What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Fair Housing Act

Under the Wisconsin Fair Housing Law, you can’t be denied housing on the basis of race, sex, national origin, handicap, religion, or other protected classes.
Written by Patrick Price
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Under the
Fair Housing Law, it is illegal to discriminate against a person in regard to housing based on one of their protected classes, such as age, race, gender, familial status, etc. 
Fair housing rights are protected on the federal level by the 1968 Fair Housing act. However, each state also has its own laws on the subject, many of which are more comprehensive than federal regulations. Additionally, reporting violations of fair housing laws varies from state to state. That's why it's important to know what rights and protections you're entitled to at the state level. 
To help you understand your full rights and obligations as a tenant in The Badger State,
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Does Wisconsin have a Fair Housing Act?

Yes! According to the
Wisconsin Fair Housing Law
—established by State Statutes Chapter 106, Subchapter 3—it is illegal to discriminate against any person regarding housing because of their status as a protected class member. 
In this context, discrimination is defined as doing any of the following:
  • Refusing to rent or sell a dwelling to a person
  • Failing/refusing to renew a lease 
  • Lying about a unit/dwelling's availability
  • Having different terms, conditions, privileges, services, or fees for a renter/buyer
  • Prohibiting a disabled person from making reasonable modifications to a unit to accommodate their disability
  • Failing to abide by the accessibility requirement for new constructions 
  • “Harassing or interfering with a person's quiet enjoyment of a dwelling”
  • Encouraging or coercing  a person toward a specific unit within a housing property
A landlord who commits any of the discriminatory acts listed above based on a person’s protected classes violates the law.  Protected classes in Wisconsin include all of the following categories: 
  • Race
  • Color
  • Family Status
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Marital Status
  • Ancestry
  • Source of Income
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Age
  • Being a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking
There are, however, exceptions to these rules. For instance, renters can be denied on the basis of their familial status if that status includes a family of too great a size to live in the specific unit according to building/fire codes. 
Renters may also be turned away based on their age under certain situations. Additionally, if a potential renter poses a threat to the safety of the other residents (or the property itself), they may be denied residence. 

Accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act

There are very few regulations regarding accessibility requirements specified in the Wisconsin Fair Housing Law. It does, however, dictate that disabled persons must be allowed, at their own expense, to make reasonable modifications to their dwelling to accommodate their disability. 
Keep in mind, though, that while Wisconsin state law may not specify many accessibility requirements, the
Federal Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) applies to every state—Wisconsin included. 
1991 Fair Housing Act
addresses both the need for reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications in any multifamily dwelling. Accommodations are requests that amend policies or procedures that may not be conducive to someone's disability. Modifications are requests that require physical altercations to the building so that the tenant can have full use of their home and common areas. 

How to file a fair housing complaint in Wisconsin

If you believe that you have been the victim of illegal housing discrimination, take action and file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). 
You can do so
or by filling out the
ERD-10240 form
and mailing it to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development at 201 E. Washington Ave, P.O. Box 7946, Madison, WI, 53707.
The complaint will be reviewed and investigated. If sufficient evidence supports your complaint, the matter may be brought to trial if both parties cannot reach a settlement out of court. You'll need to file your complaint within one year of the alleged discriminatory act. 
You may be entitled to compensation for any related out-of-pocket expenses, attorney fees, or compensation for losses if the ruling on the case goes in your favor.

State agency vs. local offices

Usually, you'll want to report violations to the DWD or the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, some areas have local agencies that handle fair housing violations. Here are the local agencies that oversee fair housing violations in certain regions of Wisconsin:
Fair Housing Council](https://www.fairhousingwisconsin.com/]

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The easiest and fastest way to report your landlord for a fair housing violation in Wisconsin is by
filing a complaint online
or by calling the DWD at (608) 266-3131.
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