Starting Up a Residential Care Apartment Complex (RCAC)

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 the Division of Quality Assurance (DQA). DQA is responsible for administering Wisconsin Administrative Code DHS 89, as required by Chapter 50 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which governs the registration/certification of RCACs.

A Residential Care Apartment Complex means "a place where five or more adults reside that consists of independent apartments, each of which has an individual lockable entrance and exit, a kitchen, including a stove, and individual bathroom, sleeping and living areas, and that provides, to a person who resides in the place, not more than 28 hours per week of services that are supportive, personal and nursing services."

The Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) does not refer tenants for placement in assisted living facilities nor does the DQA provide funding to facilities to care for tenants. Tenants may be eligible to receive waiver funding through county Departments of Health or Human Services. For more information regarding funding for tenants in assisted living, please visit the following websites:

Family Care

Community Options Program (COP and COP-W)

Community Integration Program (CIP II)

All housing arrangements meeting the RCAC definition must be registered or certified.

To apply for certification or registration as an RCAC:

REGISTRATION:  To obtain registration, a facility must complete an application, including documentation that the applicant meets the definition and all the requirements contained in DHS 89. Upon receipt of a satisfactorily completed application and other requested documents, if any, a Certificate of Registration will be issued.

CERTIFICATION: Any RCAC wishing to establish eligibility for Medicaid waiver reimbursement must be certified. To obtain certification, a facility must complete the application form and meet the requirements in DHS 89. Upon receipt of a satisfactorily completed application, any other requested documents, if any, and fee, the facility will be contacted to schedule a site visit to complete the certification process.

CONVERSION: Any applicant who is seeking to convert an area that is a nursing home or community based residential facility (CBRF) to an RCAC must submit additional information as specified in DHS 89.61.

FEES: There is no fee for RCAC registration. For certification, the base fee is $445, plus $7.60 for each apartment unit every year.  The certification fee is submitted with the application and made payable to "DQA" (Division of Quality Assurance). All fees are non-refundable.

To apply for registration or certification, please review Chapter DHS 89 Wisconsin Administrative Code and Chapter 50 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

The following information must be submitted:

  1. RCAC Initial Application for Registration/Certification, Form F-62380 (Word, 134 KB)

  2. Regulations Compliance Statement, Form F-62381 (PDF, 49 KB)

  3. Applicable Fee

  4. Documents specified in section B of the RCAC Initial Certification or Registration Checklist, F-62528

Applications not completed within six months of submission will be closed out.

If the application does not include the required documents, the application packet will be returned to the applicant without further processing. DQA will include a checklist identifying what item(s) are missing. The applicant may choose to resubmit the application with the required documentation. After a second unsuccessful submission, no further applications will be accepted from this applicant for a period of one year.

Caregiver Background Checks:

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

  • The Caregiver Background Check Process website includes information on Wisconsin Administrative Codes Chapter DHS 12 Caregiver Background Checks; Chapter DHS 13 Reporting and Investigation of Caregiver Misconduct; copies of forms and answers to frequently asked questions.

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

  • A completed Background Information Disclosure (BID);

  • Response from the entity's inquiry to the Department of Justice; and

  • 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 Department request.

Plan Review:

The Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) considers RCACs multifamily dwellings subject to the State Building Code. New construction "stand-alone buildings" must comply with the requirements of the DSPS. A Plan Submittal Kit developed by the DSPS may be obtained by contacting the DSPS at 608-266-3151 or your local DSPS Field Office.

RCACs connected to CBRFs, nursing homes or hospitals require building plan review and approval by the DHS. 

For information contact:

Division of Quality Assurance
Bureau of Health Services
Plan Review Intake
P. O. Box 2969
Madison, WI 53701
Phone: 608-264-7748

All RCACs must comply with applicable statutes, rules and regulations including local zoning ordinances.

Address any questions to the Licensing Associates at or 608-266-8482. Return the application, other materials and fee to:

Division of Quality Assurance
Attn: Licensing Associates
P.O. Box 7940
Madison, WI 53707-7940

Additional Information:

Refer to the RCAC website for more information.

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

Last Revised: February 20, 2017