When to Sue Your Landlord in Wisconsin
Tenants renting in Wisconsin are entitled to safe, secure premises by law. Renters reserve the right to sue Wisconsin landlords for unsafe conditions, emotional distress, pain and suffering, negligence, mold and tenant injury - among other things. If you want to win big and make them pay, contact the offices of attorney Steve Caya. We’re an award-winning personal injury law firm with 34+ years of experience, with a reputation for fighting and winning in court.
What to Know Before Suing Your Landlord
Most often, a lawsuit against a landlord is based on premises liability - a legal concept that holds property owners responsible for injuries or damages that occur on their property.
In Wisconsin, property renters have a legal duty of care toward their tenants
This duty includes requirements such as:
Maintaining safe living conditions: Keeping the property in good repair, addressing any hazards or dangers, and ensuring that common areas are well-lit and free from obstacles.
Ensuring the property is habitable: Properties must meet minimum health and safety standards including working heat, plumbing, and electrical systems, and be free from pests and mold.
Providing proper security measures: This may include installing adequate locks, security systems, or lighting.
Complying with local building and housing codes: Property renters must comply with all applicable building and housing codes in their local area by obtaining all necessary permits and inspections. Any violations or deficiencies must be addressed in a timely manner.
Failure to fulfill these legal duties of care may result in a premises liability lawsuit, where a tenant can sue their landlord for damages caused by their negligence.
Components of a landlord premises liability lawsuit:
Duty of care: Property owners have a duty to maintain safe conditions on their property and to warn visitors of any potential hazards. The duty of care is typically determined by the relationship between the property owner and the visitor (e.g. invitee, licensee, or trespasser).
Breach of duty: A breach of duty occurs when a property owner fails to meet their duty of care by neglecting to maintain safe conditions or failing to warn visitors of potential hazards.
Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the property owner's breach of duty caused their injury or damages. This typically requires showing that the property owner's negligence was the direct cause of the injury or damages.
Damages: The plaintiff must have suffered actual damages, such as physical injuries or financial losses, as a result of the property owner's breach of duty.
To successfully pursue a premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that all four of these components are present. It is critical to document everything related to your case, including photos and receipts related to all expenditures such as doctor's visits or time off work. Schedule a free consultation to protect your rights and understand the true value of your claim - you won't pay anything until we win.
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Can I Sue My Landlord After I Move Out?
Yes you can. Most lawsuits between landlords and tenants are in Small Claims Court, especially for damages $10,000 or less. When damages exceed this amount, you have between 3 and 6 years to hire a lawyer to take your landlord to court:
|Timeframe to Sue||Wisconsin Statute|
|Injury to Person||3 years||Wis. Stat. § 893.54|
|Wrongful Death||3 years||Wis. Stat. § 893.54|
|Fraud||3 years||Wis. Stat. § 893.93(1)(b)|
|Injury to Personal Property||6 years||Wis. Stat. § 893.52|
|Collection of Rents||6 years||Wis. Stat. § 843.13(1)|
How Much Can I Sue My Landlord for Emotional Distress?
The amount you’re able to recover for emotional distress caused by a landlord depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the case, as well as the judge’s or jury’s discretion. One of the most effective methods to prove emotional distress includes medical/therapy bills. Witness testimony and other documentation of medical treatments are also considered credible by the legal system.
Examples of emotional distress caused by a landlord include, but are not limited to:
- Severe anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Humiliation, shame or guilt
- Thoughts of suicide
- Changes in appetite
Can I Sue my Landlord for Pain and Suffering?
Yes. However, to sue a landlord for pain and suffering in Wisconsin, the tenant is typically required to show the landlord’s actions were negligent, outrageous or likely to cause emotional/physical harm. It can be difficult to prove you’ve experienced pain and suffering, so it’s important to have an experienced, qualified lawyer to fight on your behalf.
How Much Compensation for Landlord Negligence?
While there is no limit to the amount of compensation you can receive due to landlord negligence, the amount of compensation you’re entitled to depends on the circumstances of your case and the types of damages you’ve suffered. Generally, compensation for landlord negligence includes the costs associated with medical bills, lost wages or property damage – these are known as economic damages.
