Wisconsin state law, landlord duties to provide habitable premises include the following (WI Stat. § 704.07): Except for repairs made necessary by the negligence of, or improper use of the premises by, the tenant, the landlord has a duty to do all the following:

  • Keep in a reasonable state of repair portions of the premises over which the landlord maintains control.
  • Keep in a reasonable state of repair all equipment under the landlord’s control necessary to supply services that the landlord has expressly or impliedly agreed to furnish to the tenant, such as heat, water, elevator, or air conditioning.
  • Make all necessary structural repairs.
  • Except for residential premises subject to a local housing code, repair or replace any plumbing, electrical wiring, machinery, or equipment furnished with the premises and no longer in reasonable working condition.
  • Comply with any local housing code applicable to the premises.

A landlord shall disclose to a prospective tenant, before entering into a rental agreement with or accepting any earnest money or security deposit from the prospective tenant, any building code or housing code violation to which all of the following apply:

  • The landlord has actual knowledge of the violation.
  • The violation affects the dwelling unit that is the subject of the prospective rental agreement or a common area of the premises.
  • The violation presents a significant threat to the prospective tenant’s health or safety.
  • The violation has not been corrected.

For more information on habitability laws in Wisconsin, click here.

The actual administrative code that spells out the details of what constitutes a violation can be read here.



Thank you to our friends at Madison’s Tenant Resource Center for this clarification of subletting:

What is Subletting?

A sublet, or sublease agreement, adds someone new to an existing lease. Usually the new person (subletter) replaces someone who is moving out (sublessor or sublessee) but it can also happen with any new person being added to a lease. A sublease is a binding contract, and all of the same lease rules and rental laws apply to everyone involved as with a regular lease. In Wisconsin, rental agreements can be verbal, but a sublease has to be in writing. Otherwise, the agreement is some other type of leasing situation and different rules might apply. Wis. Stat. 704.09(4)

First things first: A tenant might not need to sublet!

Subletting is risky. It comes with the same risks as taking on a roommate, except both people won't be there to deal with problems as they arise. If a tenant's subletter skips town or damages the apartment, the tenant is jointly and severally liable with them and could get stuck with the bill. If you are the new person moving in (subletter), it can feel just like a regular rental, except the person you might have the most contact with is both a tenant and (kind of) a landlord. For both the tenant and subletter, chances are good that this isn't someone you know very well, and sometimes there are better options available!

For all those reasons, a tenant wants to make sure they actually need to go this route before signing a sublet agreement. 

As a tenant, you only need to sublet if...

  • You are leaving a lease you share with roommates and at least one of them is staying behind. (This is by far the most common reason for subletting.)
  • You want to come back to the same apartment later on (like for the summer after a spring semester away).

If neither of these apply, we strongly encourage tenants to look at other options for ending a lease early! The end result is the same (someone new moving into the apartment, and taking over the rent) but the landlord has to do more work finding that new tenant, and the tenant has no more obligations even if that new person breaks the rules or owes money.

A Tenant's Steps for Subletting

Landlord permission. Check your lease for rules about subletting or "assignment".

If you have a month-to-month lease or are a tenant-at-will, you are never allowed to sublease without your landlord's permission. But in that situation, it doesn't really matter! You can end your lease fairly quickly, with or without their permission, by giving a simple written notice. Wis. Stat. 704.09(1)

If you have a lease for a set term, like one year, you can sublet with or without your landlord's permission, unless they prohibit this in the written lease. Wis. Stat. 704.09(1). However, even if you're allowed to, it is never a good idea to move someone in without the landlord's knowledge, since they may not respect that person's rights if they don't know they are a tenant there. It's always best if you can get the landlord's permission too, but at the very least you should tell them who is living there.

Roommate permission. (Don't have roommates? Consider other ways to end your lease!) You always need permission from the other tenants to add someone to the lease. You can only change essential terms of the contract if the other parties to the lease agree to it. This means your roommates have to approve of the person moving in, the amount of rent they will pay, etc. Work it out among yourselves as to who will be putting ads up and doing showings, when they will meet the roommates, what the criteria will be, etc.

Tips for the person moving out: You want to be as accommodating as possible so they will accept the new roommate. Think about it from their perspective and keep the communication open.

