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What We Do

Department of Neighborhood Service Reference Guide

Quick Reference Guide - 2016 version

This is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for the City or State codes.



Who Does What

COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS INSPECTION (286-3874): Property maintenance and fire safety relating to commercial buildings.
CONDEMNATION (286-2557): Severely fire damaged and dilapidated buildings.
ENVIRONMENTAL (286-3280): Asbestos, public & private swimming pools, massage establishments, dry cleaners, noise and light nuisances.
RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS INSPECTION (286-2268): Property maintenance, fire safety relating to 1 & 2 family residences and apartment buildings, and graffiti. 
ELECTRICAL - Trades (286-2532)
ELEVATORS - Trades (286-2532)
SPRINKLERS -Trades (286-3361)
CONSTRUCTION INSPECTION - Trades (286-2513): Alterations, new construction and complaints with improper installations or major system problems in their specialty areas.


Restaurants, taverns, or food stores
CONSUMER PROTECTION SECTION Health Department 286-3674
Indoor Air quality, Outdoor odors, Beach water quality & fish advisories, drinking water quality

Snow Shoveling/plowing on private property or in the public way
Tall Grass and weeds (more than 7")
Special Pick-ups/Bulky Item Pick-up
Dead Animals
Signs and Street lights
City-owned vacant lots (286-2489) clean-ups, mowing, and snow shoveling of sidewalks on City-owned lots.

General Code Requirements

Yards Litter Nuisance Control, Residential, Commercial, Vacant Lots They must be clean and free from mud, dust and erosion. Garbage problems on residential property- Vector Garbage problems on commercial properties or private vacant or dumping or improper storage of oil or other automotive fluids EH. Mud, dust and erosions-- CE Res or Comm. All problems on City-owned lots --Vacant Lots. Food store, taverns & restaurants go to Health-Consumer Protection

Vehicles--Nuisance Control
Nuisance vehicles on private property are handled by Residential Code Enforcement (286-2268). Vehicles in the public way (streets & alleys) are handled by Parking Enforcement (286-8350). The exterior of the building must be maintained in a good state of repair. Vacant buildings are not illegal but they must be secure, yard maintained (Snow and Grass removal) and registered. The interior must be in a good state of repair. The heating, plumbing, and electrical systems should work properly.
Responsibility for utility payments may rest with the tenants.


BIRD FEEDING - Nuisance Control as a part of DNS Residential Section
Feeding birds on the ground is illegal. No more than 4 feeders may be located on any premises. Any person wishing to make a complaint about someone feeding birds on the ground should call 286-2268. (Birds can
only be fed in a covered hopper, gravity type feeder on top of a rodent-proof pole which is at least 3.5 feet about ground and 6 feet from nearest climbable object or in a feeder suspended from a tree which is protected by rodent guards. No more than 4 feeders may be located on any premises.

BITES - Nuisance Control (excluding birds, reptiles, or small rodents) (s. 78-27) Any time an animal, residing in the City of Milwaukee, bites or scratches a human being resulting in the skin being broken, the bite/scratch should be reported to the Residential Code Enforcement Section at 286-2268. The person reporting the bite/scratch should have the following information available: Address of animal Type of Animal Date of Bite Name and phone number of animal owner (if known) Name of victim Address, age and phone number of victim Location of wound (i.e. hand, leg, face, etc.) Circumstances surrounding the bite/scratch How Bite Occurred Where Bite Occurred Description of Animal

Once the inspector receives the bite report, a visit will be made to both the animal's and victim's homes. The animal will be quarantined in the home for 10-14 days starting the date of the bite. After this period of time, the inspector will release the animal from quarantine by making another visit to the animal's home. At each visit, the animal must be observed by the inspector. During a quarantine period, no animal shall be taken for walks, left unattended outdoors, or be allowed to leave its premises for any reason. All animals are quarantined in their home unless the owner requests that the animal be taken to the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) for quarantine, the animal was loose at the time of bite and apprehended by either the Police, Humane Officers or Health Officers, or the animal's owner does not obey quarantine restrictions and this is brought to the Department of Neighborhood Services' attention.

A Residential Code Enforcement Inspector will investigate. If the complaint is verified, an order will be issued and a citation may be issued. Cruelty to animals is classified as obvious untreated injuries and also as leaving an animal outisde for any extended period of time without shelter, shade, or water.

DANGEROUS ANIMALS & PROHIBITED ANIMALS - Nuisance Control (ss. 78-23, 78-25)
An animal may be declared dangerous if it:
1. 'when unprovoked, bites or hurts a person, domestic pet or animal on public or private property
2. chases or approaches a person in a menacing fashion
3. has a known tendency or disposition to threaten the safety of humans or other domestic pets or animals

(An animal is not be deemed dangerous if it bites defending its owner, protecting its young or another animal, defends itself against any person or animal which has tormented, assaulted or abused it, or is defending it's owner or caretaker's property against trespassers.)

When an animal has been declared dangerous a Dangerous Animal Order will be issued to the animal owner or caretaker. Within 7 days, the owner has two options: 1) to comply with Sections 78-23-1 through 7 and 10 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, or 2) have the animal destroyed by the MADACC or a licensed veterinarian as pursuant to Section 78-23-11 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances.

