Remedies at a Glance Housing & Public Accommodations Law

This page was formerly named ERD-11057-P

This document is for general informational purposes only. It is subject to change, and is not to be considered legal advice. Individuals who wish to obtain legal advice in a particular matter should consult an attorney. Individuals who desire more information about state law may contact the Equal Rights Division of the State of Wisconsin at (608) 266-6860 in Madison or (414) 227-4384 in Milwaukee. Individuals who desire more information about the federal fair housing law may contact the U.S. Department of Housing Development at (414) 297-3214, ext. 8301.

Wisconsin Open Housing Law U.S. Fair Housing Act
Out-of-pocket Losses y y
Injunction y y
Attorney fees and Costs y y
Compensatory Damanges (e.g., emotional harm) y y
Punitive Damages in court y
Fines y y
Other Remedies y y

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The Wisconsin Open Housing Law is at section 106.50, Wisconsin Statutes. It covers the following protected classes: sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, marital status, family status, lawful source of income, age, or ancestry, status as a victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or stalking.

The law may be enforced by either filing a complaint with the Equal Rights Division or going through the administrative hearing process, or by filing a civil action directly in court. All of the above-listed remedies except for punitive damages may be awarded after an administrative hearing. (Punitive damages are only available in a court proceeding.)

The item “Other Remedies” on the chart includes such remedies as cease and desist orders, and requiring a housing provider to furnish appropriate training.

The U.S. Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. sec. 3601, et seq., prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, and national origin. The federal law may be enforced administratively through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or by a civil action in court.

The Wisconsin Public Accommodations and Amusements Law is at section 106.52, Wisconsin Statutes. It covers the following protected classes: sex, race, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin and ancestry. There are also some provisions which prohibit age discrimination.

An individual may file a claim with the Equal Rights Division and seek administrative enforcement. After hearing, a decision may be appealed to the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC). A LIRC decision may be appealed to court, but the court will hold a new trial. A jury trial can also be requested. This procedure differs from the procedure in fair employment cases under sec. 111.31, et seq. Wisconsin Statutes where the appeal of a LIRC decision is reviewed by the court, but does not result in a new trial.

It is also possible to file a civil action directly in court.

Remedies available in a civil action include, but are not necessarily be limited to, damages (including punitive damages), court costs, and reasonable attorney fees. Fines may also be imposed.

At the administrative level, if a violation is found, an order shall be issued, for “such action by the Respondent as will effectuate the purpose of (3) of this subsection.” [See section 106.52(4) (a) 4, Wisconsin Statutes]. At this time the scope of administrative remedies is not entirely settled, but would likely include at least out-of-pocket expenses, reasonable costs, and attorney fees, cease and desist orders, appropriate training and other “make-whole” type remedies, and fines.