Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates
Building Inspection is open to the public by appointment only.
For more on appointments and other services, please see the Building Inspection Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.
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- Tenant & Landlord Rights and Responsibilities (PDF)
- Tenant & Landlord Rights and Responsibilities Highlighting Revisions due to Acts 108 and 143 (PDF
- Tenant & Landlord Rights and Responsibilities 11X17 (PDF)
- Keep a rental file that includes
- the lease and addendums
- check-in/out forms
- copies of letters/emails/texts to and from your landlord
- housing inspection reports
- notices to enter
- any documentation you have of repairs or security deposit problems
- Request and keep a receipt for rent payments or pay by check.
- Keep notes or a phone log with dates and names of any contact with the landlord about problems.
- Get or put promises from the landlord in writing.
- Contact your landlord when a problem arises.
- Be aware of the terms of the lease and follow those terms.
- Pay rent on time.
- Keep the apartment in a clean, proper, and sanitary condition.
- Notify the landlord as soon as possible when a repair is needed.
- Repair or pay for the repair of damages caused by negligence or improper use.
- For buildings with two or more apartments that are accessed from a common area:
- The exterior door, doors leading to basements, and any storage areas must be locked at all times.
- Your unit must have a doorbell or buzzer system to alert you when you have guests. MGO 27.05(2)(h)
- Rental units need smoke alarms in:
- in each bedroom and sleeping area
- within 6 feet of each door leading to a bedroom or sleeping area
- on each floor of the building.
- Smoke detectors must be hardwired or have 10 year lithium batteries. The landlord must install smoke alarms.
- Tenants must maintain the alarms and notify the landlord if an alarm breaks. Tenants must not tamper with, remove, alter, damage, or make the smoke alarm inoperable. The landlord and tenant must sign a form about the installation, use, and upkeep of smoke alarms. The property owner must provide fire safety information to tenants. MGO 34.907, 32.06(4)
- The landlord must provide you with a Check-in/Check-out form before you move in.
- The owner must give you at least seven days after move-in to note if anything was dirty, damaged, or missing.
- Return the completed form to the landlord. If you want items repaired, make a separate request.
- The property owner must provide you with a check-in form at move-in and a check-out form at move-out. If they do not, they cannot withhold money from your security deposit for damages or cleaning.
- The owner must tell you that you may request a list and/or the photos of the damages charged to the previous tenant. MGO 32.07(5), 32.07(6), ATCP 134.06(1)
Unless the landlord lives in the building, and it has less than five units, they must disclose in the lease
the name, address and phone of the person who collects rent and maintains the premises
the name, address and phone of someone in Wisconsin who can accept legal papers and notices. MGO 32.08(1), ATCP 134.04(1)
The landlord must notify you within 10 business days if there is a change in
the owner or other person authorized to accept legal notices
the name of the person who collects rent, manages or maintains the premises. MGO 32.08(1), ATCP 134.04(1)
Buildings of three units or more must have emergency contact details visibly posted. MGO 27.04(2)(k)
Before taking earnest money or starting a lease agreement, the landlord must disclose:
whether the apartment lacks hot/cold running water
has heating equipment that is unsafe or cannot maintain heat to at least 67-degrees
lacks electricity or has an unsafe electrical system
has plumbing and sewage systems in poor working condition
has any other conditions that constitute a health or safety hazard. MGO 32.08(2)/ATCP 134.04(2)
The landlord must disclose outstanding code violations for which they have notice. The landlord must tell new tenants in writing of the tenant's right to abate rent when signing the lease. They must provide copies of
official notices about outstanding code violations
copies of rent abatement decisions affecting the unit or common areas
the zoning code's family definition
off-street parking requirements. MGO 32.04(7), 32.08(2), ATCP 134.04(2)
The landlord must disclose which utilities the tenant pays for. If utilities are not separately metered, the owner must disclose how they determine how much to charge each tenant. ATCP 134.04, MGO 32.08(2)(b)
- Late fees cannot be charged, except as specifically provided under the rental agreement. ATCP 134.09(8)(a)
- A landlord cannot require you to pay late fees of more than 5% of a month's rent. MGO 32.12(11)
- A landlord cannot charge a late fee for failure to pay a late fee. All payments shall be applied to rent before being applied to a late fee. ATCP 134.09(8)(b)(c), MGO 32.12(11)
- If repairs are needed, contact your landlord and give them a reasonable time to fix the problem. If they do not fix the problem, call the Building Inspector at (608)266-4551.
If the owner fails to follow an order from Building Inspection, you may be able to abate/reduce part of your rent. Do not withhold rent for repair problems without first contacting Building Inspection. MGO 32.04, Wis. Stats. 704.07(4)
If the owner has not followed orders to make repairs from Building Inspection, a tenant may arrange for repairs. The tenant can subtract that amount form their rent. The tenant must tell the landlord about their plan at least ten days before starting repairs. Licensed people, as required by law, must make the repairs. The tenant may deduct the cost of repairs from their rent. The self-help repair procedure can be used along with rent abatement. MGO 32.17(2)
- A landlord cannot change the locks on your unit to force you to move or to limit your access to the premises. (MGO 32.05(1)(a), ATCP 134.09(7))
A landlord cannot take your property, unless they have a lien to which you agreed. This lien can be part of a non-standard rental provision. MGO 32.05(1)(c), MGO 32.12(3), ATCP 134.09(4)
- A landlord cannot enter your unit without your permission or notice. They must give 12 hours notice to show the apartment or for repairs. Emergencies are an exception to this rule. MGO 32.05(1)(d)
A landlord cannot show the apartment for re-rental until 1/4 of the lease term has passed, unless
you have given written consent or
your lease is less than 9 months or
a summons and complaint for eviction has been filed. MGO 32.12(8)
- A landlord cannot lease the apartment to future renters before 1/4 of the lease term has passed. The exception is if they notified you of an earlier date in a non-standard rental provision form. MGO 32.12(9)
- A landlord may regulate guests by stating a guest policy in the lease. They may not prohibit all guests. MGO 32.05(1)(g)
A notice by the landlord to show your apartment must note the specific times of entry. A notice cannot cover
more than three consecutive days or
more than three (3) hours a day. MGO 32.05(1)(e)
- A landlord must knock and identify themselves before entering your apartment. MGO 32.05(1)(f), ATCP 134.09(2)(d)
Search BI services
Tenant and Landlord Resources
Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection,
Tenant Resource Center
Rental Rights & Responsibilities: (608) 257-0006
Housing Lists & Eviction Prevention: (608) 242-7406
Housing Mediation Service:(608) 257-2799
Madison Equal Opportunities Commission (Housing Discrimination)
Fair Housing Center of Greater Madison
Complaint Intake: 1-877-647-3247
Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin
City of Madison Police Department: Non-Emergency
City of Madison Fire Department: Non-Emergency
Dane County Small Claims Court: For information on the mechanics of filing a small claims suit.
Neighborhood Law Clinic