Non-economic damages may arise from emotional distress caused by physical harm or a landlord’s outrageous behavior causing severe emotional suffering.
|Types of Damages||Examples||Caps or Limits|
|Economic Damages||Medical expenses, lost wages||No caps or limits|
|Non-Economic Damages||Pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life||No caps or limits (except in medical malpractice cases)|
How to Sue a Landlord for Unsafe Living Conditions
There are a few steps you should take to ensure your case is ready for court.
- Document unsafe living conditions. Photos, videos and records of correspondence with your landlord are valuable assets in court.
- Notify your landlord. If your landlord doesn’t realize conditions are unsafe, they may not be liable for damages.
- Contact an attorney. Steve Caya has decades of experience dealing with bad landlords – he will evaluate your case, advise you on the best course of action and handle the complex requirements of the legal system.
- Seek resolution. If the court rules in your favor, you may be awarded damages to compensate for the unsafe conditions you were exposed to.
It’s important to note that tenants are legally protected when they report unsafe conditions. It’s illegal for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant who identifies unsafe conditions or environments.
How to Report Unsafe Living Conditions
Alerting your landlord is the first step you should take if you feel your rented property is unsafe to live in. Document the unsafe features by photograph or video, and contact the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection if you believe an official inspector is needed to assess the situation.
If all else fails, contact Steve Caya. He will fight for your legal right to a safe living environment. Never forget that you are entitled to safe and habitable living spaces, and don’t hesitate to take charge when you feel your rights have been breached.
How to Report Unsafe Living Conditions of the Elderly
The elderly population (generally considered age 60 and over) is among the most vulnerable, and unfortunately, their vulnerability is often exploited through neglect or outright abuse. Adult Protection Services (APS) specifically protects the elderly population, and the agency should be turned to as the first line of defense. APS works with local law enforcement to investigate safety infractions and enforce the law when safety has been compromised for aged individuals.
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How to Prove Landlord Negligence
To prove landlord negligence, a tenant or their lawyer should gather evidence such as photographs, videos, witness statements, medical bills and repair records to demonstrate the landlord’s failure to address unsafe conditions. Consulting with an attorney is the best way to build a strong case – we offer free consultations to tenants across all of Wisconsin.
|Type of Negligence||Description|
|Duty||The landlord has a legal duty to maintain the rental property in a safe condition as required by Wisconsin law|
|Breach||The landlord failed to repair or maintain known safety hazards|
|Causation||The breach of duty caused harm to the tenant, including physical injury, property damage or financial losses|
|Foreseeability||The harm was foreseeable, meaning a reasonable landlord should have anticipated a potential safety hazard and the landlord failed to take steps to prevent harm|
Is a Landlord Responsible for Tenant Injury?
A landlord is responsible for a tenant’s injury if the landlord was negligent in their duties to maintain a safe property. If you were injured on the premise of a rental property, it’s a wise decision to contact attorney Steve Caya to discuss the issue.
A landlord cannot be held liable for the injury if the injured tenant was acting recklessly or injured while engaged in criminal activity. Here are some other important points to keep in mind:
- Landlords are legally obligated to keep their rental property safe and habitable
- If the tenant was injured due to their own negligence or recklessness, the landlord will likely not be liable to cover damages
- If the tenant’s injury was caused by a third party, the landlord is only responsible if they knew or should have known about the potential for danger and subsequently failed to address it
- Keep all records of your medical treatments and their associated expenses
Can I Sue My Landlord for Mold?
Yes – mold can be dangerous to people in any environment. Mold not only causes serious health issues, but it can also damage or destroy a tenant’s personal property. You may be entitled to recovery of damages if you experience property damage or health complications from mold exposure.
It’s important to immediately report mold growth to your landlord. Take photographs or video recordings of the mold and retain all communications you have with your landlord about the issue. If you need medical attention or to replace your property due to mold, the landlord may be responsible for compensation.
A few examples of molds found in rental properties include:
|Mold Name||Mold Appearance||Health Complications|
|Stachybotrys chartarum (black mold)||Greenish-black in color; slimy texture||Wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing; headaches; fatigue; skin irritation; memory loss; mood change|
|Aspergillus||Greenish-yellow in color; powdery texture||Asthma and allergic reactions; lung infections|
|Penicillium||Blue or green in color; powdery texture||Allergies and asthma; sinus and lung infections|
|Cladosporium||Dark green or black in color; powdery or granular texture||Allergies and asthma; skin irritation; eye irritation|
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