Sections 78-23-1 through 7 and 10 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances are as follows: Whenever an owner or caretaker wishes to contest an order, he or she shall, within 72 hours of issuance of the order, deliver to the Residential Code Enforcement Section a written objection to the order. The Section Manager then convenes the dangerous animal hearing panel.

Prohibited Dangerous Animal
An animal that is determined to be a prohibited dangerous animal under s. 78-25 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances
is an animal that:
1. kills a domestic pet or animal without provocation while off the owner's property or
2. inflicts substantial bodily harm on a person without provocation on public or private property.
3. has been declared dangerous or ordered destroyed in another Wisconsin community
4. is owned or kept for the purpose of dog fighting.

When an animal has been declared a prohibited dangerous animal, a Prohibited Dangerous Animal Order will be issued on the animal owner. The animal must either be removed from the City of Milwaukee within 7 days of issuance or destroyed. The order may be appealed in writing within 72 hours of issuance of order.

DOGS, BARKING - Nuisance Control DISTURBING THE PEACE (barking, howling, crying, etc.) (s. 78-29) Occasional barking is not illegal. Complaints must be made in writing stating the animal's address, the complainant's name, address and phone number and a general description of the problem should be sent to Department of Neighborhood Services, 4001 S 6th St. 2nd Floor, Milwaukee, WI 53021.

All animal noise complaints must be made to the Nuisance & Environmental Health Section in writing. A letter stating the animal's address, the complainant's name, address and phone number and a general description of the problem should be sent to the above address. After the Section verifies both addresses, a warning letter will be typed. The letter will be mailed to the animal owner's home. The complainant will then be sent a follow-up letter letting them know a letter was issued along with a petition for commencement of prosecution. If the noise problem continues after the complainant receives the petition, the complainant must document dates and times that it is occurring after the warning letter was issued and return it. He/she should also try to get at least one person from another household, who is bothered by the noise, to sign the petition. Once DNS receives the petition a citation will be issued. A CITATION WILL NOT BE ISSUED UNLESS THE COMPLAINANT IS WILLING TO APPEAR IN COURT.

DOG & CAT AT LARGE & LITTERING - Residential Code Enforcement (ss. 78-19, 78-21) It is illegal for dogs and cats to run at large and litter. If an animal is running loose right now, call MADACC at 649-8640. All complaints regarding dogs and cats running at large and littering should be phoned in to 286-2268. The exact address of the violating animal and the complainant's name, address and phone number will be needed. After the addresses have been verified by the clerk, a warning letter is typed and mailed to the animal owner's home. The complainant will then be sent a follow-up letter letting them know a letter was issued along with a petition for commencement of prosecution.

If the problem persists after the complainant has received the petition, he/she must document on the petition the times and dates that the problem is occurring after the warning letterand try to get at least one other household bothered by the problem to sign the petition. The petition then gets sent back to DNS. If the complainant is willing to appear in court with the dog owner, a citation will be issued. A CITATION WILL NOT BE ISSUED UNLESS THE COMPLAINANT IS WILLING TO APPEAR IN COURT. 

DOG & CAT LICENSES - MADACC - All dogs and cats over the age of five months residing in the City of Milwaukee must be licensed annually. Lack of a dog/cat license for your pet could result in you receiving a citation for each unlicensed pet. Anyone interested in obtaining a dog/cat license should call MADACC at 649-8640 or visit

The City no Longer performs animal capture services. All requests for capture of nuisance animals such as skunks, raccoons, stray dogs or cats, etc. should be referred to an animal control service or pest control service. Stray dogs or cats, etc. should be referred to the MADACC. It can be reached at 414-649-8640.


The owner of a building is responsible for extermination prior to renting. The owner of a building with two or more units is responsible for extermination when the infestation exists in parts of
the building controlled by more than one occupant or when the infestation is in shared or public areas. Whenever infestation is caused by failure of the owner to maintain a structure in a reasonably rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition, extermination shall be the responsibility of the owner.

The occupant of a single family property is responsible for extermination on that property. When there is more than one unit, the occupant is responsible for extermination in their unit if the infestation is limited to their unit only. 

Owners must keep all buildings and yards free from rodents or vermin. If the owner fails to comply with an order to do so, the Department can correct the condition and put the charges on the tax roll.

COMMERCIAL PESTICIDE APPLICATOR REGISTRATION: Any person who applies pesticides within the City of Milwaukee for profit must be registered with the Residential Code Enforcement Division. There is an annual registration fee plus a late fee per person, if applicable. For more information or for a pre-application call 286-8674. 

FARM/EXOTIC/ WILD ANIMALS IN THE CITY (includes special events like petting zoos, festivals, etc.) (s. 78-5)
The following animals are prohibited within the city either temporarily or permanently: live bees, fowl, cows, cattle, horses, sheep, swine, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese or any other domesticated livestock. Exceptions are places approved by the commissioner of health for slaughtering, educational purposes, research purposes and for circuses or similar recreational events.

