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Building Plans/Tax Rolls

City Records is the permanent repository for all building plans subject to examination by the City Development Center, as well as for official tax rolls and tax payment records for real estate and personal property. Members of the public looking for building plans should contact City Records to confirm the existence of plans for the requested address, then must complete an Application for Inspection/Copy of Structure Plan prior to viewing records.

As of June 2021, customers wishing to fill out their application ahead of time should email [email protected] with their name, the address of the property being requested, and optionally the type of plan being requested. You will receive an email linking to a DocuSign form to complete and e-Sign. As of October 2023, building owners and plan submitters will not be notified of inspection of plans of their properties, unless they are owners of secure structures.

Per Milwaukee Code of Ordinances Ch. 311, City Records reserves the right to deny access to building plans of “secure structures” when providing such access is deemed contrary to public interest. Secure Structure plans may still be viewed via provision of written permission from the property owner.

No conditions apply to viewing tax rolls or tax payment records. City Records also maintains sale histories of properties with transaction dates before 1988 and can locate those for customers using similar procedures for looking up tax records. For both tax and property records, a nominal charge may be applied to production of copies, payable by cash or check.

Building Plan FAQs

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  Why doesn't City Records have the plans I'm looking for?

The plans maintained in City Records are received from the Development Center, which reviews plans as part of the approval process for permits for new construction, additions, or alterations. Not every type of permit requires plan submission, and not every building within City limits will have submitted plans for original or modified construction. Plans submitted before the mid-1980s were typically commercial buildings, and especially for "public assembly"-type buildings such as theaters and houses of worship. Additionally, some plans for projects recently approved or completed may not yet have been scanned into our system.

For some older or historically-significant buildings, the Wisconsin Architectural Archive in the Zeidler Humanities Room of Central Library may have plans or drawings.

  Is there a fee associated with copies of building plans?

Per Wis. Stat. § 19.35(3), City Records may charge a fee equivalent to the "actual, necessary and direct" cost of locating and reproducing records for members of the public. We charge this fee to recoup costs associated with scanning and indexing building plans and/or locating plans on microfiche and converting them to a digital format for distribution. The fee for copies of building plans is $1.50/page (or $0.15/page for standard 8.5 x 11 pages). If you are requesting plans with a total cost of $50 or more (approx. 33 pages), we may require prepayment before releasing plans. Please make checks out to City of Milwaukee.

Requestors wishing to inspect, but not reproduce, building plans may be able to view plans at the City Records Center for reduced or no cost. All application and secure structure requirements still apply in such cases.

  Are there other collections within City Records that may contain building plans?

Yes! The records of the Historic Preservation Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals case files often include building plans or architectural drawings as part of their supporting evidence. City Records staff can help you identify related files that have been scanned and added to the City's electronic document management system. Historic Preservation shares a suite with City Records, so they may also be able to assist you!

  Why do I have to fill out an application? Why can't you put building plans on-line? Why do I need a letter of permission to look at these plans?

The answer to all of the above lies in the Secure Structure Ordinance, itself a local implementation of Wis. Stat. § 101.12(5). These statutes create two primary mandates for inspection of building plans:

  1. All persons seeking to inspect plans must submit an application for each building to be inspected.
  2. In the case of  "secure structures" (a building determined by the City, State, or County to have 'extraordinary security requirements'), City Records staff may restrict access to plans based on a determination of possible harm which may result from inspection. (See the Secure Structure Policy for examples of secure structures.)

If a structure is determined to be "secure" under these statutes, the potential inspector may view the plans via provision of written permission from the plan owner (this includes via email from the structure owner). Depending on the type of plan to be inspected, City Records staff may also provide limited access to plans of secure structures (e.g. the requester may view, but not copy or photograph, the plans).

Because of the application requirement for viewing all plans, City Records regrettably is unable to make digital plan images available online to the general public at this time.

  Does City Records provide surveys?

We have a limited number of surveys for properties which submitted them to the Development Center as part of the permitting process. Surveys may be provided for any property, regardless of whether the building itself is considered "secure", withouta letter of permission. However, a location or reproduction fee may still be incurred.

Additional surveys may be maintained by the Development Center's Property Information Section, or may be downloadable via the Milwaukee County Land Information Office's interactive mapping tool. If no survey exists at any of these sources, you may have to commission one with the assistance of a professional land surveyors. City departments, including DNS and City Records, do not provide surveying services, and are unable to provide recommendations for commercial surveyors. 

  I'm looking for a record of closed building permit for a specific property...

Depending on the time frame in which you are looking, there are three possible places to find building permits issued by the City of Milwaukee. You should always go to the Development Center first for access to permits:

  • 1888-1999:  Permits created during this time period are available on microfiche at the City Development Center. City Records staff are hard at work digitizing our copies of these permits for ease of access and searchability, but the full scanning process is projected to extend through 2024. To be sure of access to permits of this era, head to the Development Center first!
  • 2000-2016: Permits created during this time period are available digitally via E-Vault. City Records staff can verify that a specific permit has been captured by our system, but requestors must obtain copies from the Development Center directly.

  • 2016-Present: All permits created after 2016 are stored in the Land Management System under the Building section of the database. Consult DNS staff for assistance searching LMS.

Tax Rolls FAQs

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  What is the best way to see how much I *currently* owe on taxes?

City Records will, as a rule, not have the most recent information about your tax bill or obligation. Please use the City Treasurer's MUNIS self-service system to view this information.

  What tax information do you have at City Records?

We have the following tax records available for inspection or copying at City Records:

  • Tax Rolls (Real Estate and Personal Property), City of Milwaukee, 1958-2009 (Microfilm) and 2010-2018 (Electronic)
  • Payment History Files/Purge Reports, City of Milwaukee, 1992-2015 (Microfilm and Electronic)
  • Tax Rolls (Real Estate and Personal Property), Town of Granville, 1848-1956
  • Tax and Assessment Rolls, Town of Lake, 1868-1954
  • Tax and Assessment Rolls, Town of Wauwatosa, 1867-1956
  What is the difference between a Tax Roll and Tax Payment History? Which one do I need?

Whether you need the Tax Rolls or Payment Histories (Purge Reports) depends on what information you are trying to ascertain.

  • If you need to know how much tax was assessed on property for a given year, you want Tax Rolls.
  • If you need to know how much tax was actually paid on property for a given year (including special assessments, interest and other fines), you want the Payment History Report.
  Help! I can't find my property on the payment history report!

If the property was assessed tax for the year in which you are searching, it still may not appear in the Payment History that year if the property owner or trustee had outstanding payments (property tax or special assessments) for that year, or if a lien had been placed on the property for any reason. The Payment History for that year will appear at the end of the Payment History file (if paid later that year), or in the Payment History file for the year in which the overdue payment or lien is resolved.

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Contact Us

City Records Center
Zeidler Municipal Building
841 N. Broadway, Rm. B-1
Milwaukee, WI 53202  

[email protected]


 Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM - 4:00 PM

Document Services Manager

Brad Houston


[email protected]

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