Occupancy Ordinances in the City of Milwaukee

As more students start to look for off-campus housing for the Fall 2019 semester, we would like to remind everyone of the occupancy ordinances in the City of Milwaukee.

Although you may want to live with 3 or more friends, renting with more than 3 unrelated adults puts tenants and the landlord at risk for tickets and eviction. More than 3 unrelated adults living in a unit, no matter how many bedrooms, requires a rooming house license*. It is very unlikely that a landlord has this. Stay away from landlords who claim that it is fine for you to live with as many people as you want. When the City of Milwaukee later finds out, the landlord may claim that they only rented to a legal number of people. Only those on the lease can legally stay and must pay the entirety of the rent for the rest of the lease. Unfortunately, we have seen this happen many times, which forces students to move out, sometimes in the middle of the semester. Save yourself from this stressful experience!

If you have a group of friends you want to live with, consider looking at duplexes that have both a lower and upper unit available. You can also look at apartment buildings with units next to each other.

Another thing to consider is the number of exits within the unit. There must be more than one exit within the dwelling. If looking at an attic or basement unit, make sure there are multiple exits, or it is illegal. Citations can be as much as $5,000 and may be issued against the landlord and the tenant for illegal occupancy.

Check the Department of Neighborhood Services website and look up the complaint and violation history of the property. Most landlords are honorable business people. However, some have poor records. You may also check Wisconsin Circuit Court Access for a possible landlord’s court record. Be aware of properties with recent, active violations and landlords with backgrounds of excessive housing related records, such as evictions.

*A rooming house means any building or part of any building or dwelling unit occupied by more than three persons who are not a family or by a family and more than two other persons for periods of occupancy usually longer than one night and where a bathroom and toilet are shared. Family means, unless otherwise specified, a person occupying a dwelling unit, or dwelling unit with one or more persons who are legally related to such occupant by virtue of being husband and wife, son or daughter, uncle or aunt, grandparent or grandchild, niece or nephew, first cousin, mother or father-in-law, all of whom comprise no more than one nuclear family unit per household.