Discrimination based on age is prohibited in Wisconsin. This means that landlords cannot discriminate against the tenant on the basis of age . All ages are covered in Wisconsin. The Fair Housing Act covers discrimination against children and the state’s protection against age discrimination protects anyone 18 and over.
Landlords are prohibited from discriminating based on age in Wisconsin and this includes against the elderly. Discrimination is defined broadly and covers refusing to make reasonable accommodations based on a tenant’s age, falsely stating an apartment is not available because of the tenant’s age, interfering with a tenant’s use and enjoyment of the property based on their age, advertising an apartment that’s for or not for a person based on their age, denying an apartment or application based on their age, evicting a tenant based on their age, denying an applicant the opportunity to inspect the apartment based on their age, refusing to allow the tenant to make to make reasonable modifications to suit their age, building a place that is inaccessible, denying a loan based on their age, charging different rent or offering different amenities based on age, and pressuring a tenant to rent or not rent based on people of a certain age in the neighborhood. Wis. Stat. 106.50 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
These protections extend to discrimination of a person’s perceived age. For example, an email may be written in a way that makes a 30-year old seem older and the landlord may have denied their application based on the belief that they are over 60. This would still be discrimination. Wis. Stat. 106.50 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
One major exception: Wisconsin allows apartments that are intended for the elderly are permitted to only accept elderly people and be advertised as such. In other words, landlords are free to discriminate based on age or familial status in elderly homes. This is intended to protect the existence of elderly homes and elderly assistance programs. If there is a building with tenants of a mixed age, this exception will most likely not apply and it does not cover other forms of discrimination. Wis. Admin. Code DWD 220.03 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
“Age” is not defined under the law and therefore, the anti-discrimination laws presumably apply to all groups. This means that landlords with beliefs that young adults or students are rowdier will genearlly violate the law if they treat them differently. This includes advertising a place as being “student-only housing”, “students preferred”, or “no students allowed.” Wis. Stat. 106.50 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
Discrimination is defined extremely broadly and also includes denying a loan based on their age, denying an apartment or application based on their age, falsely stating an apartment is not available because of the tenant’s age, evicting a tenant based on their age, pressuring a tenant to rent or not rent based on people of a certain age in the neighborhood, refusing to make reasonable accommodations based on a tenant’s age, charging different rent or offering different amenities based on age, denying an applicant the opportunity to inspect the apartment based on their age, refusing to allow the tenant to make to make reasonable modifications to suit their age, interfering with a tenant’s use and enjoyment of the property based on their age, building a place that is inaccessible, and advertising an apartment that’s for or not for a person based on their age.
Landlords cannot treat children or families with children differently. It’s prohibited by federal law under the Fair Housing Act as discrimination based on “familial status”. This includes denying housing, advertising a unit as “no children allowed”, charging different rent, placing families in certain parts of the building, and denying access to facilities or amenities. This includes prohibiting children from using facilities, such as laundry rooms or pools. Wis. Stat. 106.50 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
Children are also protected by this state’s own fair housing law, which offers similar protections. This gives tenants the opportunity to report the issue to state or local authorities, in addition to federal authorities. Wisconsin law expands the protections to situations where the tenant is discriminated against because of the mistaken belief that they are a child. So if, for example, a landlord denies housing to someone because they thought they were under 18 but in actuality, they were not, that would be illegal under state law. Tenants should report such issues to state authorities. These protections apply even the person is not actually a child, but the landlord acted in a discriminatory way based on a belief that they are under 18. Wis. Stat. 106.50 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
The consequences are different based on whether the discrimination is against children or adults.
If the discrimination was against children or familial status, the tenant has a choice of whether to report the problem to Wisconsin authorities or federal authorities (or both). It’s generally best for tenants to notify both authorities where possible, but they will most likely get a faster response from the state.
If the issue involves discrimination against adults , then the victim must report it to Wisconsin authorities because there is no federal protection for age discrimination.
What happens when a tenant reports a problem to the federal government? The most recent year we have data is from 2016. In 2016, HUD addressed 63.4% (41.2% from Wisconsin) of discrimination cases resolved in the year they were filed. 8 out of the 51 discrimination complaints from Wisconsin concerned discrimination against children or familial status (age discrimination is not otherwise enforced by the federal government). Landlords that violate the federal Fair Housing Act can face civil penalties up to $16,000 for a first violation and $65,000 for future violations (each act of discrimination is a separate violation). In cases where the Justice Department is involved, civil penalties may rise to $100,000 per violation and federal courts can add additional damages. Landlords should also keep in mind the time and costs involved in defending against an action by the federal government. About 36% of complaints end up with a charge or settlement, based on 2016 data. Data.gov
What happens when a tenant reports a problem to the authorities of Wisconsin or a local government? They may ask the tenant for information to help bring the case, including any evidence (e.g., emails and pictures). If the government finds there’s sufficient information between the tenant’s complaint (as well as complaints from other tenants), the landlord may be charged and taken to court to defend themselves. Landlords will likely receive fines if they lose. The amount of the fines will be determined in part by the severity of the issue. Fines increase significantly for repeat offenders. Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 . Wis. Stat. 106.50 , Wis. Stat. Sec. 106.50 .
Reporting a Violation
Tenants may report violations of federal laws (i.e., discrimination against children and families) through the HUD website – it can be done online or via phone. Tenants can report issues to their state government by looking at the state website. A google search for “report fair housing violation in Wisconsin” will likely provide applicable information. In either case, tenants may be able to call the number on the page to ask whether their situation legally qualifies as rental discrimination.
Retaliation by the Landlord
Federal law (the https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaintFair Housing Act ) makes it illegal for landlords to harass a tenant in retaliation for reporting a problem. Examples of such harassment may include raising the rent or threatening to evict the tenant. Each such attempt is an additional violation. These protections do not apply if the tenant complained about something that they don’t have right to, so tenants should know whether it’s a violation. Dept of Housing and Urban Development.
State and Local Laws
Laws differ heavily by state, county, and city. Use RenterPeace to see more specific laws for to a given apartment and to see comments from people in your area.
Documenting the Problem
For most problems, tenants should document their issues, notify their landlord (document this too!), and stay informed about their rights. Renterpeace is a free website that helps with each step of this process. Tenants use RenterPeace to more easily see applicable laws, track their problems, and much more. There's a reason RenterPeace was selected "Best of" legal apps for both Android and iOS. It also includes household management tools, like a chore manager and bill tracker. Try it - you don't even to login first.
Using Property Management
To stay updated and organized about the problems in their apartments, landlords should use a property management system. Many are expensive or have high setup fees, but using RenterPeace for landlords is free. It's complete with legal compliance tips targeted to their problems, maintenance tracking, tenant screening, money-saving grant information, and tenant chat. It makes managing properties easier and staying updated about status of rental properties a breeze. Try it today.