Tips for the person staying behind: You also want to be fair in accepting or rejecting a new potential roommate. If the current person leaves without being able to secure a replacement, you can try to get rent money from them down the line, but usually not before the landlord starts the eviction process. And if there's no clear roommate agreement about rent payments, then it can be extra hard to make a previous roommate pay for rent after they've left. So, it's in your best interest to accept someone who will fulfill the obligations of the tenant who is leaving.

Sublet agreements. Here is a sample sublease agreement you can fill out or use as a template. It's a very good idea to have everyone sign a roommate agreement as well, where applicable. Whatever you do, you will all need to agree on a few important things like:

  • Who will the subletter pay rent to?  It is safest if they pay directly to the landlord. Subletters are at risk for eviction if the sublessor takes their money and doesn't put it towards the rent on time.
  • How will you handle the security deposit?

When a Landlord Must Consent to Sublets:

Wisconsin law doesn't say much about subletting. The one place where there is a specific reference to a "sublease" is in Wis. Stat. 704.09(1), but only to say that original tenant(s) need to seek the consent of the landlord in order to offer a sub-tenancy when:

  • The lease of the original tenant says that they must seek authorization from the landlord in order to sublet
  • The original tenant is a month-to-month or periodic tenant.

Security Deposits

It is safest for the landlord to do a check-out with the old tenant to return their portion, and then do a check-in with the new tenant and collect a new deposit from them. However, this takes time and energy, and the landlord is not required to do this. If the landlord won't, the tenants have two options:

One is for the old tenant to sign their deposit over to the new tenant, and in the meantime collect that amount of money from them. The risk with this option is that the new tenant might not like the amount they get back, and they would be able to sue the landlord or the old tenant for anything they felt was unfairly deducted. ATCP 134.02(5) & (12).

The other is for the tenant moving out to simply wait until the end of the lease term for the landlord to return their deposit. The risk here is that the old tenant might get charged for things the new tenant damaged.

Either way, it will be very important for everyone to follow all of the security deposit laws and best practices about checking in!

Best Practices in Subletting

Here are some best practices we recommend:

Rent Payments Should Go to The Landlord: Subletters should almost always pay rent directly to the landlord. If they pay the original tenant, that person may not pass the payment along to the landlord and it could result in an eviction action where the subletter, not the original tenant, loses their housing.

Security Deposits: The safest way to deal with the security deposit is for the original tenant(s), the new tenant(s), and the landlord to meet in the apartment for a “check-in/check-out” and to refund the original deposit owed to the sublessor, while collecting the new security deposit owed from the subletter.

Check-in and Check-out Procedures: Original tenants should complete a check-out form and subletters should complete a check-in form. Renters should make copies of the completed forms and send original

Lapsed Leases

Lapsed Leases

Often, tenants believe that when a lease lapses (that is, it has come to the end of the term, but the tenant is allowed to continue living in the unit) that the terms of the lease no longer apply. This is not true and causes confusion for many. What follows is the Madison Tenant Resource Center’s explanation of how it really works.

1. When a lease ends, sometimes the tenant will continue to live there, even though there isn't anything new that was signed. If the tenant keeps living there, paying rent, and the landlord keeps accepting that rent, then the original terms of the lease will hold, except the end date. The tenancy becomes a periodic tenancy, more commonly known as a month-to-month tenancy, and just continues until either the landlord or the tenant ends the lease or changes the terms somehow.

An example might be: a lease ends, and the tenant continues to pay rent. Landlord accepts that rent, and they continue on. Tenant still shovels the driveway (like in the original lease), and the landlord continues to pay the utilities (as in the original lease). The terms still hold, and the lease continues forward on a monthly basis until the tenant decides to move on.

2. A month-to-month tenancy can be ended by either the tenant or the landlord, and it's done by following the laws that apply to month-to-month tenancies. This is called a non-renewal, and it's different than a eviction - more like adding an end date to a contract that didn't have one yet. Wis. Stat. 704.19 explains that month-to-month tenancies can be ended by giving 28 days* written notice to the other party. Here's how those non-renewal notices work:

The notice must end on the last day of a rental period. If rent is paid on the first day of the month, then the last day of the month is the last day of the rental period. If rent is paid on the 15th of each month, then the 14th will be the last day of the rental period.