Any person wanting to bring a horse, cow, wild cat, etc. into the city for a private party, special event, petting zoo, festival, etc. shall submit in writing to the Nuisance & Environmental Health Section a letter providing the following information:

How will the animal(s) be brought into the City and who will bring them in?
Where is the animal(s) usually kept?
How long will the animal(s) be here?
How will the animal(s) be held?
How will they take the animal(s) back?
They must guarantee us that the animal(s) will have food, water and shelter.
Animal(s) must be kept 100 feet from a food service area or where food is being prepared.
Feces must be picked up routinely, kept in covered containers and disposed of properly
If the animal bites, the bite must be reported to the Nuisance & Environmental Health Section and also to the jurisdiction of where the animal resides.
For more information call the DNS Residential Code Enforcement Section at 286-5571.

Migrating roaches are roaches visibly seen moving from one home to another. An exact address must be given to the receptionist at the time of the complaint. The inspector will investigate and if confirmed, a pesticide will be applied to the exterior of the property. (s. 80-31 regarding compost piles) Migrating roach complaints should be directed to the DNS Residential Code Enforcement Section 286-2268.

The owner of a building with two or more units is responsible when the infestation exists in parts of the building controlled by more than one occupant or when the infestation is in shared or public areas. The occupant of a single family property is responsible for extermination on that property. When there is more than one unit, the occupant is responsible for extermination in their unit if the infestation is limited to their unit only.

Nests on private property are the responsibility of the property owner and are not illegal. DNS will take complaints on city-owned trees. Any complaints about hornet or bee nests in City of Milwaukee trees should be referred to the Residential Code Enforcement Section at 286-2268. The information will either be sent to a private company for live removal at night or the inspector will spray the nest. DNS will not remove the nest. After the first hard frost, most of the stinging insects wil die inside the nest and it is no longer necessary to spray the nest. Nests are not reused by other insects the following year. 

ODOR NUISANCE-(caused by animals)
Any odor caused by excess animal litter outside in a yard should be referred to DNS Residential at 286-2268. An order will be issued to clean the premises and the animal owner will be advised to pick up litter on a daily basis.

FANCIER PERMIT (allowing an individual a fourth or fifth adult dog and/or cat) (s. 78-7-2)
Any complaints regarding the number of animal residing in a dwelling unit can be sent to the DNS Residential Code Enforcement Section at 286-2268. No more than three adult dogs and/or cats are allowed in any one dwelling unit. In single and two-family dwelling units, a fourth or fifth dog and/or cat can reside if the owner/tenant has an animal fancier permit obtained through our office. There is an annual fee permit and is subject to an annual inspection of the dwelling unit. More frequent inspections must be allowed on a complaint basis. Animal fancier permits are not allowed in multiple dwelling units. Anyone violating this will be subject to prosecution. See animal fee page for current prices. 

PET SHOPS, KENNELS, GROOMING ESTABLISHMENTS, STABLES (ss. 78-7, 78-9, 78-11, 78-13, 78-15)
Any complaints regarding the above should be directed to the DNS Residential Code Enforcement Section at 286-2268. The above establishments are subject to yearly inspections, or more frequent inspections on a complaint basis. There is an annual fee, see animal fee page for current prices. 

PIGEONS - Nuisance Control
We provide an instructional pamphlet on how to prevent pigeons from roosting on a property. We investigate and issue orders but do not abate pigeons on private property. For complaints of 25 + pigeons roosting under bridge overpasses, railroad trestles, bill boards, etc., the city will investigate and obtain permission from the DNR before placing bait. All pigeon complaints should be referred to the Residential Code Enforcement Section at 286-2268. For information on how to prevent pigeons from roosting on your own property, an informational pamphlet is available for City of Milwaukee residents. For neighboring problems with roosting pigeons, an exact address is needed before the inspector can investigate and if necessary issue orders to pigeon proof the home. 

Injured Animals - LIVE ANIMALS ONLY (MADACC), Dead Animals (DPW Sanitation)
Dead animals including road kill are picked up by DPW Sanitation either at the curb, in street or wrapped in plastic and placed in cart. (s. 78-21) If an animal is running loose right now, call MADACC 649-8640 and an animal control officer will be dispatched to the area. Any person who has an unwanted or stray animal in their possession that needs to be picked up and transported to MADACC, please call 649-8640. 

RABBITS, GUINEA PIGS, FERRETS, ETC. - Residential Code Enforcement Section
Rabbits or guinea pigs may not be kept in apartment buildings or multiple dwelling units.. Any ferret that is involved in a bite must be surrendered to DNS and then sacrificed for rabies testing. (This does not include ferrets that have been inoculated against rabies.) No rabbits or guinea pigs may be kept within multiple dwelling units. 

RATS - Residential Code Enforcement Section
An inspector will look for active rat infestations at that location and issue an order on the property owner if an infestation is found. (s. 80-48-4). If there is an active rat infestation, the inspector will place bait. The inspector will continue to place bait until there is no longer any acceptance. The person owning or in control of the premises must remove the material causing the harborage. Lumber, boxes, and similar materials must be neatly piled at least one foot above the ground.

Generally, owners must keep the building in good repair. This includes the interior and exterior of the building as well as any equipment which is part of the building. It also includes the yard. For simplicity, the term 'Owner' also includes operators, persons firms or corporations in charge of or in control of any building or structure.


FENCES- must be maintained or removed.

GARAGE DOORS--Garages must have operative doors on all openings

PUBLIC AREA--Service walks, steps, driveways, parking spaces, etc. must be kept in a proper state of repair.

