Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

How to Get a Landlord to Make Repairs

Best procedure to follow and local resources to help you.

Non-emergency problems at a rental can be inspected by the Department of Neighborhood Services. Photo by Andrea Waxman.

Non-emergency problems at a rental can be inspected by the Department of Neighborhood Services. Photo by Andrea Waxman.

Whether it’s a broken heater or problems with water or mold, your landlord is required to fix it.

But if that’s not happening, here are a few ways to go about getting your repairs done.

Get it in writing

First, put the request for service (or repair/or complaint) in writing with a date in which you would like the owner or property manager to respond by, advised Shawanna Lindenberg, the housing department manager for Community Advocates.

Community Advocates is a community-based organization that provides advocacy and services to help low-income families and individuals in Milwaukee meet their basic needs.

No response? Here’s what you can do

Once you’ve taken that step, there a few other things you can do if there is no response.

You can reach out to the Department of Neighborhood Services or Community Advocates about withholding rent. With this method, you’ll pay rent to the department rather than paying rent to the owner. The payments are held in an escrow account until the owner has complied with violations.

A caution: Withholding rent can lead to eviction if tenants do it on their own.

“A tenant cannot withhold rent by themselves,” Nick Toman, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, told NNS during an interview in 2021. “Even if the property owner is in the wrong, withholding rent is shooting yourself in the foot.”

What to do if things escalate

If the issue leads to attempts to evict, you can reach out to Mediate Milwaukee.

According to Amy Koltz, the executive director of Mediate Milwaukee, mediators will act as a go-between to get the problem solved without conflict.

If you are living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions, Lindenberg suggests contacting the Department of Neighborhood Services immediately.

She said tenants who call the department and subsequently have repair orders issued on a property are typically protected from retaliation from the landlord for six months. They should contact Department of Neighborhood Services if they feel their landlord is retaliating.

Make sure you are prepared

In the event of extensive repairs, you should be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

“We strongly suggest that tenants who have more severe concerns (plumbing, sewage, electrical, heating, etc.) be prepared for the unit to be closed,” Lindenberg said. “When I say prepare, I mean make arrangements with family members that they could potentially double up with in the interim of being displaced and securing a new place.”

If you think you are in that situation, you can reach out to IMPACT 211 – by dialing 2-1-1 – for resources on emergency housing. IMPACT 211 is a central access point for people who need help to regain stability.

Resources for tenants

The Department of Neighborhood Services has a series of resources for tenants in need. You can learn more about rent withholding and other courses of action. You can call at 414-286-2268.

Community Advocates: It can assist with rent assistance, rent withholding and a series of other services. You can call it at 414-449-4777.

Mediate Milwaukee has mediators to help better communicate with your landlord or property owner. You can reach it at 414-939-8800.

DNS HomeSAFE Programs: This is a series of short, in-depth presentations on common household topics such as electrical and fire safety; how rent withholding works, rent abatement and mediation and illegal dumping.

Resources for landlords and homeowners

The Social Development Commission can assist with lead abatement, weatherization and other housing-related issues. You can call 414-906-2700.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council can help homeowners protect themselves from mortgage and foreclosure scams as well as from predatory home loans. You can call 414-278-1240.

Housing Resources Inc. can provide counseling to homeowners and has programs to help people avoid foreclosure. You can call 414-461-6330.

Acts Housing provides counseling and real estate agent representation to help low-income families transition from renting to home buying. You can call 414-933-2215.

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee: The Housing Authority’s Section 32 program offers guidance through the homebuying process and sells rehabilitated homes to low-income residents. The agency offers some grants and subsidies for down-payment assistance and forgivable second mortgages for current Housing Authority homeowners. You can call 414-286-5405.

The Bronzeville Resident Homeownership Initiative: The Bronzeville Homebuyer Assistance Program provides forgivable loans of up to $25,000 and technical assistance to help with property renovation for residents buying city-owned foreclosed homes in the Bronzeville Initiative area. You can call 414-286-5608.

Common Ground-Milwaukee Rising: Milwaukee Rising rehabilitates and sells foreclosed properties in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Matching grants of up to $5,000 are available for homeowners wanting to make repairs and improvements. Contact Bob Connolly at for more information.

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA, also offers resources for homebuyers.

Housing Help will directly connect you with city homeowners’ resources.

Take Root Milwaukee offers free or low-cost services that can help you buy, keep, or fix a home. For more information you can call 414-921-4149.

Here’s what you need to know to get a landlord to make repairs was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us