Starting a Community-Based Residential Facility (CBRF)

The Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) in the Department of Health Services (DHS) is responsible for regulating facilities that serve the frail elderly, persons with developmental disabilities, mental health, 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 Wis. Admin. Code ch. DHS 83 as required by Wis. Stat. ch. 50, which governs licensure of a community-based residential care facility (CBRF).

DQA does not refer residents for placement in assisted living facilities nor does DQA provide funding to facilities to care for residents. Residents may be eligible to receive waiver funding through county departments of health and/or human services or Family Care managed care organization.

"Community-based residential facility" means a place where five or more adults who are not related to the operator or administrator and who do not require care above intermediate level nursing care reside and receive care, treatment, or services that are above the level of room and board but that include no more than three hours of nursing care per week per residents, see Wis. Stat. § 50.01(1g).

Effective September 1, 2021, the Bureau of Assisted Living (BAL) requires all CBRF applications to be submitted online through the e-Licensure program.

The e-Licensure program has simplified the application and license fee payment process. The program highlights include:

  • Ability to complete, sign, and submit application online
  • Ability to save your progress and return at a later time to complete and submit the application
  • Ability to upload supporting documents
  • Convenience in submitting license fee payment online using a credit card or e-Cheque via the US Bank secure site and receive an email confirmation
  • Reduces mailing and processing wait times along with postage expenses
  • Print your application after submission

Refer to the "Prior to Applying for a License" accordion below for instructions and the links to get started.

Licensing/Certification Terminology

Established Provider: A provider who currently operates the facility type for which an application for licensure or certification is being made.

New Provider: A provider who currently does not operate the facility type for which an application for licensure or certification is being made.

Attestation Prior to Initial Licensing Survey: Upon BAL approval of the application and supporting documents, each applicant will be required to complete an applicant compliance statement prior to scheduling an initial licensing survey.

Inactive Application: Applications not completed within six months of submission will be closed due to inactivity.

Two Revisions: An application is not considered complete until all required documentation meeting regulation have been submitted. If the required documents do not meet the licensing/certification regulations, BAL will only send two revision letters per application. After a second unsuccessful revision, no further applications will be accepted from this applicant for the specified location for a period of one year.

Prior to Applying for a License

As part of the application process, you will be required to upload documents such as the facility's program statement, model balance sheet, and operating expenses. Prepare these documents before you begin and ensure each document to be uploaded consists of one single file. For example, if you have three separate pages of your program statement, you should combine the three pages into one file to upload.

You are encouraged to complete the online license application process in a single session. However, your information will be saved as you progress through the screens. This allows you to suspend the process if necessary and return to complete it later. The system will display the status of your license/certification/registration application (in process, under review, etc.) when you return. You will also have the option to print a copy of your completed application at the end of the process. The following checklist will help you identify documents required prior to submitting your application:

Plan Review

All CBRFs, regardless of size, shall have a plan submittal (1) prepared by a design professional, (2) submitted to 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 webpage.

Create Your WAMS ID

Web Access Management System (WAMS) allows authorized individuals to access state internet applications using the same means of identification for all state applications. You will need to create a WAMS account. If you have an existing WAMS account but do not remember your ID or password, use the WAMS account recovery process to reactivate it rather than creating another account.

The email address you use to create your WAMS account will be the email BAL uses to register you as a user of the e-licensure system. Please ensure your account has been activated before moving to the next step! You should receive a confirmation email as part of the account creation process.

Notify BAL of your WAMS Account

Please send an email with your name and WAMS ID to This email will serve to notify BAL to register you as a user of the e-licensure system.

Advance to the "License Application" accordion once you have received your confirmation email from BAL.

License Application

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

When DHS determines the application is complete, an initial licensing visit will be scheduled. DHS has 70 days to approve or deny a license. This 70 days for processing begins after a complete license application packet is received and DHS completes the initial licensing survey.

To be eligible to receive Medicaid waiver funding, upload a completed Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Compliance Review Request, F-02138 with the application.

Applications not completed within six months of submission will be closed due to inactivity.

Once the application is deemed complete, the BAL central licensing unit will send a Community-Based Residential (CBRF) Applicant Compliance Statement, F-02109 (Word) to the applicant. When the applicant is ready for an initial licensing survey, the applicant will return the completed compliance statement to central licensing and an assisted living surveyor will be assigned.

The assisted living surveyor will review the items listed on the Community-Based Residential Facility (CBRF) Initial Survey Checklist, F2634B (Word) during the initial licensing survey and tour of the facility.

Once you have received your confirmation email from BAL registering your WAMS ID, you are ready to apply for your CBRF online.

Caregiver Background Checks

Caregiver background checks must be completed at a minimum of every four years.

  • The Caregiver Background Check Process website includes information on Wis. Admin. Code chs. DHS 12 Caregiver Background Checks and DHS 13 Reporting and Investigation of Caregiver Misconduct; copies of forms and answers to frequently asked questions.

DHS will complete caregiver background checks on the following persons prior to initial licensure and every four years thereafter:

1) 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.
  • Nonclient residents (over age 10) of the entity who have regular, direct contact with clients.

2) Government and tribal entities

  • An individual, for example, 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.
  • Nonclient 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:

  • A completed Background Information Disclosure (BID).
  • Response from the entity's inquiry to the Department of Justice.
  • The letter from DHS containing information regarding any government findings of misconduct or credential limitations.

Copies of background checks for anyone covered under this rule must be available for review upon DHS 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 12-month probationary license is half this amount.

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 Wis. Stat. § 49.77(3s) are exempt from the licensing fee.

Licensing and Training Resources

Initial Licensing Videos

The Bureau of Assisted Living (BAL) is pleased to announce informational videos to provide information about what prospective providers must know when starting a community-based residential facility (CBRF) or adult family home (AFH).

What you will learn from the videos:

  • How to submit a licensure application.
  • Considerations in choosing a building.
  • Policies and procedures – why they are important and how to use them.
  • Key elements of AFH/CBRF operations, including program statement and more.

If you plan to start an AFH or CBRF, you may find our informational video helpful. However, watching the video is not required to obtain licensure.

Licensing Video Presentations

BAL Licensing Seminar CBRF September 29, 2021

BAL Licensing Seminar AFH September 29, 2021

How to Participate in Live Licensing Q&A

If you have questions about the seminar we will hold Live Q&A Sessions that will be conducted utilizing Zoom online meeting technology. Zoom is a web conferencing product that allow users to conduct live meetings and presentations over the internet. There is no registration or cost to attend the webinar. Please watch the seminar before attending the Live Q&A Sessions.

Join the live webinar by selecting this link near the start time of the webinar:
Or dial: +1-669-254-5252, webinar ID: 160 597 0525
Webinar Date Time Provider Type
January 11, 2022
10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
April 5, 2022
10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
August 16, 2022
10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
November 1, 2022
10 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
10:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

Additional Information

Refer to the DHS CBRF website for CBRF operators, management and staff related information.

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

Contact Us

Address any questions to the Central Licensing Associates at or 608-266-8482.

Last Revised: March 24, 2022