The notice has to be at least 28 days* notice - it can't be shorter, but longer notice can be given and can be required (see #3, below).

If notice gives less than the correct number of days (i.e., only 22 days instead of the full 28), then the notice is still valid, but just postponed until the end of the next rental period where the correct number of days (or more) have passed. (If a tenant gives incorrect notice to the landlord, and then they move out instead of waiting until the time has passed, then it's more like breaking their lease, with the mitigation requirements on the landlord. 

The notice has to be in writing, even if the original agreement wasn't.

An example might be: Rent is due on the first of each month, and there was nothing in the original agreement about length of time required to end the lease. Tenant writes the landlord a letter, and sends it on the 30th of June, ending the lease the 31st of July. Landlord receives that notice by July 2, and tenant moves out before the month is over. At least 28 days' notice was given, and the contract is complete.

3. Language in the original lease about ending month-to-month tenancies suddenly becomes enforceable. We most often see that as it applies to the amount of time that a tenant must give in order to end the lease. A lease might say that a tenant needs to give 60 days notice if they wish to give a non-renewal, and that's legal. Wis. Stat. 704.19(2)(a)1 says that 28 days' notice is required, unless another method is agreed upon by "clear and convincing proof," which can often be established by an agreement that everyone signed, such as an expired lease. Look for the *asterisk above and replace it with whatever amount of time is required in your lease, if this is your situation.

4. It is possible to make changes to a month-to-month lease, even if it is a lapsed lease. In order to make changes to the lease, the landlord would do so by giving the tenant the required written notice (either 28 days, or more if required in the old lease). The tenant can honor it and move forward, or give notice ending the lease (as in #2). A tenant can renegotiate the lease in a similar way - by asking for changes, and giving a non-renewal if those changes aren't accepted by the landlord (or the landlord might choose to non-renew at that point).

5. Year-to-year leases, and leases that automatically renew are totally different. They have different rules about notices (Wis. Stat. 704.15), and continue on with the exact same terms until someone chooses not to renew in the annual window in which it is possible to give a non-renewal notice.

Renter’s Insurance


A landlord's insurance policy will cover damage to the building in the event of an event like a fire, but that policy does not cover the contents of the building that belong to the tenant. For that, renter's insurance is required. Only you can decide if renter's insurance is worth the premium, but consider what it would cost to replace all of your belongings-- including furniture, electronics, clothing, dishware, pots and pans, artwork and decorations. 

Every situation is different, but most renters are surprised at how affordable renter's insurance can be. You can contact nearly any insurance agent for a free quotation. 


"Should You Buy Renters Insurance?" from US News and World Report.

"6 Good Reasons To Get Renter's Insurance" from Investopedia.

When You Move Out of a Unit

Giving Notice


In Wisconsin, neither the tenant nor the landlord is required to provide notice for fixed end date leases. The lease expires on the last day of the lease. Wisconsin tenants must provide written notice for the following lease terms:

Delivering Notice in Wisconsin

In most cases, a written lease agreement should include information and other specifics on how and when to deliver a notice to terminate the tenancy. In Wisconsin, there are specific methods on how a tenant may deliver a notice to the landlord. (WI Stat. § 704.21(2) You should review the lease agreement to see if the landlord has indicated a preferred method of giving notice. Generally a written notice is best. If you do not give notice, there may be penalties and consequences.

There are rules about how the days of a notice are counted, These rules are from Wis. Stat. 801.15(1)b,                   Wis. Stat. 990.01(4)

What it means:

  • Counting a 5 day notice: If a landlord is giving a 5-day notice to a tenant, the landlord cannot count the first day it was served.  For example: 5-day is served on June 30, 2014. June 30 does not count (it was the day served), so the first day counted in the notice is July 1.
  • Counting a 14 day notice: If the landlord is giving a 14-day notice to a tenant, the landlord cannot count the first day it was served.  For example: 14-day is served November 12, 2014. November 12 does not count (it was the day served). The earliest that the notice could end would be November 26, 2014.
  • Counting a 28 day notice: This kind of notice can be given either by the landlord or the tenant. If one party is giving a 28-day non-renewal notice to the other party (for terminating a month-to-month tenancy, say), then the first party cannot count the day that the notice is served, and must allow at least 28 days' notice before the end of the rental period.


