Zoning Ordinance Did Not Prohibit Rentals, WI Appeals Court Rules

Wisconsin case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Zoning.

Heef Realty and Investments, LLP, et al., v. City of Cedarburg Board of Appeals. WI zoning

The owners of two homes in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, were renting their homes as short-term rentals. The city took the position that this violated the zoning ordinance, The owners were cited, and they appealed to the Board of Appeals, which sided with the City. Undaunted, they sought review in the Circuit Court of Ozaukee County, where Judge Paul V. Malloy agreed with the owners. The Board then appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The appeals court agreed with the owners and affirmed. It held that a restriction on the free use of private property must be done clearly and unambiguously in the ordinances. As written, the ordinances permitted short-term rental of homes in a single-family residential district. The ordinance permitted a "single family dwelling," and the court held that was exactly what the property was being used for.

No. 2014AP62 (Wis. Ct. App. Feb. 4, 2015).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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