ADDRESS NUMBERS- buildings must have legible address numbers at least 3 inches high on the front of the building, and at the rear or side of properties that abut an alley

Litter complaints related to most properties are handled by DNS - 286-2268. 

Litter and garbage complaints that are related to food establishments or taverns are handled by the Health Department 286-3674.

GARBAGE/LITTER (Chapter 79-12, 79-1-7)
Complaints regarding garbage lying on the ground at residential properties should be called into DNS Residential Code Enforcement at 286-2268. Once verified an order will be issued on the property owner to abate the problem. A reinspection will be made 7 days after the order is mailed. If the garbage has been cleaned up the order will be OK'd. If the garbage problem still exists, the inspector will take pictures of the problem and send them along with an inspectional copy of the order to the downtown office for placing on a bid list. Private contractors will bid on the problem properties. Once the properties are abated by the winning contractor, the cost of the abatement by the contractor along with Department administrative fees will be placed on the property owner's tax bill at the end of the year. Any complaints regarding piles of grass, leaves, brush, dirt, manure, etc. will be treated the same as garbage/rubbish/litter. (NOTE: Leaves and grass are only actionable by the Department when they have been raked into a pile. If they are left where they fall or were cut (grass) it is not actionable by the Department.

Occupant must dispose of rubbish in a clean and sanitary manner by placing it in proper containers.

The City provides residential property garbage carts based on the size and number of units. Large commercial properties many require private collection services which will provide their private containers.

Properties must be graded and drained so that no stagnant water accumulates and no soil spills onto the sidewalk, street or adjoining property as a result of soil erosion. Premises must be covered with grass, ground cover or paving material. If an owner doesn't comply with an order to landscape, the department can correct the condition and put the charges on the taxroll. 

VEHICLES-ILLEGALLY PARKED ON RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY (unlicensed, on unpaved surface, too many) (ss.
295-75, 252-74) DNS Residential Section (286-2268)

1. The parking of any vehicle on an unapproved surface on a residential property is illegal. Vehicles are not allowed to be parked on grass or dirt.

2. Vehicles can only be parked on cement, asphalt, or macadam surfaces; or on a gravel driveway which has existed since before 1976.

3. Not more than four vehicles may be parked on a residential single family or duplex property at any one time. Not more than I commercial vehicle may be parked on a lot in a single, two-family or multi-family district. Such vehicle may not exceed 18 feet in length nor have more than 4 wheels.

4. Not more than one recreational vehicle, other than motorcycles and snowmobiles, may be parked on a lot in a single, two-family or multi-family district. Such vehicle may not exceed 18 feet in length nor have more than four wheels.

5. The parking of any vehicle on residential property outside of an enclosed garage or shed is prohibited if the vehicle is not currently licensed.

Violators will be issued an order to correct the condition. At time of reinspection, if condition has not changed a municipal citation will be issued. (Any unlicensed vehicles parked in the street or alley should be referred to the district Police station.)

VEHICLES-NUISANCE VEHICLES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY-DNS Residental Section (broken windows, flat tires, dismantled) (s. 80-49)
Nuisance vehicles are classified as vehicles that are damaged, unsecured, partially dismantled, favorable to the harborage or rodents and insects, etc. The address of any nuisance vehicles on private property is needed. (Any nuisance vehicles located on city streets or in city alleys should be referred to your district Police station.) When the inspector verifies that the vehicle is a nuisance, he/she will fill out a Report of Nuisance Vehicle, and forward it to the central office for processing. A Nuisance Vehicle Order will be sent to the property owner and a Nuisance Vehicle Notice will be sent to the vehicle owner, if known. A copy of the order will also be posted on the door of the property and a copy of the notice and a condemnation sticker will be placed on the vehicle. When the inspector reinspects within 14 days, if the vehicle condition remains unchanged, he/she will reapply a condemned sticker to the vehicle (if sticker has been removed) and take pictures of the vehicle. The paperwork will then be forwarded to the downtown office for referral to the Department of Public Works for towing. The cost of this plus Department costs will be placed on the property owner's tax bill at the end of the year.

The owner of the property has the option of having the vehicle removed free of charge, which is explained in the order they receive. The vehicle owner has the option of sending the Department a $10 check or money order and the title of the vehicle, which is explained in the notice they receive, and the vehicle will then be removed with no further costs incurred.

the exterior of a building must be kept in a good state of repair and maintained by the owner or operator.

CHIMNEYS-- must be adequately supported, reasonably clean, and in a reasonably good state of repair

DECORATIVE FEATURES-- must be maintained in good repair.

DOORS--SEE ALSO SECURITY-doors, hinges, latches & locks must be maintained in good condition.

FOUNDATIONS-- must be weatherproof and pest-proof and in a reasonably good state of repair.

MASONRY-- Previously painted masonry surfaces must be maintained painted or have the paint removed

METAL (Iron or Steel) must be properly surface-coated to prevent deterioration.

PORCHES-- must be reasonably safe to use, able to support normal use, and in a reasonably good state of repair. GUARDRAILS are generally required on porches. The specific requirements may vary and the code should be checked. Generally, guardrails in one and 2-family dwellings must be not less than 36 inches in height. Guardrails in other occupancies must be not less than 42 inches in height.

ROOFS-- must be weatherproof and pest-proof and in a reasonably good state of repair.

