landlord tenantRights and Responsibilities

Schmidt & Schmidt, S.C. — Wausau, Wisconsin

Whether you are a landlord or a renter, you have rights and you have responsibilities. When disputes arise, it is usually because at least one and usually both parties do not understand what these rights and responsibilities are under landlord/tenant law.

At Schmidt & Schmidt, S.C., we represent both landlords and tenants in the Wausau area and throughout North Central Wisconsin. That said — most of our practice and background experience with landlord/tenant law issues is uniquely balanced between that of the landlord’s perspective and that of the tenant’s perspective. Some of the specific types of issues our attorney can help you with include:

  • Rental agreements
  • Disclosure requirements
  • Security deposits
  • Earnest money deposits
  • Credit check fees
  • Evictions
  • Small Claims Court for Eviction

It is especially important for landlords to be aware of the proper steps that need to be taken in conducting their business as the owner of a commercial property. Missteps or mistakes can severely limit your options. Our firm can help you to avoid mistakes and to resolve disputes quickly and cost-effectively.

What Is “The Wisconsin Way”?

No, it’s not a manual for tailgating. It won’t teach you how to operate a snowmobile. It does not contain the words to the Badgers’ fight song. What the Wisconsin Way is, is a guide for landlords and tenants published by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) division. A PDF version of this publication can be accessed from the DATCP Web site.

You can also purchase this book from the Consumer Protection Bureau in Madison, your UW Extension office or from Schmidt & Schmidt, S.C.


My lease states that I cannot move out between the 1st of November and the 31st of March. My landlord states that this is because she has difficulty finding tenants in these winter months. I have a month-to-month lease now. It was originally a year–lease but that was never renewed a year back. It is now December 1st and I will be going back to college in January. Am I obligated until March 31st of next year?

ANSWER: NO. A landlord cannot enforce a lease that is longer than the month-to-month lease without first giving you a written Advance Notice that is 30 to 15 days before you are required to give your written notice-to-vacate on the lease. Therefore, in your scenario, your landlord cannot hold you financially responsible for rent after December 31st assuming (1) the landlord did not give you written advance notice on or before November 15th and (2) you have given a written notice to your landlord on or before the 2nd of December of your intent to vacate

This also applies if your one-year lease ends during the same “no-move” period. The landlord must give you written notice between 30 and 15 days before you must give your notice. The Wisconsin Legislature has deemed this notice to not be a burden on the landlord.

For further information please contact our law firm for additional assistance

In fact if the landlord tries to take you to small claims court for money damages arising from a failure to pay this rent after you vacated (November to March) you should raise as an affirmative defense (kind of like a counter claim) that the rental clause violates Wisconsin Administrative Code ATCP §134.09(3) and Wisconsin Statutes §704.15. The violation of Wisconsin ATCP law may allow you to seek double the damages the Landlord is seeking from you and also pay for your attorney’s reasonable fees. (Wisconsin Statutes §100.20(6)) You had best have an experienced landlord/tenant lawyer handling this for you or the Court Commissioner or Judge will probably — no, most likely — toss your affirmative defense/claim out in the ‘spirit of fairness’!

Below are the ATCP code and the Wisconsin Statutes:

Wisconsin Administrative Code ATCP §134.09(3)

Automatic Renewal Without Notice. No landlord shall enforce, or attempt to enforce, [emphasis by the drafter of this article] an automatic renewal or extension provision in any lease unless, as provided under Wis. Stat. §704.15, the tenant was given separate written notice of the pending automatic renewal or extension at least 15 days, but no more than 30 days before its stated effective date [for proper notice-to-vacate by the tenant to the landlord]. Clarification added by writer to ‘correct’ the ATCP language to more closely comply with Wisconsin Statutes.

Wisconsin Statute 704.15

Requirement that landlord notify tenant of automatic renewal clause. A provision in a lease of residential property that the lease shall be automatically renewed or extended for a specified period unless the tenant or either party gives notice to the contrary prior to the end of the lease is not enforceable against the tenant unless the lessor, at least 15 days but not more than 30 days prior to the time specified for the giving of such notice to the lessor, gives to the tenant written notice in the same manner as specified in s. 704.21 calling the attention of the tenant to the existence of the provision in the lease for automatic renewal or extension

Legislative Comment

This section is new. Some of the printed forms in use in Wisconsin provide for automatic renewal unless written notice is given a certain number of days in advance of the expiration date. Where the period for advance notice is more than 30 days, the clause is likely to be a trap for the tenant. The landlord is usually aware of the notice requirement since he drafts the lease, whereas typically the tenant of residential property does not realize the significance of the clause or forgets about the notice requirement long before his lease is to expire. Other states have already adopted legislation to prevent this abuse.

The statute applies only to residential property, not to commercial leases where both lessor and lessee want and need the protection of automatic renewal and are familiar with longer notice provisions. Under this section the tenant may enforce against his landlord an automatic renewal clause in a residential lease; only the tenant is protected by the statute and only the landlord must give notice alerting the tenant to the presence of the renewal or extension clause. This is because most residential leases are drafted by landlords, and landlords are more aware of their legal rights. The additional notice is not an unreasonable burden on landlords. [Emphasis added]

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Call Our Wausau Office at 866-514-1627

To learn more about how landlord/tenant law in Wisconsin applies to your particular issue — call or contact us in Wausau and schedule a consultation with our real estate lawyer, Andrew Schmidt. Weekend and evening times are available by appointment. We can also meet with you in your home, in a health care facility or in another setting, if necessary. Major credit cards are accepted.

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123 Grand Avenue
P.O. Box 146
Wausau, WI 54403

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Fax 715-845-2015
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