Landlord / Tenant

Dispute Resolution and Litigation
Landlords and tenants have competing interests and that sometimes results in disputes between the parties. Our attorneys have resolved disputes, both before and through litigation, of hundreds of residential and commercial leases. If necessary, we can take the dispute to a court for resolution, either through pre-trial settlement or all the way through trial.  Our attorneys who work in this subject area have years of experience handling every type of landlord tenant dispute in court proceedings.  We have been the primary referral for the local tenant resource center for decades. 

Eviction Defense
Wisconsin law governs the process required for eviction of a tenant from leased property. A landlord cannot evict a tenant themselves. There are many very precise rules about how it must be done.  Landlord’s, in most cases,  must give the tenant notice of the violation of the lease and allow the tenant five days, usually, to fix the violation. If the violation is not fixed within the notice period , the landlord can file a complaint in small claims court for eviction, the tenant has the opportunity to answer, and then the judge, or a jury, will consider both sides in an eviction hearing. A landlord is not allowed to attempt to force the tenant out of the property without a court order allowing them to do so.

If a landlord does not evict a tenant according to the proper procedures, the tenant can use that as a defense to the eviction.   Our attorneys have extensive experience in the many exacting rules and procedures, and know how to construct the most effective defense.  Something this can help negotiate a resolution with the landlord.  Sometimes that is not possible and a full trial is necessary.  Landlords are prohibited, in residential tenancies, from evicting a tenant in retaliation against the tenant for asserting their rights under landlord tenant law.  This can be a tricky defense to win.  Our attorneys happen to have years of experience presenting this exact defense, and suing landlords for damages when they have started retaliatory evictions.  Having an attorney experienced in this area of the law is very helpful in obtaining a successful outcome in these situations.

If you have facing eviction, challenging it may be your best course of action. Our landlord-tenant attorneys can evaluate your situation and advise you about the benefits of each option available to you.

Lease Drafting and Negotiation
While such assistance can arise for residential tenants, we find that our work in this area is almost always for landlords or tenants in commercial property.If you need a lease drafted or would like assistance negotiating more favorable terms in a lease, we can help.  Our attorneys have negotiated and drafted many dozen commercial leases, providing representation to tenants and also to landlords.  We have assisted landlords and tenants in understanding what lease terms mean, what possible consequences may arise, and how to make a lease most favorable and avoid common disputes. 

Security Deposits
Most leases require a security deposit be paid by the tenant to the landlord. A landlord must provide certain information to tenants related to inspection, habitability, building and housing code violations, and payment of utilities before accepting a security deposit. In addition, Wisconsin has laws governing the return of security deposits for property rentals. If a landlord does not follow these laws, they may have to pay the tenant damages for those violations.

This is an especially common area of dispute for residential tenants.  In Wisconsin landlords who violate the security deposit rules area obligated to pay double the tenant’s damages plus also reimburse all the tenant’s attorney fees.  Having experienced representation when presenting these types of claims can be very helpful in winning doubled damages, and of course making the landlord pay your attorney fees is certainly helpful too.  Our experience with these issues very often helps get landlords to settle more quickly to avoid the potential attorney fees claims.

Discrimination / Fair Housing 
Federal law bars housing discrimination based on a number of protected classifications. The Wisconsin Fair Housing Law, and Madison City Ordinances add a number of classifications to the list. If you think your landlord or potential landlord has discriminated against you  you may be entitled to protection and assistance, including possibly the award of significant monetary damages.

Our attorneys have extensive experience representing residential tenants in fair housing claims.

Forums available in Dane County:

State (Equal Rights Division):        § 106.50 WI Stats
Madison (Dept of Civil Rights):        MGO 39.03
Dane County (County Corporation Counsel):    Chapter 31 DCO

Types of discrimination which are prohibited

        Federal: race, color, national origin, gender, religion, disability, age, familial status (having kids)    

        State:    same as Federal and also - marital status, lawful source of income, ancestry, sexual orientation, status as victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

        Madison:  same as State and also - arrest or conviction record, less than honorable discharge, physical appearance, citizenship status, political beliefs, student status, gender identify, genetic identity, domestic partner status, receipt of rental assistance, the fact that tenant does not provide a social security number, homelessness, or unemployment status [crossed out categories are the ones just recently removed from City law by a new statute adopted at the state level].

        Dane County:   almost the full list used by Madison.


Shorter statutes of limitations than Federal (Federal:  two years)

Madison:    one year  (MGO 39.03(10)(c)(1)(a))
State:        one year   (§106.50(6)(a)(1) WI Stats)
County:    300 days   


    Clock stops while administrative agency has case 

        (but only as to that claim)


  1. You must initiate your claim in court or with the appropriate agency within the relevant statute of limitations.
  2. You should contact an attorney to discuss the situation and learn about your potential courses of action.