Discrimination in Housing

Overview

State law prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of a person's membership in a protected class. The statute of limitations for filing a complaint is one year from the date the action was taken or the individual was made aware the action was taken.

Protected Classes Description Also covered in federal law
Race Generally, a member of a group united or classified together based on a common history, nationality or geography. Yes
Color The color of a person's skin. Yes
Family Status A household with minor children. A person who is pregnant or seeking custody of a child, or is planning adoption or guardianship is included. Yes
Disability Having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or having a record of, or being perceived as having a disability. Service animals and Emotional Support animals also have special protection under the law. Yes
Sex Sex, gender identity, or failure to conform to sex- or gender-based stereotypes. Yes
National Origin Generally, a member of a nation by birth or naturalization or having common origins or traditions. Yes
Religion Sincerely held religious, moral or ethical beliefs and practices. Yes
Marital Status The status of being married, widowed, single, divorced, or separated.
Ancestry The country, nation or tribe of the identifiable group from which a person descends.
Source of Income The lawful source of a person's income, including wages, a voucher having monetary value, social security, public assistance or other related payments.
Sexual Orientation Having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality or having a history of being so identified.
Age Being at least 18 years of age.
Status as a Victim of Domestic Abuse, Sexual Assault or Stalking

Coverage

The Wisconsin Fair Housing Law applies to many aspects of housing, which may include rental housing, single and multi-family homes, apartments, leases, home buying, homebuilding, real estate, condominimums and their associates, mobile homes, manufactured homes, financing of housing, and housing insurance.

Prohibited Discrimination

The law prohibits the following types of discrimination:

  • Refusing to sell, rent, finance or contract to construct housing
  • Refusing to permit inspection of housing
  • Charging a higher price for the sale, lease, financing or rental of housing
  • Discrimination in advertising
  • Making unavailable or denying a person housing
  • Refusing to insure or providing different terms or conditions of housing insurance
  • Harassing a tenant
  • Refusing to renew a lease
  • Denying privileges, services or facilities associated with housing
  • Impeding access to a listing service or other real estate services

Retaliation for exercising or enjoying a right under the law is also prohibited.

Persons with Disabilities are entitled to reasonable accomodations in rules, policies or services associated with their housing and may make necessary modifications to their rental properties at their own expense. A renter has a responsibility to restore the rental housing to its original condition at the end of their lease.

Service animals and Emotional Support animals also have special protection under the law. It is illegal to discriminate against or deny an individual with a disability housing because of their service or emotional support animal. A service animal is an animal specially trained to perform tasks for the individual, while an emotional support animal is an animal certified by a medical provider as needed for the emotional support of a person with a disability.

Exceptions

  • Renters may be denied a lease based on family size if local building codes limit the number of occupants for a dwelling.
  • Housing may be restricted to persons over a certain age if certain conditions are met.
  • Housing may be denied to a person who poses a threat to the safety of others or whose tenancy would result in substantial damage to the property.

File a complaint

A complaint must be filed within one year with either the Equal Rights Division or through circuit court. Follow the directions on the complaint form to submit your complaint for investigation.

The Equal Rights Division has the power to investigate complaints, hold formal hearings, award remedies and facilitate settlement between parties.

Can this process stop my eviction

The Equal Rights Division complaint process seeks to remedy situations in which housing discrimination is identified. Once a case is filed, the Division is authorized to request that a court stop the eviction process while it investigates, but it may not be able to pursue this remedy in all cases. Tenants facing eviction should notify the Division, but may wish to also pursue other legal options in cases of an impending eviction.

Can I file a complaint against my neighbor?

Generally, the Wisconsin Fair Housing Law is not equipped to address situations of discrimination or harassment by neighbors or roommates.

What if my housing is not accessible to persons with disabilities?

The Wisconsin Fair Housing Law has limited rules regarding building accessibility; likewise, tenants with disabilities may make reasonable modifications at their own expense. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets accessibility requirements that are not part of state law. Grievances under the ADA can be made through the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division or a lawsuit.

For more information