Water must drain so it doesn't damage the interior or exterior of the building; and it should be directed so it doesn't damage the adjoining premises.

Except for private detached accessory buildings smaller than 1,000 square feet in area, all roofs must have approved gutters and downspouts which are properly installed and in a good repair.

ROOFING MATERIAL. Rolled roofing material cannot be installed over any existing roofing material except existing rolled roofing.

SIGNS, AWNINGS, STAIRWAYS, STANDPIPES, EXHAUST DUCTS, ETC. must be in good repair, and protected from the elements by a weather-coating material such as paint.

STAIRWAYS-- must be reasonably safe to use, able to support normal use, and in a reasonably good state of repair. HANDRAILS are usually required if there are more than 3 risers (The distance from tread surface to tread surface) must have at least one handrail. The specific requirement vary depending on the situation and it is normally necessary to consult the code.

STRUCTURAL MEMBERS-- must be structurally sound and able to bear the loads imposed upon them.

WALLS--must be weatherproof and pest-proof and in a reasonably good state of repair.

WINDOWS-- see also security-- Must be reasonably weather-tight, rodent-proof, & in good working condition, and in a reasonably good state repair. Except for fixed windows, windows must be capable of being easily opened and must be held in position by window hardware.

WOOD SURFACES-- must be reasonably protected from the elements by paint or other approved coating

-- must be maintained in a safe and sanitary condition.

CEILING-- must be kept in a reasonably good state of repair and able be kept clean and sanitary.

CLEANLINESS - Occupant's Responsibility.
Occupants must keep the part of the building they occupy in a clean and sanitary condition. Owners of a building with two or more units must keep the public areas in a clean and sanitary condition. Owners
must keep vacant land in a clean and sanitary condition.

DAMPNESS-- Basements and crawl spaces must be reasonably free from dampness

DOORS AND HARDWARE must be in a good state of repair.

If you have 2 or more exits from the dwelling you cannot reduce the number to less than 2. Second floor airing porches may be counted as one of the exits from second floor units if a second exit was not provided. Doors that serve more than one unit must be locked when the building is occupied. Locking devices which require the use of a key to exit (double key deadbolts) are not allowed. A permit is required to close off any door or window.

FLOORS- must be kept in a reasonably good state of repair and able be kept clean and sanitary. Bathroom and kitchen floor surface must be substantially impervious to water.

STAIRWAYS-- must be safe to use and able to support the anticipated loads. Stairways with more than 3 risers must have at least one handrail mounted on the left, as one mounts the stairs. If open on both sides they must have a handrail on each open side. Handrails must be between 30 and 34 inches high. New handrails must rails or an ornamental pattern which will prevent the passage of an object with a diameter larger than 6 inches (roughly the size of a child's head) Handrails in industrial occupancies must provide an intermediate rail at mid-height.

WALLS-- must be kept in a reasonably good state of repair and able be kept clean and sanitary.

STRUCTURAL MEMBERS must be structurally sound and able to carrying the imposed loads.



Occupants of a dwelling must have unrestricted access to a kitchen sink, toilet, bath and lavatory basin. The requirements are substantially different if the property is a licensed rooming house.

Every toilet and bath must be in a room or separate rooms which afford privacy to a person within the rooms. They cannot be used as a passageway and must be accessible from any sleeping room without passing through another sleeping room.

fixtures and pipes must be in a safe and useable condition and made of approved material.

Every sink, bathtub, toilet or other fixture must be properly connected to an approved water system. All sinks, lavatories, bathtubs and showers must have hot and cold running water. There must be enough volume and pressure so the fixtures can work properly. Water heaters must be properly connected to the water system, and must be able to providing an adequate amount of hot water at a temperature of not less than 110ºF.

Every fixture must be properly connected to either a public sewer system or to an approved private sewage disposal system and must function properly.

Every dwelling unit must be supplied with a heating facility unless the heat is provided by a central heating facility. The facilities must be in reasonably good working condition, and be capable of adequately heating all habitable rooms, bathrooms and toilet rooms to a temperature of at least 67 degrees Fahrenheit. at a distance 3 feet above floor level when the outdoor temperature is at or above 10 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Every owner who rents, 'with heat' must maintain a minimum temperature of 67 degrees Fahrenheit continuously. It must be in reasonably good operating condition and must provide an adequate amount of heat. The seals between the sections of a hot air furnace must be tight so noxious gases will not escape into heat ducts.

All cooking and heating equipment must be maintained free from leaks and kept functioning properly so as to be free from fire, health and accident hazards. Portable cooking equipment employing flame is prohibited, except for approved residential type equipment which is heated by a candle or alcohol lamp.

Fireplaces and other devices intended for use similar to a fireplace must be stable and structurally safe and connected to approved chimneys.

They must be maintained in reasonably good working condition. Except for electric heaters, portable heaters are not allowed. If they burn solid, liquid or gas fuels, they must be vented to a chimney or duct leading outdoors. Coal-burning space heater must have a fire-resistant panel beneath it. Generally, a space heater located within two feet of a wall must be insulated to prevent the overheating of the wall. The smoke pipe must be constructed of nonflammable material where it goes through a wall or ceiling.


