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The Wisconsin Rental Application Process

Wisconsin rental application

As a landlord or property manager in Wisconsin, you need to be up to speed on Wisconsin rental application laws, procedures, and best practices. A smooth rental application process isn’t just a step; it’s the heart of successful property management that can either pump up your earnings or deflate them. Lean on us; RentSafe is eager to lend a hand!

This piece walks you through the A-Z of the rental application process in Wisconsin, including:

  • What information is required on the application
  • What fees can landlords charge during the tenant screening process
  • How does consent for a background check work?
  • What does the rental application process look like from start to finish?

What Is a Wisconsin Rental Application?

Wisconsin rental application form is the first step in the tenant screening process. For landlords, knowing who’s moving in is made easy with this critical piece of paperwork—it’s where they find out all the necessary details about would-be tenants.

Purpose of a Rental Application

The primary purpose of a rental application is to collect detailed information about potential tenants. It gives those renting out properties a way to sift through applicants’ histories, judge their money management skills closely but fairly – finding only those truly up to snuff for moving in. In my experience, a well-designed Wisconsin rental application is the foundation of a successful tenant screening process. Landlords can breathe a bit easier and dodge the bullet of renting to tenants who might not be up to snuff, thanks to tools that sharpen their decision-making skills.

Information Required on a Rental Application

A typical Wisconsin rental application form will ask for the following information:

  • Personal details (name, contact information, SSN, driver’s license)
  • Employment history and income
  • Rental history (previous addresses, landlord references)
  • Financial information (bank accounts, credit score)
  • Personal references
  • Pet information (if applicable)
  • Vehicle information (if parking is included)

It’s crucial to ensure that the application form complies with fair housing laws and does not discriminate against protected classes.

Rental Application Fees

In Wisconsin, landlords can charge a non-refundable rental application fee to cover the costs of background and credit checks. However, the fee is limited to $25 unless the actual cost of screening exceeds that amount. Sharing details on application fees early on is crucial. Clearly state the amount and what it covers in the listing or when providing the application form to the prospective tenant. In the case of RentSafe, our rental application fee covers the cost of processing the application form itself, running a criminal background check, running a national eviction search, and a soft-pull comprehensive credit report.

Dive into Wisconsin’s specific guidelines on rental applications – a must-know for anyone stepping into the housing market there.

As a landlord in Wisconsin, it’s essential to understand the laws and regulations surrounding rental applications. If we overlook what’s required, we’re risking legal headaches and a blow to our wallets with steep fines.

Fair Housing Laws

Wisconsin rental application laws are designed to protect tenants from discrimination. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act and Wisconsin’s fair housing laws, it’s illegal to discriminate based on:

  • Race or color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial status
  • Disability

When creating a rental application form, avoid questions that could be perceived as discriminatory. Stick to gathering information directly related to the applicant’s ability to pay rent and be a responsible tenant.

Security Deposit Regulations

Wisconsin law does not limit the amount landlords can charge for a security deposit. However, the deposit must be returned within 21 days of the tenant vacating the property, along with an itemized list of any deductions. I recommend documenting the condition of the rental unit before move-in and after move-out to justify any deductions from the security deposit.

Application Fee Limits

As mentioned earlier, application laws in Wisconsin cap the fee at $25 unless the actual cost of screening is higher . If you charge more than $25, be prepared to provide documentation of the expenses incurred, as landlords are not legally allowed to profit off of rental applications in Wisconsin. RentSafe’s application fee is $45, which is compliant with Wisconsin tenant screening laws since RentSafe is a third party provider and the fee is not passed along to the landlord as income.

Credit and Background Check Consent

Before running a credit check or background check, you must obtain the applicant’s written consent. Include a clear statement on your rental application form authorizing you to conduct these screenings. If you deny an application based on information in a credit report, you must provide an adverse action notice to the applicant. This message breaks it down for them – why they didn’t make the cut, plus a nudge towards grabbing that free credit check.

How to Fill Out a Wisconsin Rental Application

Filling out a rental application can be daunting for prospective tenants. Landlords have it easier when they lay out all required info upfront for their renters, and the process is efficient for all parties involved when the landlord uses an online tenant screening service rather than paper and pencil.

Personal Information

The first section of a rental application template typically asks for personal details such as:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Driver’s license or state ID number
  • Phone number and email address
  • Current address and reason for moving

Remind applicants to provide accurate and up-to-date information to avoid delays in processing their application.

Employment and Income

The next section usually focuses on the applicant’s employment and income. Expect to see elements including:

  • Current employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • Job title and length of employment
  • Monthly income (before taxes)
  • Additional income sources (if applicable)

Some landlords may require proof of income, such as recent pay stubs or an employment verification letter.

Rental History

The rental history section helps landlords assess the applicant’s past behavior as a tenant. It typically asks for:

  • Previous addresses (past 3-5 years)
  • Dates of residency
  • Landlord names and contact information
  • Reason for leaving each residence

Encourage applicants to be honest about their rental history, as landlords will likely contact previous landlords for references.