Example # 1: 

A month-to-month tenant gives a 28-day non-renewal notice to the landlord on October 9, 2023.                

Rent is always due on the 1st day of the month, as payment for 1 months' rent, so the last day of the month is the end of the rental period. Here, October 9 would not count as one of the days (it was the day notice was served). 28 days is complete on November 6, but since that is not the end of a rental period, the soonest effective date would be November 30, 2023.


Example # 2: 

A landlord serves a 28 day non-renewal notice to the month-to-month tenant on August 11, 2023.              

Rent is always due on the 15th day of the month, as payment for 1 months' rent, so the 14th of the month is the end of the rental period. Here, August 11 would not count as one of the days (it was the day notice was served). 28 days is complete on September 8, but since that is not the end of a rental period, the soonest effective date would be September 14, 2023.

Checking Out

Checking Out

Try to schedule a check out appointment with your landlord. If your landlord agrees to do this, make sure you leave with a signed copy of the checkout form. If the landlord notes things are dirty or damaged, you may offer to clean or fix them. Checkout forms are no longer required as of 12/21/2011, but they are still a good idea and a tenant should create one if the landlord doesn't provide one. If you filled out a form when you checked in, use that. Otherwise you can find a sample here.

Try to get the landlord to sign it agreeing to what the apartment looked like when you moved out. Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(b) Effective 12/21/11.

If your landlord refuses to go through the apartment with you, complete your own checkout form and take pictures or a video documenting the condition of the apartment. If you have a witness, have them sign your check out form as well.

If your landlord presents you with a checkout form that lists damages that you or your guests did not cause, do not sign it. Instead, complete your own checkout form with a witness and keep a copy. You should also take pictures or a video to prove the condition of the apartment.

Put your forwarding address on the check out form. Landlords are no longer required by law to include a place for this after 3/1/14, but it's still a good practice. Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(d)1, 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 2

Mail your check out form to the landlord with a letter saying that you performed your own check out. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself! Information about putting things in writing is available here.

Don't "abandon" property! 2011 Wis. Act 143 lets the landlord write it into your lease that they may declare your property "abandoned" and sell or throw out any property you leave behind (except prescription medication and medical equipment, which must be returned upon request within 7 days). Wis. Stat. 704.05, 2011 Wis. Act 143, Sec. 5-15 Effective 3/31/12.

Getting Your Security Deposit Back


Security deposits are one-time upfront deposits which most landlords require tenants to pay before they move into a rental unit. Landlords hold security deposits as a guarantee that tenants will pay their bills and keep their rental unit in good condition.

If a landlord thinks the rental property has been damaged by a tenant or their guests during the tenant’s lease—or if a tenant has failed to pay any rent, utility bills, or other fees for which the tenant is responsible under their lease—the landlord may refuse to return all or part of a tenant’s security deposit refund.

Landlords who withhold all or part of a security deposit refund are required to provide their tenant a list of each individual charge, or damage and its cost. This is called an “itemized list.” Landlords are not allowed to withhold any money other than these costs from a security deposit refund for any reason.

Tenants have the right to dispute any costs their landlord withholds from their security deposit refund.

Your landlord must return your security deposit and/or a written, itemized list of deductions within 21 days from the date your lease ends. ATCP 134.06(2)(a)  the landlord can do this in an e-mail or text message. Wis. Stat. 704.10(2), 2017 Wis. Act 317, Sec. 42, Effective 4/18/18.

Landlords may only deduct from the security deposit for damage beyond normal wear and tear and unpaid rent and utilities. ATCP 134.06(3)(a)

Can the deposit be used by the tenant as last month’s rent?

The deposit may be used as the last month’s rent only if both parties agree in the lease agreement. Otherwise, the security deposit should be handled separately from any rent balance left unpaid.

“Normal Wear and Tear” vs. Damage in Wisconsin:

“Normal wear and tear” is defined as deterioration that occurs as a result of use for which the rental unit is intended and without negligence, carelessness, accident, or misuse or abuse of the premises or contents by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.

