Wisconsin Rent Control Laws in 2024

Unlike many other states, Wisconsin does not have any statewide laws limiting how much landlords can raise rents each year. This means there is effectively no rent control across most of the state. Landlords have the right to raise rents freely, as long as they provide proper notice according to the terms of the lease. The lack of rent control gives landlords a lot of leeway in setting and increasing rents. 

There are some exceptions - a handful of cities in Wisconsin have enacted local ordinances imposing certain limits on rent increases. However, statewide there are no caps on the percentage amount or frequency of rent hikes. Landlords can impose unlimited rent increases as often as they want, as long as tenants are given notice.

Limits on Rent Increases in Wisconsin

Unlike some other states, Wisconsin does not have any statewide laws limiting how much landlords can raise rents each year. This means that in general, landlords can raise rents by any amount at the end of a lease term or with proper notice in a month-to-month tenancy. 

However, some cities and municipalities in Wisconsin may have local ordinances that cap rent increases at a certain percentage. For example, the city of Madison previously had an ordinance limiting annual rent increases to 5% plus the consumer price index. These types of rent control measures have faced legal challenges in Wisconsin, but some localized percentage caps may still exist.

Additionally, rent increases are restricted in income-restricted housing units that receive federal or state housing subsidies. These properties have maximum allowable rents that owners must comply with when increasing rents for new lease terms. Outside of subsidized housing and potential local ordinances, there are no statewide limits on rent increases in Wisconsin. Landlords can raise rents freely based on market conditions and other factors.

 When Landlords Can Legally Raise Rent in Wisconsin

Unlike some other states, Wisconsin does not have any statewide laws limiting how much landlords can raise rents. However, there are rules about when during a tenancy landlords can legally increase rent.

End of Lease Term

The most common time for landlords to raise rent is at the end of a fixed-term lease, such as a 6-month or 1-year lease. Landlords must provide tenants proper written notice before the end of the lease term, which is normally 28 days but can vary by city. 

If the tenant chooses to renew their lease for another term, the landlord can raise the rent to whatever amount they choose for the new term. Tenants have the option to try negotiating the increase or decline to renew and move out instead.

During the Lease 

For month-to-month leases or other rental agreements without a fixed end date, landlords can raise the rent at any time with proper written notice, usually 28 days.

For fixed-term leases, rent increases are only allowed during the lease if specifically stated in the lease agreement. The landlord cannot raise rent in the middle of a 1-year lease, for example, unless the ability to do so was agreed upon signing.

Month-to-Month Tenancies  

In a month-to-month tenancy with no fixed end date, landlords can raise the rent at any time by providing proper notice, typically 28 days written notice in Wisconsin. There is no limit on how frequently rent can be raised with proper notice in a month-to-month tenancy.

Required Rent Increase Notices

In Wisconsin, landlords must provide proper notice before increasing rent on a rental unit. The specific notice period depends on the type of rental agreement:

Month-to-Month Lease

For a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant at least 28 days advance written notice before raising the rent. For example, if the landlord wants to increase the rent effective June 1st, they would need to provide notice of the increase on or before May 1st.  

Fixed-Term Lease

For a fixed term lease (6 months, 1 year, etc.), notice of a rent increase must be given prior to the start of the renewal period. For a 1 year lease, if the landlord wants to raise the rent for the upcoming renewal term, they would need to provide notice before the current lease ends. The lease may specify how far in advance this notice needs to be given.

Automatic Renewal Lease

If the lease has an automatic renewal clause with a built-in rent increase, proper notice equals the amount stated in the lease. Many automatic renewal leases call for a 60 or 90 day advance notice of the upcoming rent increase.

The rent increase notice provided by the landlord should be written and state the new increased amount of rent and the date when it takes effect. Without proper notice as required by state law and the lease terms, the landlord cannot move forward with a rent increase.

Lease Renewals and Rent Hikes

When a lease term ends, landlords have the right to raise the rent to any amount when offering a renewal to the tenant. There is no limit under Wisconsin law on how much landlords can raise the rent upon renewal. Landlords can freely set the new rental rate at whatever price they choose.  

Tenants in Wisconsin do not have much legal recourse if their landlord imposes a very large rent increase upon renewal. However, tenants can try discussing the rent hike with the landlord and negotiating for a lower increase if the proposed new rate seems excessive. Reasonable landlords may be willing to compromise on a smaller raise, especially if the tenant has a good rental history. But the landlord is not legally obligated to limit the rent increase in any way.

When negotiating a high rent increase, tenants may want to cite factors like rental rates for comparable units in the area. A tenant could also note if they have been a good tenant, paying rent on time and taking care of the property. Sharing personal financial realities and limitations may also elicit some sympathy from the landlord. 

But ultimately, the landlord has the right to increase the rent to market rates upon renewal if they so choose. If no agreement can be reached and the tenant feels the new rent is unaffordable, they may have to seek out a more reasonably priced unit.

