Starting a Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF)

The following is the text of response sent to all inquiries about opening a CBRF in Wisconsin:

Thank you for your interest in licensure as a Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF).

The Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) in the Department of Health Services (DHS) serves the frail elderly, persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, and persons with substance abuse problems. 

Regulation of facilities primarily serving adults is the responsibility of DQA. DQA is responsible for administering Wisconsin Administrative Code DHS 83 as required by Chapter 50 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which governs licensure of a CBRF.

DQA does not refer residents for placement in assisted living facilities nor does the DQA provide funding to facilities to care for residents.  Residents may be eligible to receive waiver funding through county Departments of Health or Human Services or Family Care Managed Care Organization.  For more information regarding funding for residents in assisted living, please visit the following websites:

Family Care

Community Options Program (COP and COP-W)

Community Integration Program (CIP II)

A CBRF means a place where five or more unrelated adults reside in which care, treatment or services above the level of room and board, but not including nursing care, are provided to persons residing in the facility as a primary function of the facility.

Prior to Submission of CBRF License Application:

All CBRF’s, regardless of size, shall have a plan submittal (1) prepared by a design professional, (2) submitted to the Department of Health Services (DHS), and (3) reviewed prior to construction. Existing structures seeking CBRF licensure shall also have completed the plan review process prior to licensure. If an existing CBRF is being considered for purchase, it is important to note that there is no transfer of licensure. Additional information regarding plan review is available on the DHS Plan Review website.

The fees for plan review services are listed at DHS 83.56(3), and are submitted with the appropriate forms listed below:

For Free-Standing CBRFs

Submit the Free Standing CBRF Plan Approval Application (F-62496) (PDF, 52 KB) with the fees and the plans to:

Department of Health Services
Division of Quality Assurance
Bureau of Health Services
P. O. Box 2969
Madison, WI 53701-2969

All free-standing CBRFs for nine or more residents and not attached to a health care facility (i.e. nursing home) must meet the relevant requirements of the Wisconsin Enrolled Commercial Building Code, enforced by the Department of Commerce. Contact:

Department of Commerce
Division of Safety and Buildings
Plan Review Section
201 W. Washington Avenue – P.O. Box 7162
Madison, WI 53707-7162
Phone: (608) 266-3151

If the CBRF is attached or integrated into another operation, submit the following forms with the plans instead of the Free-Standing CBRF plan approval form:

CBRFs for 5-8 residents must meet the requirements of the Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC), Chapters 20-25, enforced by the Department of Commerce.

You should also contact the local municipality to obtain needed building permits and zoning approval.

Note: If an existing CBRF is being investigated for purchase, it is important to note that there is no transfer of licensure. A new applicant will not be licensed until a completed application is received, an onsite visit is conducted and all code requirements are met.

To Apply for a License:

 "Opening and Operating a Community Based Residential Facility"- Part 1

 "Opening and Operating a Community Based Residential Facility"- Part 2 

  • Print the Opening and Operating a Community Based Residential Facility Speaker Slides prior to viewing the webcast:

Part 1 speaker slides (PDF, 463 KB)

Part 2 speaker slides (PDF, 257 KB)

  • After viewing both Parts 1 and 2 of the webcast, print and sign the Verification of Completion - CBRF Webcast that is displayed on a slide at the end of Part 2.  This Verification of Completion must be submitted with your application materials for licensure. 

License Application:

An initial licensing process is used for first time licensee applicants. A complete application is necessary to begin the process. DHS 83.05(2) identifies the required content of a complete application.

When the Department determines that the application is complete, an on-site licensing visit will be scheduled. The Department has 70 days to approve or deny a license.

This 70 days for processing begins after a complete license application packet is received and the department completes the on-site survey.