It can include minor issues, such as gently worn carpets, loose door handles, fading wall paint and flooring, stained bath fixtures, lightly scratched glass and dirty grout that occur naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it’s designed to be used.

“Damage” refers to destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the course of the tenancy and can affect usefulness, value, normal function of the rental unit. Pet damage (heavily stained and ripped carpet), broken tiles, hole in the wall, broken windows and missing fixtures are all examples of damage.

A thorough and clear discussion of security deposits can be found at iPropertymanagement.

Carpet Cleaning

Carpet Cleaning

It is common for tenants to have questions about cleaning the carpet before they move out. Generally a landlord might look more favorably on the cleanliness of rental if the carpet is cleaned, but It can not be required by the landlord unless it is in the lease.

It is illegal to charge for routine carpet cleaning or deduct for it from the security deposit even if your lease states you must pay for carpet cleaning. The only exception is if you damaged the carpet beyond "normal wear and tear." If your landlord deducted money from your security deposit or is asking you to pay for routine carpet cleaning, inform them in writing that it is illegal. If your money is not returned, file a complaint with Consumer Protection (800) 422-7128. You can also file a complaint with the City Attorney at (608) 266-4511 in the City of Eau Claire. ATCP 134.06(3)(c)

A new note in ATCP 134.06(3)(c) makes it clear that even though a landlord is allowed to write a lease saying the tenant has to pay for routine carpet cleaning, they may not take this out of the security deposit. Any carpet cleaning charges they collect in advance must be treated as part of a security deposit, which must be subject to a refund. Deductions cannot include "normal wear and tear." Essentially, a landlord would have to sue a tenant as a separate matter if they did not pay for routine carpet cleaning required by the lease. CR 14-038, Sec. 10, Effective. 11/1/15.

Tenant’s Obligations

The landlord can only charge the cost of repairs if the damage was caused by the failure of the tenant to comply with their obligations as a tenant. This obligation is to maintain the property and return it in the same condition it was received with the exception of normal wear and tear.

For a list of tenant obligations, go to:


If You Have a Problem

Asserting Your Rights

Asserting Your Rights

Sometimes, a tenant and landlord may disagree about what is “reasonable” or “acceptable”. An example might be a lease that says the tenant is responsible for lawn care. Does this mean that the tenant can plant whatever they want in the flowerbeds, or does the landlord have the right to object to certain plants?

Another time disagreements might occur is when a situation comes up that isn’t spelled out in the lease, like security camera placement. In these situations, you may want to do the following:

  • Negotiate. Think about what you want, what you’re willing to compromise on, and what your bottom line is. What are the consequences if you can’t find a resolution? Start the conversation on a positive note, ask questions that clarify the situation, and really listen to what the other person has to say. Try not to get stuck on past actions, but focus on future resolutions. When you do come to an agreement, put it in writing.
  • Check your lease, and do a little research on what laws may apply to your situation. Before you assert the rights you think you have, make sure you actually do have those rights. Make notes on what laws or lease clauses may apply.
  • If a conversation doesn't solve the problem, write a letter clearing stating the problem and what needs to be done to fix it. If that doesn’t work, seek help from agencies that may help, such as EC-TLRC or local housing navigators. You may even need to consult with an attorney to see if you have other legal options. Some options might be filing a complaint with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, or suing in small claims court, contacting the Eau Claire City/County building inspection or breaking your lease.

It can be frustrating to deal with disagreements, but try to remember that both tenants and landlords are humans, and it’s best to try to work together to resolve issues. Evictions, lawsuits, and arguments can lead to harm for both parties.

If you need help in negotiating a resolution, contact us at the Eau Claire Tenant Landlord Resource Center to find out if mediation may be available. 

How to Work Out a Problem with your landlord (Negotiation)

How to work out a problem with a landlord/ negotiation

Many tenant/landlord issues could be dealt with effectively if tenants and landlords were communicating better and discussing problems as early as possible. There are always options if talking things through doesn’t work (such as filing a small claims action or making a complaint to DATCP) but it’s usually a good idea to try to negotiate a resolution before taking stronger actions, such as mediation. Here are some tips for effective negotiation:

Think and research before you meet.

