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Legal Information: Wisconsin

Wisconsin Housing Laws

Laws current as of
July 16, 2020

What protections do Wisconsin's housing laws offer to victims?

Wisconsin’s housing laws offer various protections to victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

First, if you properly notify your landlord about the abuse and provide certain documentation, you can break your lease without penalty.1 For more information, go to Under what circumstances can I break my lease?

Second, your landlord may be required to change your locks or allow you to do so.2 See What documentation do I need to give the landlord to get my locks changed? for more information.

Third, a person cannot refuse to sell or rent a home to you, refuse to renew your lease, harass you, or evict you just because you or someone in your household is:

Fourth, if the landlord sues you for eviction based on violating your lease, you may have a defense to the eviction case.4 See What happens if my landlord tries to evict me? for more information.

1 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(1)
2 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(4)(a), (4)(b)
3 Wis. Stat. § 106.50(1m)(u), (2)
4 Wis. Stat. § 106.50(5m)

Under what circumstances can I break my lease?

You can break your lease (terminate your tenancy) and move out if both of the following are true:

  1. you or your child faces an immediate (imminent) threat of serious physical harm from another person if you stay in your home; and
  2. you give the landlord:

1 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(1)

If I break my lease, do I have to pay rent?

If you properly notify your landlord that you are ending your lease and moving out, you only have to pay rent for whichever is later:

  • the month during which you give your notice and the following month; or
  • the month during which you actually move and the following month.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(2)

What documentation do I need to give the landlord to get my locks changed?

If you give the landlord a certified copy of any of the following documents, within 48 hours the landlord has to change the locks to your home or give you permission to do so:

Whether you or the landlord changes the locks, you are responsible for the cost of changing the locks. If you change them yourself, you need to give the landlord a copy of the key to the new lock.2

If the abuser is also listed as a tenant on the lease, the landlord will not change the locks unless the order/injunction specifically states that the abuser must stay away from the home or have no contact with you.3

1 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(4)(a), (4)(b), (4)(c)
2 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(4)(b)
3 Wis. Stat. § 704.16(4)(c)(1)

What happens if my landlord tries to evict me?

If you are a victim of sexual assault, sexual assault of a child, repeated acts of sexual assault of a child, or stalking, you may have a defense to an eviction case if you can prove that the landlord knew or should have known that the eviction is based on one of the following:

  1. actions committed by someone who was not an invited guest of yours; or
  2. actions committed by someone who was an invited guest of yours but the actions occurred while the guest was committing domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking against you. Note: In order to use this defense, one of the following must be true:
  • you filed for a domestic abuse injunction, child abuse restraining order, harassment restraining order, or individual at risk restraining order that keeps the abusive “invited guest” away from your home; or
  • upon receiving a notice of termination from your landlord, you did both of the following:
    • you sent your landlord a written statement saying that the abusive person will no longer be an “invited guest;” and
    • you have not invited the abusive person to your home since you sent the above-mentioned written statement.1

1 Wis. Stat. § 106.50(5m)(dm)