The following information must be submitted:

  1. CBRF Initial License Application (F-60287) (Word, 252 KB) - signed

  2. License Fee

  3. Program Statement

  4. Facility Floor Plan

  5. Fire Inspection form (F-60795) (PDF, 195 KB) or other documentation used by the local fire authority

  6. Evidence of 60 day operating funds

  7. Assisted Living Facility Model Balance Sheet (F-62674A) (PDF, 45 KB)

  8. Verification of Completion - CBRF Webcast

Additional documentation may also be requested for review by Department staff, including but not limited to:

  1. Admissions Agreement

  2. Grievance Procedure

  3. Evidence of a good faith effort to establish a Community Advisory Committee (Community Advisory Committee Documentation, form F-60367) (PDF, 15 KB)

  4. Evidence of site approval, if the land is zoned for commercial, industrial or manufacturing use

  5. Approval by the Department of Natural Resources, where a public water supply is not available

  6. Emergency Plan

  7. Resident Rights and House Rules.  Procedure to review resident rights violations and complaints and reporting mechanism (Community-based Residential Facility (CBRF) Residents' Rights Complaint Report, form F-62430) (PDF, 60 KB)

  8. Documentation of approval of building plans by DHS and/or Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS)

  9. Documentation of sprinkler plan approval for new construction of documentation of sprinkler system inspection for existing buildings

  10. Documentation of smoke and heat detection system compliance

Information provided on the following checklist may assist you in completing the application process: CBRF Initial Licensure Checklist (F-62416)

Applications not acted upon by the applicant will be closed after one (1) year.

Caregiver Background Checks:

Caregiver background checks must be completed at least every four years.

Caregiver Rules and Regulations information on Wisconsin Administrative Codes Chapter DHS 12 – Caregiver Background Checks and Chapter DHS 13 – Reporting and Investigation of Caregiver Misconduct.

The Department will complete caregiver background checks on the following persons prior to initial licensure and every 4 years thereafter:

For non-government entities

  • The owner of the entity, whether or not the person has regular, direct contact with clients.

    If the owner is a corporation or other type of business that does not have a single owner, then the organization may designate one principal officer to legally represent the organization for the purposes of fulfilling the background check requirement.

    For new applicants, the individual who signs the application fulfills this requirement.

  • Principal officers, corporation or board members of the business organization, who have regular, direct contact with clients.

  • Non-client residents (over age 10) of the entity who have regular, direct contact with clients.

For government and tribal entities

  • An individual, e.g. the entity administrator designated by the government agency or tribe who operates the entity, whether or not the person has regular, direct contact with clients.

  • Non-client residents (over age 10) of the entity who have regular, direct contact with clients.

New applicants for licensure must submit a Background Information Disclosure (BID) form and BID Appendix form for each individual as described above, following the Caregiver Background Check Process.

The entity must complete a caregiver background check on all caregivers. A caregiver is a person who is all of the following:

Employed by or under contract with an entity;

Has regular, direct contact with the entity's clients or the personal property of the clients; and is under the entity's control.

"Direct contact" is defined as face-to-face physical proximity to a client that affords the opportunity to commit abuse or neglect or misappropriation of a client’s property.

A completed caregiver background check consists of:

Copies of background checks for anyone covered under this rule must be available for review upon Department request.

Licensing Fee:

A licensing fee of $389.00 + $50.25 per resident based on capacity of facility is charged every two years. The fee for the twelve-month probationary license is 1/2 this amount. The fee is submitted with the application and made payable to "DQA."

"Initial application fees and/or license/certification continuation fees are NON - REFUNDABLE."

Exception: Community based residential facilities where the total monthly charges for each resident do not exceed the monthly state supplemental payment rate under s. 49.77(3s) are exempt from the licensing fee.

Address any questions and return the application, other materials and checks to DQA, Bureau of Assisted Living regional office assigned to the county in which the facility is located.

Additional Information:

Additional information for CBRF operators, management and staff is located on DHS Community Based Residential Facility web pages.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC): Starting a Business in Wisconsin


Last Revised: February 9, 2015