What do the laws say? You can find this information online, through DATCP (The Department of Agriculture; Trade and Consumer Protection) or by contacting us here at EC-TLRC. You’ll be in a better position to negotiate if you know what your legal rights and responsibilities are.

What are your needs for a resolution, and how far are you willing to go to get what you need?

What consequences are you willing to accept if you are unable to reach a resolution. Are you willing to find a new place to live? Think it through and decide if you have the capacity to take that action.

When you meet:

1. Start on a positive note.

2. Ask questions. Something neutral helps, like “I feel like we’ve miscommunicated about __________ and I’d really like to understand how you see the problem." Make sure you keep your language nonjudgmental and non confrontational. Putting the other party on the defense is unlikely to help you find a mutually agreeable solution. 

3. LISTEN. Really listen. If the other person feels like you’re really listening to their perspective, they are more likely to give you the same respect and listen to your concerns, too. Try rephrasing what they said in order to deepen your understanding.

“You really tried hard to ___”

“It’s difficult to do anything about this now”

“You’re really concerned about ___”

4. Don’t rehash old conflicts. It doesn’t help you get a repair done if you bring up every time they’ve messed up in the past. If you were late on your rent one time last year, you don’t want to hear your landlord bring it up now. An agreement for the future will rarely work if you are dwelling on the past. Focus on moving forward as a team to resolve problems.

“ How do you think we can work it out?”

“ How do you think we can move forward?”

5. Listen to the other person’s idea for a solution. Use your skills of rephrasing what the other person said, and make sure you understand what they are proposing.

“So, you think that I need to work on resolving ____”

“You see the next step as me doing ____”

“You feel like you can’t take action right now because of ____”

“You’re waiting until ____ to be able to ____”

6. State your idea for a solution. You don’t need to reject their idea in order to propose your solution. Remember you are trying to form a team that works together to create positive solutions.

“I’m concerned about waiting that long. Can we work on anything sooner than that?”

“Would it be possible for you to take [this step] even if you can’t quite manage the whole project right now?”

7. Write out the agreement. When you’ve reached a mutual agreement, make sure you put it in writing. It could be notes that you make at the time, or it could be a letter or email afterward, in which you thank the other person for taking the time to reach an agreement and include the terms that you agreed to. Put a copy of the agreement in your rental records, and keep a log of all the conversations that you’ve had. Texts are probably not the best way to document agreements, as they are frequently deleted and easy of falsify.

Discrimination/Fair housing laws

Discrimination/Fair Housing Laws

Excerpt of Wis. Stat. 106.50(1) Wisconsin's Open Housing Law

"It is the declared policy of this state that all persons shall have an equal opportunity for housing regardless of sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status, lawful source of income, age or ancestry ... [as] an exercise of the police powers of the state for the protection of the welfare, health, peace, dignity and human rights of the people of this state."

--Have you been a victim of housing discrimination?

1. Were you treated differently from other tenants or applicants?

The following landlord practices are prohibited when targeted against a member of a protected class under Wis. Stat. 106.50(2):

  • Falsely represent that housing is unavailable
  • Refuse to rent or to let people apply
  • Refuse to permit inspection, or having different prices, terms, or conditions
  • Advertise a preference or limitation (for example: "Great for a couple/young professional/Christian family")
  • Refuse to renew a lease, causing eviction, or harass a tenant
  • Provide different privileges, services, or facilities
  • Coerce, intimidate, or threaten a person because they tried to use their fair housing rights, or because they encouraged others to do so (see our Landlord Retaliation page)
  • Otherwise making housing unavailable or denying it exists

Unfortunately, there is no law against being a jerk. If the landlord treats everyone the same way, it’s probably not discriminatory. If your landlord treats you differently or unfairly, you still have to be able to prove that the unfair treatment is because you are a member of one of the following protected classes.