All occupied buildings must have electricity from WEPCO. Generally, habitable rooms must have one ceiling or wall light fixture and one outlet. In lieu of a ceiling-type or wall-type electric light fixture, a bedroom and a dining room may each contain at least two separate electric outlets. Every outlet and fixture must be properly installed and maintained. All electrical equipment must be properly installed and maintained.

FUSES & CIRCUIT BREAKERS-ACCESS Occupants must have access to fuses/circuit breakers for the circuits supplying their unit. In a multiple-occupancy building where electric service and maintenance are provided by the building management and where these are under continuous building management supervision, the fuses/breakers must be accessible to authorized personnel only.


Fire inspections are conducted at least once a year on all commercial buildings and all residential buildings of 3 units or more. There is an annual fee for periodic fire inspections.

No person may obstruct any exit, stairway, fire escape, or hall if it blocks fire access or safe in case of a fire or other emergency.

Must be tested once a week and a written record kept.

Must be serviced once a year by a qualified person and tagged. Residential properties of more than four units must have fire extinguisher.

A smoke detector must be installed in the basement and each floor level except in an unfinished attic or storage area. Detector must be installed within six ft. of each sleeping areas. In addition, apartment buildings (3 or more units), detectors must be installed every 25ft in corridors, at the door leading to enclosed stairways at each floor level and at the head of every open stairs.

State law that required carbon monoxide detectors in multifamily and any public building used for sleeping purposes hase now been extended to 1 and two family homes that feature fuel burning equipment and NOT utilizing a sealed combustion chamber. Newly constructed homes will require detectors that are directly wired to the home's electrical service; owners of existing homes may use battery-powered, stand-alone detectors. One is required in the basement if the fuel burning appliance is located there.  One is required within 15 ft of every sleeping area and in each room not a sleeping room that has a fuel buring appliance (fire place). If a multi-unit residential not more than one per unit is required. If a hallway connects the sleeping area to the room with a fuel buring appliance, one must be with 75 ft. on the hall or the neared electrical outlet. One is required on every floor excluding the garage and attic or storage area. Freezing can damage carbon monoxide detectors.

The owner must furnish, install and maintain smoke detectors in dwelling units and common areas.

The occupant of a dwelling unit must maintain any smoke detector in that unit, except in a case where the occupant is not the owner gives written notice to the owner that the detector is not functional. The owner must repair or replace the detector to make it functional.

No person may tamper with a smoke detector to: render it inoperative, remove it from its installed location, remove batteries except to immediately replace them

It's illegal to store any combustible or noncombustible materials in bulk or in containers in any building or structure except in grain elevators or in compliance required clearances.

You can't have gasoline or white gas, or propane containers larger than 2.5 lbs. within a dwelling, including basements and attics.

No stairway may be used for storage of any material or equipment. No gas or electric meters, and no gas or refrigeration piping maybe installed within any stair enclosures.

OTHER-- Graffiti, Property Registration, Security, and Zoning

Owners may not allow graffiti to remain on their buildings. DNS attempts to correct conditions through advisory notices, abatement by neighborhood or other groups. The Department may order an owner to remove graffiti. If the owner does not comply with the order, DNS may remove the graffiti and charge the owner.

Applies to all residential building classifications, apartment buildings, one and two family dwellings.

Buildings built after June 24,1989.
There are specific construction requirements dealing with hinges, locks, frames, windows, & doors. Specific questions should be directed to the Construction Section X 2513 an inspector or supervisory

This section applies to all residential classification buildings, apartment buildings and one or two family buildings constructed before June 24th, 1989. Exceptions include owner occupied units or a building with an operating security alarm system in all units. Generally the code requires that:

OUTSIDE DOORS have a latching device and a deadbolt type or tamperproof lock with a 1/2" minimum bolt. Locks must be openable from the exterior with a key.

UNIT DOORS leading to the exterior or exterior access doors must have a deadbolt type lock openable from the exterior with a key.

SLIDING DOORS-within 10' of grade leading to the exterior, must be constructed to prevent the removal of the panels from the exterior, and equipped with a locking device

WINDOWS-Wooden double hung windows within 10' of grade must have a lock or latch which will prevent the opening of the window from the outside and must have a device which will allow the window to be fixed in an open position of not less than 4" and not more than 6" and will prevent it to be opened further from the outside. Bars or security screens removable from the inside may be used instead of locks or pins. Latches on storm windows do not satisfy this requirement.


Property Registration
Owners of buildings must record their property with the Dept. Exceptions are owner occupied I or 2 family dwellings, owner occupied condominiums, licensed facilities jails, convents, monasteries, parish rectories, hospitals and government owned buildings.

ZONING & Zoning Section
The Zoning Code regulates what types of activities can take place in what zoning districts. The most common zoning complaints and violations are:

1. Illegal Auto Repair Facilities
Generally, it is illegal to operate an auto repair facility on a residential property.
2. Junking and Illegal storage
It is illegal to store material outside or to run a junk yard in a residential areas. It is also illegal in most other areas unless the a proper occupancy permit is issued
3. Illegal Rooming Houses
It is illegal for more than 3 un-related individuals to live in a dwelling unit unless the property has a rooming house license

Environmental Section (414) 286-3280

Removal of asbestos-containing materials must be performed by trained, State of Wisconsin certified individuals. In many instances, depending on the amount of material being removed, a permit is required. If you see anyone who is removing or disposing of materials that you may believe to be asbestos (such as pipe insulation and certain types of siding) or need a permit to remove it, you should call 286-3280.

