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The DNS Complaint Process

The Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) receives over 35,000 complaints per year with 75% of them on residential property. That averages to about 95 per day for every day of the week. In 1999 DNS was created to include elements of the former Health Department and Building Inspection Departments. With a volume like that, the public wants a quick response and the landlord wants to know what's the problem. Depending on the type of complaint, the type of response may differ. Landlords are encouraged to enroll their property in E-Notify whereby the City will send them an e-mail any time the City takes action on a property be it a complaint, permit or violation. You can even be alerted about crimes near the property.

BEFORE one calls DNS they should call their landlord or the building's owner about the problem. The owner information is available using our Land Management System (LMS). If the owner is unresponsive, then DNS should be your second call...not the first. In emergency cases like no water, DNS inspectors will try to contact the landlord first by phone. If a landlord has not recorded that information or the property is not required to record the owner's contact information with DNS we will have to send an inspector. Emergency cases are given the top priority with a response of typically 24 hours or less. Less urgent items could be scheduled for an inspection from 2-7 days depending on the season and existing work load. Where we can contact the owner, in most cases we attempt to resolve the matter with a phone call to the owner. The only real exceptions are in cases where an owner has a history of not complying or the conditions are such that they cannot be corrected within a short period of time (typically significant maintenance issues).

For certain items that tenants are responsible for, view our list of Tenant Duties.

In order to properly investigate complaints in a timely manner, we need accurate information. Most importantly, we need to contact the complainant and the landlord. We also need access to the building where the problem is alleged. Without this critical information unnecessary delays result as the inspector searches for the needed information or approvals to enter the building.

Before you call or make a complaint, have you called the landlord about the problem? If so and the response is not to your satisfaction be sure to have the following information:

  1. Your name and daytime phone number (All complainant names are kept confidential if you so request.)
  2. Name of the Landlord/Operator/Manager who is in charge of the building or collecting rent.
  3. Address of the building with the problem.
  4. A full description of the problem.

To make a complaint about a building related problem call (414) 286-2268, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Who will handle my complaint?

After you make a complaint, your information will be screened for the proper type of response. The common factor for DNS complaints is building or property related problems. For example, DNS will handle garbage in the yard or property, but not in the street. DNS will handle any broken building component, i.e., window, door, furnace, driveway, but not the public sidewalk in front of the property. The complaint intake person will attempt to make a referral if the subject is outside of DNS's jurisdiction. Certain types of complaints are NOT handled by Department of Neighborhood Services. Lead paint problems are handled by the Health Department. Disruptive neighbors and loud parties are handled by the Police Department

  • If the complaint is at a commercial business, the Commercial Enforcement section is contacted.
  • If the complaint is at a residential location (1-2 family homes), apartments, condos or public housing, regarding animals, autos, garbage, or building defects, then the Residential Enforcement section is contacted.
  • If the complaint is about some environmental issue, asbestos, masonary building cleaning, pools, hotels, motels, then the Environmental section is contacted.

Severely damaged buildings or those missing critical life/safety items like fire alarm systems, missing utilities for extended periods of time, may have to be evacuated until the critical items are restored. In those cases DNS will assist in providing relocation information services to those valid tenants impacted by a placard order. Tenants may have grounds for a lawsuit against a landlord who fails to provide housing per the terms of the written lease through neglect of maintenance items. Those cases are handled in the civil courts and not by DNS.

Following your Complaint

You can follow the progress on your complaint by logging into the DNS Land Management System (LMS). LMS is tracking and information program used by DNS to process all complaints. Simply enter the address and you can read the complaints, find the ownership, view the violation and review the permits. 

If a complaint leads to a building code violation and cannot be resolved in a timely manner, an order may be issued. If the order is not complied with it may result in court prosecution action against the owner. To learn more about how that process works see the Enforcement (Court) Section

Often landlords can avoid complaints by keeping illegal activity out of their property. The department offers FREE training on a regular basis to those owning or managing property. See the Landlord Training program for more information.

City of Milwaukee Department of Administration Director Sharon Robinson 

 Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM - 4:45 PM

 Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway, Room 104, Milwaukee, WI 53202

 Lake Tower, 4001 S. 6th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53221



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