Most application templates require personal or professional references. Find those ready to sing praises about your dependability and character. Applicants should provide the reference’s name, relationship, and contact information. Advise them to inform their references that they may be contacted by a potential landlord.

Additional Information

Depending on the property and the landlord’s preferences, the application may ask for additional information such as:

  • Pet ownership (type, breed, size)
  • Vehicle information (make, model, license plate)
  • Smoking habits
  • Emergency contacts

Be clear about any specific requirements or restrictions related to the rental property.

What Happens After Submitting a Rental Application in Wisconsin?

After a prospective tenant submits their rental application, the landlord will begin the screening process to determine if they are a suitable fit for the property.

Landlord’s Screening Process

The screening process typically involves several steps:

  1. Reviewing the application for completeness and consistency
  2. Verifying employment and income
  3. Contacting previous landlords for references
  4. Running credit checks  and background checks
  5. Assessing the applicant’s overall qualifications

As a landlord, it’s essential to have a consistent and fair screening process for all applicants.

With credit and background reviews, it’s like getting the inside scoop on how people handle money and what they’ve been up to in the past.

To find great tenants, smart landlords always start with thorough credit and background investigations. It’s all about spotting who has been smart with cash and catching any alarm bells ringing in the background. A credit report will show the applicant’s credit score, outstanding debts, and payment history. Think of a background check as your personal detective story – it could turn up anything from minor run-ins with the law to eviction notices waving red flags. Don’t forget, getting written permission from the applicant is a must before you start any checks.

Approval or Denial

Based on the results of the screening process, the landlord will decide to approve or deny the rental application. If approved, the landlord will typically contact the applicant to discuss the next steps, such as signing the lease agreement and paying the security deposit. If denied, the landlord must provide a written notice stating the reason for the denial, especially if it is based on information from a consumer report. This allows the applicant to address any errors or discrepancies in their records.

Boosting Your Shot at Getting That Rental Application Green-Lighted

As a prospective tenant, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of having your rental application approved.

Provide Complete and Accurate Information

One of the most important things is to ensure that your rental application is complete and accurate. Go over your job and where you’ve lived before one more time, not forgetting to check in with your references too. Landlords could give your application the thumbs down if they spot gaps in information or things that just don’t add up.

Have a Strong Rental History

Landlords prefer tenants with a proven track record of being responsible and reliable. If you have a strong rental history, with positive references from previous landlords, it can significantly increase your chances of approval. If you’re a first-time renter or have limited rental history, consider asking a parent or guardian to co-sign your lease.

Demonstrate Financial Stability

Landlords want to ensure that you have the financial means to pay rent consistently. Showing you’re on solid financial ground with a steady job, impressive credit score, and manageable debt can really boost your appeal. If your income is on the lower side, consider providing additional documentation, such as bank statements or a letter from your employer, to show that you have the ability to pay rent.

Consider Offering a Higher Security Deposit

If you have a less-than-perfect rental history or credit score, offering a higher security deposit can help mitigate the landlord’s risk. Offering up more money initially proves how dedicated you are to landing this rental. However, keep in mind that Wisconsin law does not limit the amount landlords can charge for a security deposit, so make sure you can afford the amount you offer. With a proactive approach to finding rentals in Wisconsin, following our advice could really pay off. You’re more likely to hear “approved” on your application and snag the perfect place for yourself.

FAQs in Relation to Wisconsin Rental Application

How much is the rental application fee in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, landlords often charge a rental application fee to cover background checks, but the cost to the applicant cannot exceed $25 without providing documentation of the actual cost of the application’s components. Landlords cannot profit off of rental applications in Wisconsin, but are allowed to charge more than $25 if the costs of running the background check exceeds that amount.

What can’t a landlord do in Wisconsin?

A landlord in Wisconsin cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status due to fair housing laws. They also can’t evict without proper notice and cause.

How late can rent be in Wisconsin?

Rent is usually considered late the day after it’s due; however, many leases offer a grace period. In Wisconsin specifically? There’s no state-mandated grace period unless your lease says otherwise.

Let’s recap the basics of the Wisconsin Rental Application process:

The rental application process is beyond important for landlords and tenants alike. Landlords need to ensure compliance with fair housing laws, application fee limitations, and notice requirements specific to Wisconsin. The landlord should be transparent about their requirements early on in the process, and should make the application process as painless as possible by using an online rental application rather than paper forms which take much longer to process.

Maximize your leasing team’s efficiency with RentSafe, the simplest and most powerful tenant screening platform available. After growing our own property management company to 1,500 units, we built RentSafe to get our vacancies filled faster and empower our leasing team to stay effortlessly organized. You can create an account  in seconds (no credentialing required) and start screening tenants in minutes! RentSafe is always free for landlords and property managers, so you can try it with no risk! If digging into details about our tenant screening software is on your mind, we’re all ears – shoot us your questions! Drop us a line anytime. 

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