Discrimination in Housing

Overview

State law prohibits discrimination in housing for the following reasons:

  • Sex
  • Race
  • Color
  • Family status
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Source of income
  • Disability or the presence of a service animal
  • Status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking

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.

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 also have special protection under the law and it is illegal to discriminate against or deny an individual with a disability housing because of their service animal if it assists that individual with impaired vision, hearing or mobility.

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 complaint forms:

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

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The complaint process through the Equal Rights Division seeks to remedy situations in which housing discrimination is identified but may not stop an ongoing eviction proceeding or provide immediate legal relief to a tenant. Tenants may wish to also pursue other legal options in cases of an impending eviction.

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

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