Holiday Season: Understanding Short-Term Rental Laws

Know Your Legal Rights is a bimonthly column distributed by the State Bar of Wisconsin. It is written by members of the Wisconsin State Bar’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS), which connects Wisconsinans to attorneys across the state. Learn more about

By lawyer Adam Vanderheyden, Rohde Dales LLP, Sheboygan

Wisconsin has a lot to offer, especially during the summer months. Rivers and lakes, coastal beaches, northern woods, championship golf courses and world-class sporting venues offer something for everyone in both rural and urban settings. Add cheese curds to the mix and the state practically sells itself.

Home-sharing companies like Airbnb and Vrbo have opened the doors for homeowners to participate in Wisconsin’s $17 billion tourism industry by facilitating vacation rentals for residential properties. After the pandemic, these lists will only increase. But some laws apply to “short-term rentals” of less than 30 consecutive days.

Statewide law

In 2017, Wisconsin enacted a short-term rental law — also known as the Right to Rent Act — that applies statewide. By law, no city, town, city or county (political subdivision) can prohibit the rental of residences for seven or more consecutive days.

This statewide law does not supersede local laws that impose restrictions on short-term rentals of less than 7 days or that do not conflict with the provisions of state law.

The state law followed several lawsuits involving landlords who wanted to rent their homes, but were told local ordinances prohibit such short-term rentals. In some cases, neighbors may cause restrictions on short-term rentals in their community.

But now, if a landlord decides to list their place as “short-term rental” for periods of 7 to 30 days, a political subdivision cannot prohibit it. It can only limit (by ordinance) the total number of days a rental unit can be rented in a year, beyond 180 days.

The policy subdivision cannot limit rentals to certain times of the year but “may require that the maximum number of rental days allowed in a 365-day period be consecutive.” Before renting, a tenant must notify the clerk of the political subdivision.

Other requirements

Additionally, state law requires anyone who maintains, manages, or operates a short-term rental for more than 10 nights each year to obtain a “tourist rooming house” license from the state Department of Agriculture. , trade and consumer protection.

The tourist rooming house license costs $110 per year, with a one-time pre-inspection fee of $300. A political subdivision may also enact ordinances that require the political subdivision’s license in order to begin offering short-term rentals, in addition to the state’s license, and may enact other requirements that do not conflict. with state law.

In fact, that’s exactly what the City of Holland did in Sheboygan County. The city enacted an ordinance that imposed further requirements on short-term rentals “to ensure that the quality of short-term rentals operating in the city is adequate to protect public health, safety and general welfare.” .

For example, the ordinance’s provisions prohibit excessive noise, limit the number of occupants, prohibit “above normal” traffic on the property, limit outdoor events to no later than 10 p.m., and require a manager real estate is available at all times, unless the owner lives within 35 miles of the short-term rental, among others.

These local requirements have been challenged in court by a group called the Good Neighbors Alliance. But in February, a circuit court judge upheld the City of Holland’s ordinance relating to short-term rentals, in one of the first cases since the state law was passed.

Thus, it is important for those wishing to rent their home as a short-term rental to understand state law, but also any local ordinances that may apply.

As communities balance rental rights with other concerns such as limiting nuisance, preserving neighborhoods and monitoring health and safety, lawsuits over short-term rentals will likely continue in the destination. tourism that is Wisconsin.

Attorney Adam Vanderheyden, Rohde Dales LLP, Sheboygan, practices personal injury, real estate, insurance and commercial law. He is a member of the Wisconsin State Bar’s Attorney Referral and Information Service, which connects Wisconsin residents with attorneys across the state. Learn more about

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