Wisconsin Statute 106.50 Equal Rights in Open Housing was designed to prevent discrimination in housing. This legislation extends to single family residences that are owner occupied. “This section shall be considered 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.” “All persons shall have an equal opportunity for housing regardless of sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status, status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, lawful source of income, age, or ancestry and it is the duty of the political subdivisions to assist in the orderly prevention or removal of all discrimination in housing.”
Emotional Support Animals
Wisconsin Statute 106.50 Section (1m) gives definition to an “emotional support animal”. An emotional support animal “means 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.” The important part of this definition is that the animal is not trained to perform a task for the benefit of a disabled person whereas a service animal is trained to perform a task. Also, the statute specifically states “animal” so this could be any animal not just a dog.
Under both Wisconsin Statute 106.50 and 704.07, landlords can’t discriminate against a disable person if they have a disability related need for an emotional support animal. Landlords can’t refuse to rent, evict, require extra compensation or harass someone with an emotional support animal. The tenant must accept liability for any damages or sanitation issues that are caused by the animal. If the tenant lies about a disability he or she could be charged $500.00.
However, a landlord may request an individual to provide reliable documentation that the individuals has a disability and due to that disability the individual needs an emotional support animal. This documentation must be from a licensed health professional. Under Wisconsin Statute 106.50 (mx): “Licensed health professional means a physician, psychologist, social worker, or other health professional who satisfies all of the following: 1. He or she is licensed or certified in this state. 2. He or she is acting within the scope of his or her license or certification.”
If the tenant is unable to provide the documentation the landlord may deny the individual to keep the animal. Also, a landlord may deny the individual to keep the animal for any of the following reasons: 1) if allowing the animal poses a threat to another person’s health or safety and landlord can’t change or reduce the problem by giving other accommodations; 2) the individual is not disabled; 3) if the animal would cause an undue financial or administrative burden; 4) alter the nature of services provided by the landlord; or 5) if the animal would cause substantial damage to property.
Under Wisconsin Statute 196.643 the following 2 changes occurred:
1. The landlord may request the public utility company provide them notice of any pending disconnection of service to the unit because of nonpayment of past charges in the same manner as the company would provide to the tenant, but also the utility company may provide it by telephone. In order, to require the utility company to provide the landlord with notice the landlord needs the tenant to sign a separate written document authorizing the utility company to provide notice to the landlord.
2. The utility company may not require a landlord to provide evidence that an eviction occurred in order for the landlord to resume utility service, if the services are being placed in the owner’s name.
Damage due to Tenant and Untenantability of Premise
Wisconsin Statute 704.07(3) addresses tenants damaging property by their actions or inactions and the rights of the landlord. If a tenant damages the premises including by an infestations of insects or other pest, a landlord may elect to undertake the remediation, repair, or redecorating upon themselves. The tenant must reimburse the landlord for reasonable cost to fix the problem. Reasonable cost include: 1) cost of the material; 2) labor performed by the landlord at a reasonable hourly rate and time the landlord spent; 3) time spent purchasing or providing material, supervising an agent of the landlord, or hiring a 3rd party contract.
Wisconsin Statute 704.07(4) addresses when the premise becomes untenantable because of damage by fire, water or other casualty or any condition hazardous to the health and safety of the tenant. The tenant may remove from the premise unless the landlord promptly repairs or rebuild or eliminates the hazard. The tenant may also remove from the premise if the nature or time it take to repair, rebuild or eliminate the problem, would cause a hardship on the tenant. The tenant would not be responsible for the rent during this time period if the premise is untenantable. If the tenant remains on the premise, the rent may be abated, but not in full. If the tenant caused the problem this section does not apply.
Credit and Background Checks
Wisconsin Statute 704.085 allows the landlord to charge a prospective tenant the actual cost, up to $25.00 for a consumer credit report. The consumer credit report must be from a consumer credit reporting agency that complies and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis. The landlord is required to notify the prospective tenant ahead of time. The prospective tenant may provide the landlord and landlord must accept a consumer credit report from the prospective tenant if the report is less than 30 days old and it is from a consumer credit reporting agency that complies and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis.
The landlord to charge a prospective tenant who is not a resident of Wisconsin, the actual cost, up to $25.00 for a background check. The landlord must notify the prospective tenant first and must provide the prospective tenant with a copy of the report.
Wisconsin Statute 704.10 allows a landlord to deliver electronically any of the following: 1) rental agreement and any document relating to it; 2) security deposit and any documents related to the accounting and disposition of the security deposit and refund; 3) promise made before the rental agreement was signed to clean, repair, or otherwise improve the premise; and 4) advance notice of entry.
Notices with Incorrect Amounts
Wisconsin Statute 704.17 allows the notices provide by the landlord to the tenant regarding failure to pay rent or fees due under the rental agreement to remain valid even if the amount in the notice is wrong. However, the notice will be invalid if any of the following: 1) landlord intentional misstated the amount or 2) the tenant paid or tendered payment of the amount the tenant believes to be due.
These are only some of the changes made in Act 317. Some other areas Act 317 addresses that are not covered by this article are: remodeling, design and construction of multifamily housing; habitability violations; repair or replacement of historic landmark; and some court proceeding for evictions. It is very important for both the landlords and tenants to review the new laws so both know their rights and responsibilities to each other.