Citizens may call in to complain about bright lights that may be causing them discomfort or are bothering them in some way. In order to correct this situation, the citizen must submit a written petition/letter to the Environmental Section. Calls can be forwarded to 286-3280 for clarification or if further information is required.  A written petition/letter must be submitted and contain the following information in order to be processed: the complainant's name and address, the address of the property where the alleged nuisance light is installed, a brief description of the light source, and the complainant's signature.

NOISE NUISANCE (Chapter 80-60 thru 80-74)
Citizens may call in and complain about loud noise coming from a mechanical part of a building. Types of noises may include, air conditioners, any type
of mechanical noise, factory noises, etc. Noise complaints only handled by the Police Department (414) 333-4444 include vehicular
noises (while on a public right-of-way) and disturbing of the peace issues (boisterous individuals, fighting etc.). Certain
noises are exempt from the regulations, such as air traffic and railroads. A temporary noise variance can be obtained for
construction projects or festivals or other similar events which may have a tendency to exceed the noise limits. If
someone would like to make a complaint or apply for a variance, they should call 286-33280 for information. To file a complaint submit the name, address and phone number of the complainant, description of the noise, where it is coming from, the times of occurrence and any other pertinent information.

Here is the link to the information for a Noise Variance Request: or call (414) 286-3280.

It is illegal to dispose of waste tires in the City of Milwaukee by placing them in the green garbage carts , using trash dumpsters or throwing them on vacant lots. Citizens are allowed to take up to five at a time to any of the City's Self-Help Stations at no cost. Inquiries about licenses should be directed to the City Clerk's Office at 286-2238

SERVICE REQUEST- To make a complaint we need the name, address and phone number of the complainant as well as the location and approximate number of waste tires dumped. We also request the time the dumping may have occurred or a description of the vehicle or persons that were involved with this activity.

A construction permit is required for a swimming pool equal to or greater than 15 ft. x 4ft. in size. An application with a sketch along with a fee, plus a penalty fee if constructed without the permit, is submitted for review. An inspection of the area where the pool is to be placed is conducted prior to construction. Along with requirements of placement near lot lines and climbable structures, there are electrical, plumbing, and fencing permit issues that may need to be looked at by other sections. Any nuisances such as draining pools onto neighboring properties or dirty, stagnant water and requests for pool construction permit applications should be directed to 286-3280. To make a complaint, please provide the name, address and phone number of the complainant, address where the nuisance is occurring as well as description of the nuisance. PERMIT INFORMATION is available at the Development Center, 809 N. Broadway first floor, Milwaukee, WI 53202  (414) 286-8210.

BACKYARD POOLS (CHapter 75-20)
A construction permit is required for swimming pools equal to or greater than 15ft x 3ft in size. An application with a sketch and fee is submitted for review. An inspection of the area where the pool is to be placed is conducted prior to construction. Along with requirements of placement near lot lines and climable structures, there are electrical, plumbing, and fencing permit issues that may need to be looked at by other sections. Any nuisances such as draining pools onto neighborhing properties or dirty, stagnant water should be directed to 286-2268. Requests for pool construction permits should be directed to 286-3280.

LITTER (Chapter 79)
All service requests related to litter on commercial properties or vacant lots as well as those related to the dumping or improper storage of oil or other automotive fluids should be sent to 286-2268. To make a SERVICE REQUEST please provide the name, address and phone number of the complainant as well as a description of the nuisance and address where the nuisance is present. For requests related to oil spillage or dumping, get a description of the vehicle (make, model and license plate) and a location of where the vehicle is usually parked.

Licenses are issued to one campground (State Fair Park) annually and 5 mobile home parks biannually during even years by the Environmental and Nuisance Control Division. Service requests or license information requests should be directed to 286-3280. To make a LICENSE OR SERVICE REQUEST please provide the Name, address and phone number of the person requesting the information. 

All Dry-cleaning establishments (facilities where dry-cleaning is done on site) are required to obtain annual operating permits. The permit period is February 1 thru January 31. Questions, service requests, and permit information related to these facilities should be directed to 286-3280. 

The Department issues annual licenses to all public filling stations. Licenses are not transferable to new owners. The inspection encompasses fire safety, sanitation and the storage, handling and use of hazardous chemicals. Additionally, inspections are made relative to complaints about the above items. Any questions relative to licensing should be directed to the City Clerk's office, 286-2238.

HOTELS & MOTELS - Commercial
DNS licenses these properties annually. The license period is one year. 

DNS operates a landlord training and tenant training program to educate landlords about illegal behavior in property and tenants about illegal rental practices.  DNS OUT REACH also serves the community attending housing seminars, community fairs and public events featuring social services. See the Landlord Training Program page for more information.

Self-service Laundromats are inspected annually and upon complaints to DNS. Liscenses are issued annual by the City Clerk's Office. Calls should be directed to 286-3280.

All massage establishments are licensed through the City Clerk's office and inspected annually for code compliance. All complaints and requests for license information should be directed to (414) 286-3280.

DNS Commercial Code Enforcement licenses these properties annually. The license period is one year. There is license fee for a Type 1, 8 occupants or less, and for a type 2, 9 occupants or more. For details or complaints about rooming houses, contact DNS Commercial Enforcement at (414) 286-3874. 