2. Do you belong to a class that has protections under law?

Federal protected classes include:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • National Origin
  • Mental or Physical Disability (including the right to Service & Companion Animals)
  • Family Status (including pregnancy)
  • Age (18 and over)

Wisconsin includes federally protected classes, plus the following:

  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Ancestry
  • Lawful Source of Income
  • Victims of Domestic Abuse or Other Crimes
  • People who decline to disclose their social security number
  • Atheism
  • Homelessness
  • Unemployment

Examples of people who are not protected under state or federal law include, but are not limited to: smokers, vegetarians, and people with pets that are not service or companion animals. 

3. Were you treated differently because of that protected class?

For example, if a landlord refused to rent to you because you are female, an immigrant, Jewish, gay, African-American, only 22 years old, divorced, have children, etc., that might be illegal discrimination.

Fair housing laws do not require landlords to rent to people in protected classes if there is a legitimate reason to deny their application. Legitimate reasons include poor references or poor credit reports, a record of eviction, an incomplete application, or false information on an application. If a landlord were to decide to do a credit check (or other forms of applicant screening) only because of someone's membership in a protected class, though, that could be considered discrimination. (For example, only running credit reports on African Americans, or only holding previous evictions against single mothers.)

Applications have one legitimate purpose: to give the landlord information about whether the applicant will be a good tenant (whether they will take good care of the apartment, pay the rent and not disturb other tenants, etc.). If any question concerns age (other than being over 18), sex, marital status, etc., or does not seem to serve a legitimate purpose, tenants may want to ask why the landlord needs the information. Landlords are allowed to ask:

  • Names of everyone applying to live in the unit
  • Places the tenant lived in the past few years
  • Where tenants work and/or amount of income (in order to verify ability to pay)
  • Financial information about debt
  • Whether everyone is 18 or older

A landlord may verify this information by calling past landlords and employers or by checking your credit report. If the landlord requests permission to do a credit check, they may get your report from a credit bureau, and they may ask you to pay a fee for doing so.

Non-Renewal of Tenant's Lease

There is currently no legal requirement that landlords renew an existing tenant's lease. The only cases in which tenants are protected is if they can prove they were the victim of discrimination or retaliation for asserting their rights. Wis. Stat. 66.0104(2)(d)1.a., 2013 Wis. Act 76, Sec. 2 & 4

For more information about housing discrimination or to file a complaint, call the following agencies:

Fair Housing Centers

Three offices in Madison, Milwaukee, and Appleton provide services throughout Wisconsin.

Toll-free intake line: (877) 647-3247

Wisconsin Equal Rights Division

(608) 266-3131

Wisconsin Consumer Protection

(800) 422-7128

Federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Chicago: (800) 765-9372

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault/Stalking

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are all frequent causes of homelessness for women and children. There are laws in Wisconsin that help protect victims of violence from losing their homes or being forced to continue sharing their homes with abusers.

These are some of the things a victim or survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking should do:

Get help. In the Chippewa Valley there are agencies that help victims and survivors, such as Bolton Refuge House in Eau Claire County, or the Hmong Mutual Assistance Agency. These agencies can provide emergency shelter, can assist in creating a safety plan, and can help you learn about your legal rights and how to exercise them. Many agencies have advocates that are specially trained to help you apply for legal protections from the courts and will even go to court with you. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for help finding an agency or for more information about your rights.

Make a plan to become safe. Do what is right for you in your situation. Leaving an abusive situation can heighten your risk of violence or retaliation. You may already know what is best for you, or you may want to talk to the police or a trained advocate to get help to become safe. If calling the police is the right choice for you, you should know that Wisconsin laws ATCP 134.08(1) and Wis. Stat. 704.44(1m) protect your right to call the police for your safety – even if you invited the person in.

How Wisconsin Law Protects Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence/ Sexual Assault/ Stalking:

Wis. Stat. 704.16 says that if you can show that you are a survivor of abuse/sexual assault/stalking for you or a minor child, then you get special protections. The short version is that IF a tenant can prove in certain ways that they are experiencing abuse, then that tenant can get out of a lease or have the abuser evicted.

There are only 3 ways that you can qualify for these protections, though, and they are:

1) If you have an injunction for domestic abuse/sexual assault/stalking for you or a minor child, then you qualify for the special protections. This must be a full restraining order, that was ordered by a judge, and not a "Temporary Protective Order" or a "Temporary Restraining Order," which is given to a person who may qualify for a full restraining order, in order to get them safely to the hearing where a judge will decide whether or not to grant the injunction. When the judge grants the full restraining order/injunction, then the court will give you the paperwork showing the exact terms of the restraining order.

