Wisconsin Tenant Screening
Last Updated: February 12, 2015
Wisconsin became a territorial possession of the United States in 1783 after the American Revolutionary War. However, the British remained in control until after the War of 1812, the outcome of which finally established an American presence in the area. Under American control, the economy of the territory shifted from fur trading to lead mining.
How to Screen a Tenant in Wisconsin
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Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, Wisconsin has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current Wisconsin Housing Codes on the Wisconsin State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
- Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Bureau Of Consumer Protection – Landlord Tenant Guide – 2014
Recent Law Changes
The Wisconsin legislature has passed three major tenant landlord bills in the last few years, changing over 75 laws on the state and local levels. The latest of three tenant landlord laws, 2013 Wisconsin Act 76 went into effect on March 1, 2014. This law changes many statewide tenant landlord laws and removes local control over even more laws in Madison, Fitchburg and Dane County. Tenant Resource Center Overview:
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
- Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF]
- Consumer Report Disclosure [PDF]
If you are ACCEPTING an applicant:
- Move-In Checklist [PDF]
- Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
- Owner/Agent Identity – this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
- Security Deposit – this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
- Non-refundable Fees – explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
- Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
- Move-In Checklist: In Wisconsin, the tenant has a right to inspect the rental and give the landlord a list of defects, and to receive a list of damages charged to the prior tenant. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.06)
- Owner Or Agent Identity: Wisconsin landlords must disclose to the tenant in writing, at or before the time a rental agreement is signed, the name and address of the person or persons authorized to collect or receive rent and manage and maintain the premises, and who can readily be contacted by the tenant; and the owner of the premises or other person authorized to accept service of legal process and other notices and demands on behalf of the owner. The address must be an address within the state at which service of process can be made in person. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.04)
- Nonstandard Rental Provisions: If Wisconsin landlords want to enter premises for reasons not specified by law, the landlord must disclose the provision in a in a separate written document entitled “NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS” before the rental agreement is signed. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.09)
- Uncorrected Building And Housing Code Violations: Wisconsin landlords must show prospective tenants the portions of the building affected, as well as the notices themselves, before entering into a rental agreement or accepting a deposit. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.04)
- Habitability Deficiencies: Wisconsin landlords must disclose serious problems that affect the rental unit’s habitability. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.04)
- Utility Charges: In Wisconsin, if charges for water, heat, or electricity are not included in the rent, the landlord must disclose this fact to the tenant before entering into a rental agreement or accepting any earnest money or security deposit from the prospective tenant. If individual dwelling units and common areas are not separately metered, and if the charges are not included in the rent, the landlord must disclose the basis on which charges for utility services will be allocated among individual dwelling units. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.09)
- Security Deposit: In Wisconsin, before accepting the deposit, landlord must inform tenant of tenant’s inspection rights, disclose all habitability defects, and show tenant any outstanding building and housing code violations, inform tenant of the means by which shared utilities will be billed, and inform tenant if utilities are not paid for by landlord. (Wis. Admin. Code 134.06)
If you are DECLINING an applicant:
- Adverse Action Notice [PDF]
Step 3: Order a Tenant Screening Report
What You’ll Need
- A completed rental application signed by the applicant.
- Some details about your applicant:
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Previous address
- Bank account number (optional)
- Bank routing number (optional)
What Will Be Covered
- Package Options
- Background Report Coverage for Wisconsin:
- Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records – A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in Wisconsin: WI Admin Office Of Courts, WI Admin Office Of Courts Disposition, WI Department Of Corrections, WI Sex Offender Registry, WI Sex Offender Registry Menominee Indian Tribe.
- Eviction Records – records are available from the following counties: Adams, Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Door, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Florence, Fond Du Lac, Forest, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Iron, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Racine, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sauk, Sawyer, Shawano, Sheboygan, St Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Vilas, Walworth, Washburn, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, Wood.
- Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments – records are available from the following counties: Adams, Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Door, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Florence, Fond du Lac, Forest, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Iron, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Racine, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sauk, Sawyer, Shawano, Sheboygan, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Vilas, Walworth, Washburn, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago, Wood.
- Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor® include all information available regardless of location.
Resources for Wisconsin Landlords
- Wisconsin State Bar Association – “I Need A Lawyer”
- Wisconsin Courts Site
- Law Enforcement Agencies in Wisconsin (Wikipedia)