Rent Increases in Rent-Controlled Units

Some affordable housing units in Wisconsin have restrictions on how much and when rent can be increased. These include:

  • Income-restricted housing units such as Section 8, housing financed with low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC), and other subsidized housing programs. 
  • Rent increases on these income-restricted units are typically limited to a certain percentage per year, for example the rate of inflation. 
  • Landlords with rent-controlled units must follow program rules regarding notification of increases, allowable percentages, and frequency of increases. 
  • Rent in controlled units cannot be raised above Maximum Allowable Rents (MARs) set based on factors like unit size and occupant income.
  • Tenants in rent-controlled units have protections if a landlord attempts to illegally raise rents beyond allowable amounts. They can file complaints with the administering agency.
  • Rent increases in controlled units must be approved by the governing agency before taking effect. Landlords cannot unilaterally decide to raise rents.
  • While rent-controlled units limit increases, they do not eliminate rent hikes. Rent still rises over time in subsidized units based on allowable percentages.

The key point is that some affordable units in Wisconsin offer tenants protections by capping rent increases. But these only apply to specific income-qualified rental housing overseen by government agencies. There is no statewide rent control law limiting increases for market-rate units.

Retaliatory Rent Increases  

Under Wisconsin law, landlords cannot raise a tenant's rent in retaliation for the tenant filing a complaint or requesting repairs or services. Rent increases must follow proper notice procedures and timing, and should not be arbitrarily imposed on an individual tenant.

If a tenant suspects their landlord has increased rent as an act of retaliation, they can file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Signs that a rent increase may be retaliatory include:

  • The increase comes soon after the tenant filed a complaint or asked for repairs
  • The increase is timed inconsistently with past increases  
  • The increase applies only to the tenant in question and not all tenants
  • There is no justification given for the increase

Tenants have the right to organize and demand habitable living conditions without fear of retaliation from landlords. Wisconsin law prohibits rent increases intended solely to punish tenants for asserting their rights. Any drastic rent hikes should coincide with a documented increase in operating expenses for the landlord.

Frequency of Rent Increases

There is no limit under Wisconsin law on how often landlords can raise rent, as long as they provide proper notice. Landlords can increase rent multiple times in a year if they wish. 

However, rent cannot be raised more than once within a single lease term, unless the lease specifically allows for multiple increases. For example, if a tenant signs a 1-year lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent 6 months into the lease and then raise it again 2 months later, unless expressly permitted in the written lease. The rent for a fixed-term lease is set for the duration of that term.

For month-to-month leases, or at the end of a lease term, landlords can raise the rent as frequently as they want, as long as they provide advance written notice of the increase (generally 28 days). So there may be frequent rent hikes in subsequent month-to-month renewal periods.

The frequency of rent increases depends on the policies and needs of the individual landlord. State law does not limit how often the landlord can raise rent with proper notice outside of a single lease term, but the landlord cannot impose unexpected mid-lease increases without permission.

Fighting Excessive Rent Increases

Unfortunately, tenants have limited options when it comes to fighting excessive rent increases in Wisconsin. Since there are no statewide laws limiting how much landlords can raise rents, tenants have no legal recourse to challenge large increases. 

The best option is to try negotiating directly with your landlord. Explain how the increase would cause financial hardship and ask if they'd consider a more reasonable raise. Be prepared to provide evidence to back up your case, like pay stubs, bank statements, or medical bills. While some landlords may work with tenants, they are not obligated to compromise.

If negotiating doesn't work, look carefully at the details of your situation. Very large increases right after you complained of poor conditions or requested repairs could potentially be considered retaliatory. Wisconsin law prohibits landlords from retaliating against tenants who exercise their rights. File a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection if you have evidence the increase is retaliation. 

Outside of retaliation, there is little tenants can do without rent control laws in place at the local level. Contacting local representatives to advocate for more tenant protections is one way to work towards change. But for now, Wisconsin renters have to carefully weigh rent hikes against their budget and housing options when deciding whether to renew or move.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rent Control in Wisconsin

Is there a limit on how much my landlord can raise my rent in Wisconsin?

No, there is currently no statewide limit on rent increases in Wisconsin. Landlords can raise rents by any amount with proper notice. Some cities may have local ordinances restricting rent hikes, but there is no maximum percentage limit under state law.

No, Wisconsin does not have any statewide rent control laws. Landlords have the right to raise rents freely at the end of a lease term or with proper notice in a month-to-month tenancy. Some cities have tried passing local rent control ordinances, but statewide rent regulations do not exist.

What protections do tenants have against excessive rent increases in Wisconsin?

There are no legal protections against large rent increases under Wisconsin law. Tenants can try negotiating with the landlord if the proposed increase seems excessive. However, landlords can ultimately raise rents to any amount with proper notice. The one exception is retaliation - landlords cannot retaliate against tenants by suddenly raising rent in response to complaints or requests for repairs.

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