2) If the District Attorney for your county has started to try and hold the perpetrator criminally responsible for domestic abuse/sexual assault/stalking of you or a minor child, then you qualify for the special protections. This usually happens when the police arrested the perpetrator for domestic abuse/sexual assault/stalking, and you've been contacted by the Victim Witness Unit, affiliated with the District Attorney's office. You can contact your Victim Witness Unit for paperwork showing why the perpetrator was arrested.

3) If there is a condition of release in the bail hearing where the perpetrator is ordered not to contact you or a minor child, then you qualify for special protections. This will be in a situation where the perpetrator has been arrested for domestic abuse/sexual assault/stalking for you or a minor child, and they are being released on bail while their trial for these criminal acts is going on. This condition of release is not the same as a 72-hour no-contact order, which does not qualify you for the special protections. You can contact your Victim Witness Unit for help getting a copy of this condition of release.

The special protections that you get are:

You (the survivor of abuse) may end your lease as if you were a month-to-month tenant, and you would be released from all responsibilities under the lease after 28 days' notice. This is one of the few situations where one person can get off a lease, without the consent with the other parties on the lease.

The survivor of abuse may ask that the perpetrator be removed from the lease, and no longer have rights to use the rental unit. The offending tenant would then get a 5-day notice with no right to cure there's no way for the offending tenant to make things right and continue to live there).

You can request that your locks be changed. Either your landlord must change the locks, or allow you to change the locks, within 48 hours of being notified of your request. It's important to note that the survivor of abuse can be asked to pay for the cost of changing the locks.

How you get your landlord to give you the special protections: The tenant who is the survivor of abuse must write the landlord a letter. That letter needs these important pieces of information:

  • That you or your child "faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person," and
  • That you or your child are a survivor of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking, as proven with a copy of one of the pieces of paper from above (restraining order, criminal charge, condition of release), and
  • What you are asking for (see above).

Once a landlord is given this kind of letter, they are not allowed to say no - they must follow the request you have made. Landlords are also not allowed to penalize you for calling the police for your safety under Wis. Stat. 704.44(1m) and ATCP 134.08(1).

(Our thanks to the knowledgeable people at the Madison Tenant Resource Center for much of the above information.)

If you lack the documentation you need to invoke these legal protections, please contact your domestic violence agency for help in finding options. If you need mediation services to work out issues with your landlord, contact us at the Eau Claire Tenant Landlord Resource Center.

How to Communicate with your Landlord

When reaching out to your landlord, it's always best practice to either do so in writing, or to follow up with an email covering what was discussed. Please refer to the "Forms For Tenants" section on the linked page for templates you can download.

Types of Evictions

For information on The different types of evictions, please see "Types of Notices" on the Evictions page of the Tenant Resource Center website.

Types of Evictions

If you have been served an eviction notice, understanding the terms of your specific notice will be important for knowing how much time you have to resolve the issue or to be out of your unit. The Madison Tenant Resource Center and Wisconsin State Legislature websites have more information on understanding the fine print of your lease and how the notices must be served.

Additional Tenant Information & Resources

EC-TLRC will continue to add more topics and resources for tenants as we progress in our development. If there is a topic that you would find useful but you can't find in these pages, please contact us and let us know. We'll do our best to find the information for you. 

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection publishes an excellent resource guide for tenants and landlords. You can access the guide and a list of FAQs here

Beware of predatory practices. If you would like more information about predatory lending, click here to see HUD resources. Click here to see the Wisconsin.gov 2023 Guide to Payday Loans.

Helpful Legal Resources 

Wisconsin State Tenant/Landlord Law

State law provides a legal framework for the relationship between landlords and tenants. Many disputes between landlords and tenants can be avoided if both parties understand their legal rights and responsibilities. Information and FAQs on these laws can be found at the link above. 

Tenant Sourcebook: Legal Action WI

Information on the eviction process and eviction jury trials, and the responsibilities of the tenant in that scenario.

Translations:     hmoob     |     Español