All public swimming places are inspected and licensed annually. Periodic inspections are made throughout the year to check items such as pool chemistry levels, safety concerns, sanitation of the facility, record keeping, etc. All new construction of pools and temporary pools or water attractions, require a plan review and construction permit with fee.



Required by State law, these are done by Residential & Commercial Code Enforcement on apartment and commercial buildings. They are done at least once per year. The inspection usually includes the exterior of the building and the common areas. The major emphasis is on fire safety issues but may include other life safety and maintenance items.

When staff is available, we survey targeted geographic areas to identify exterior code violations. When properties in need of repair and are a blighting influence, orders are written to correct the conditions. By targeting its efforts, we can have a greater positive impact on the condition and value of properties in the neighborhoods.

NEIGHBORHOOD, BUSINESS, AND LANDLORD GROUPS INSPECTIONS We provide support for community-based organizations, business redevelopment groups and land lord compacts. The theory behind this support is that many property maintenance problems can be resolved by the groups without the need for our formal intervention, and that where our intervention is needed the groups can help target it to where it is needed the most.

LICENSE INSPECTIONS We perform inspections prior to issuing a variety of licenses.

We perform a variety of permit inspections relating to the construction and alterations of buildings and related equipment. We also perform permit inspections relating to asbestos removal.

In addition to the periodic fire and licensing inspections we also perform periodic safety inspections including, signs,
billboards, sprinkler, elevators, boilers, and covered openings.

We try to resolve as many complaints as possible by phone. We attempt to contact the owner by phone and attempt to work out an acceptable timetable to correct the problem. We then inform the complainant of the timetable and ask that the complainant call back if the problem is not resolved. In some cases we'll spot check what happened even if we don't receive a call back. If the matter is taken care of, the case is closed. If an owner will not agree to resolve the problem, or if the owner reneges on a commitment we follow through with an inspection and orders. Some complaints, especially those involving extensive repairs are better handled with written orders. In those cases, we will make an inspection and issue orders. Individuals who file complaints must provide the address of the property in question and must be willing to provide their name. Anonymous complaints are not taken. The names of complainants are not Public information and are not to be released

Courtesy Inspections
A new DNS program to help review complicated or "What if" occupancies is called Courtesy Inspections. For a modest fee, prospective buyers can get a preliminary overview of the technical issues and potential hurdles of a suggested occupancy for a building and know going in to plan what is going to be required and the proper code path that will be used.  A review by all DNS trades inspectors is included. This saves time and effort and gets all parties talking along the same lines to avoid any "surprises". It is highly recommended for speculative work or those not in the developer/builder environs. Here is the link to the Courtesy Inspections Program.  While not a replacement for an architectural submittal, it will help in getting the "hot" issues identified early on.


In some cases the Department may choose to notify the owner by sending an advisory notice. These notices alert the owner that a possible code violation exists and should be corrected. They are not legally enforceable orders.

An order is a legal notice that the department has determined that there are code violations on your property that must be corrected in a specified time. The order describes the conditions, sets the time frame for compliance, and advises the owner of their appeal rights and the consequences of noncompliance. In most cases, failure to correct the condition will result in a Municipal fine. In some cases the Department can actually take corrective action. The cases include garbage nuisances, nuisance vehicles, board-ups, emergency repairs, and demolitions.

When an order is issued it has a stated compliance time. This time can be extended by an inspector or supervisor for good cause which typically is the owner's demonstrated progress to complete the work. If there is no compliance, the owner may be invited to participate in a Precourt Conference. The conference is held with a hearing officer from the Department and the owner is asked to agree to a compliance plan. If the owner doesn't appear at the hearing, fails to agree to a plan, or fails to comply with a plan, the owner is referred for prosecution in Municipal Court.

In some cases an owner who fails to correct a code violation may be issued a citation (a ticket). Typically citations are used in Vector, Environmental Health, or Zoning issues.

In a nuisance action, the City asks that a property be declared a public nuisance and that a receiver be appointed by the court to correct the conditions and manage the property. These actions are taken in Circuit court. Typically they involve properties where there has been a history of non-compliance and/or a history of criminal or disruptive behavior.

State law permits the City to order an owner to raze their building if the cost of repair exceeds 50% of the value of the property. If the owner fads to do so, the City can raze the property and the owner becomes liable for the charges.

The City's rent withholding ordinance allows tenants to deposit their rent into an escrow account if an owner fails to comply with an order when it comes due. The owner is notified that the rent is being paid to us. The rent is held until the work is complete. An owner can withdraw funds from the account to pay for documented repairs.

The City can make emergency repairs to a property if the owner fails to do so. The costs of these repairs, along with a service fee, become a tax lien. Typically these relate to plumbing, heating, and electrical problems.

Some owners do everything in their power to avoid compliance. Consequently they become more expensive enforcement concerns. To offset the higher costs we can charge a reinspection fee for every reinspection except the one where there is compliance. The fees become a tax lien.

State law allows tenants to abate a portion of their rent if conditions are such that a portion of their unit is unusable.
Rent abatement is an individual action by the tenant and is not administered by Neighborhood Services.





Last update 07/29/2016


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Milwaukee, WI 53202

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