Rent Abatement Ordinance & Procedures

Madison General Ordinance 32.04; 32.06
  • Establishes a procedure under which tenants may be able to reduce their rent because a landlord failed to correct certain housing code violations
  • Creates a List that describes which building code violations are eligible for a rent reduction and establishes a range of percentages for each violation.
  • Can be used by tenants when the Building Inspection Department issues an Official Notice to correct code violations and the landlord does not make the corrections by the due date listed on the Official Notice.
  • Provides for an informal hearing during which a Hearing Examiner hears testimony from both the landlord and tenant, and determines the amount of abatement, if any.
  • Does not affect a tenant's right to sue for damages in court under state law.

You are encouraged to call your landlord to make repairs. You may call the Madison Building Inspection Department (608) 266-4551 to request an inspection if repairs are needed and your landlord has not made them.

When a housing inspector inspects the premises for violations of Housing and Building Codes, he/she will send the landlord an "Official Notice" which cites any violations and gives compliance dates for fixing them. The Official Notice indicates violations which may be eligible for Rent Abatement; not all violations qualify. The City of Madison Rent Abatement procedure can only be used if the landlord fails to correct abatement - eligible violations by the compliance date specified in the Official Notice.

If the landlord fails to correct abatement - eligible violations by the compliance date, the Building Inspection Department will notify the tenant of abatement eligibility by mail. Notice of eligibility will also be published in the Capital times each Tuesday for three (3) consecutive weeks. The publication will list addresses, apartment numbers, and eligibility. If you are eligible, you must apply for an abatement hearing within 30 days after the first notice of eligibility is published. You may file an application form from 8:00 - 3:30 p.m. in the Building Inspection Department, Room LL-100, Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. (ask for the Rent Abatement Clerk). There is a $10 application fee which will be reimbursed by the landlord if abatement is granted. Low income tenants may apply to have the application fee waived.


You may avoid City of Madison Chapter 32 Rent Abatement claims completely by complying with all items listed in an Official Notice by the compliance date listed in the notice. Call your inspector and arrange a reinspection before the due date so that all items can be inspected and approved by the due date. Remember that an extension of time to complete orders will stop prosecution, but it will not stop rent abatement claims.

Give special attention to those items on your Official Notice which were marked with an asterisk (*). Those items, if not completed by the compliance date, may be eligible for rent abatement. Rent abatement claims do not affect the fact that all items must be corrected by the due date to avoid prosecution. Watch the Tuesday Capital Times and work closely with your inspector so that you will know when your property(s) become eligible for Rent Abatement claims.

If your tenant applies for rent abatement, you will be notified by mail a minimum of 10 days before the hearing. You will receive a copy of the application which contains the notice of the hearing time and place, with a brief explanation sheet. It is important that you or your agent appear at the hearing. Failure to do so may result in a decision based solely on the tenants testimony.


After the hearing, the examiner has up to 20 days to make a decision. She/he will decide whether the tenant may abate rent, and if so, how much may be abated for each violation. The percentage of rent abatement awarded to the tenant will be determined according to the guidelines in the Ordinance. UNDER THE CITY ORDINANCE, TENANTS MAY NOT ABATE RENT UNTIL IT HAS BEEN ORDERED BY A HEARING EXAMINER. Abatement ordered by a hearing examiner is retroactive to the date of the original building inspection. If the landlord owes the tenant money because of the retroactive award, but does not promptly reimburse the tenant, this amount may also be deducted from future rent payments. If the future rent payments are less than the amount owed, the ordinance provides additional protection for the tenant to recoup double the amount owed, plus attorney fees if not promptly paid. (Section 32.05(5)(c) Madison General Ordinances).


Last Updated: 06/07/2019

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How to apply for rent abatment:

Application for hearings must be filed with the BI Rent Clerk:

Call: (608) 266-4551, ask for the Rent Abatement Clerk


Building Inspection Division
215 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd 017
Madison WI 53701-2984

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