Wisconsin eviction laws state that you can’t just evict a tenant just because you don’t like them. You must follow the proper legal procedures, and for that you must know the local eviction laws. If not, not only you may lose your eviction case, but you may also end up in civil court. And let’s not even talk about the bad reputation that will follow you!
So then, what can you do if you want to evict an irresponsible tenant in the state of Wisconsin, and what are the penalties that tenant needs to do in order for the eviction process to be fully legal?
If you don’t live in Wisconsin and want to see the brief overview of the laws in your state, you can check this link to see which tenant laws are active in your state.
Reasons for Evicting
There are multiple reasons why you may want to start the eviction process, but the most common one is not paying rent. The (legal) reasons for evicting include:
- Violating the terms of the rental agreement
- Participating in drug or gang-related activities
- Causing major damage to your property – however this one you must prove in court first
- Failing to pay rent
- Staying on the property after the lease expires (holdover)
Whatever the reason for eviction is, if the landlord wants to reclaim possession of their property, the state of Wisconsin’s eviction laws require the tenancy to be terminated first. This can be done by serving a written eviction notice to your tenant that includes the reason why would you want to regain full control of your property.
The eviction notice in Wisconsin is either a 5-Day Notice – in case the landlord desires to allow the tenant the chance to, for example, pay a rent they owe – or a 14-Day Notice – if the landlord doesn’t want to provide the tenant to pay the due rent and simply wishes for them to leave their property.
If your tenant has a lease longer than one year, you must give him or her a 30-Day Notice to correct any problems with the late rent payments.
The only exception to this rule is if your tenant is being evicted for drug-related violations, in which case you must provide him or her with a 5-Day Notice to Vacate before you proceed with the eviction process.
The landlord first must select the appropriate eviction notice to serve upon their tenant, as each notice applies to a different violation. The service can be done via personal delivery (in which case it is required to mail a copy as well), by certified mail, by a visible posting on the premises or you can pay a fee and have the sheriff’s department deliver them for you.
The notices that can be served are:
- 5-Day Notice – Notice to pay or quit due to nonpayment of rent or lease violation.
- 5-Day Notice – Notice to vacate due to criminal activity (usually related to drug or gang activities) without the opportunity to remedy.
- 14-Day Notice – Notice to vacate due to previous violation (within 1 year) or while in default of lease violation.
- 28-Day Notice (Year-to-year/month-to-month) – Notice of termination without cause.
- 30-Day Notice (If tenant has a lease longer than one year) – Notice to cure or quit due to nonpayment of rent or lease violation.
This option is easy and cheap and it gives you the opportunity to sort everything out without the involvement of the court.
If you’re having trouble understanding or creating state of Wisconsin’s eviction forms, you can find free printable 5-day eviction notice templates here.
If you don’t live in Wisconsin but still need some help with the notice, another place where you can get blank 5 day eviction notice is here.
If the tenant failed to comply with the eviction notice, this allows the landlord to file for eviction at the proper county courthouse. The paperwork that is required for this process is:
- Summons and Complaint Form,
- Declaration of Non-Military Service Form and
- Affidavit of Service for the Notice to Vacate.
You must send a copy of these forms to the tenant in question five days prior to the initial court date, and the serving can be done only by a private process server or sheriff.
At the initial court date, both parties must appear (if one side fails to show up, this will result in a default judgement) and try to settle the case without the trial. If no settlement can be agreed upon, then the eviction trial begins where both sides must present their case to a judge. As a landlord, you must have all the appropriate notices and written proof that the eviction notice has been sent to a tenant, as well as confirmation of the initial violation. Be sure that you have all the paperwork prepared, as the tenant’s best chance at winning the case is if he or she can prove that you have failed to properly execute the steps of the eviction process that are stated in the Wisconsin eviction law.
In the end, there are two results. Either you’ve lost the case and have not only to let the tenant stay on your property but you have to pay for the trial fees, or you’ve won and the irresponsible tenant is to finally be evicted in the following 10 days. You must keep in mind that the only person authorized for the removal of the tenant is the law enforcement officer. You cannot even try to force the tenant out, or you may face another lawsuit. You can find more information about what is illegal during the Wisconsin residential eviction process in at the Nolo website.
What Happens to the Tenant’s Belongings?
In a lot of cases, you may find that the tenant has left behind some personal property or belongings. Unless you have a written agreement saying that you aren’t obliged to store the tenant’s abandoned property, you cannot proceed to throw it out or sell it immediately. Instead, you should store it and give the former tenant 30 days to reclaim them. If he doesn’t, then you can dispose of his belongings in whatever way you’d like.
Even in case you do have a written lease about not storing the renter’s belongings, you still cannot throw away his medications for seven days after the tenant moved out.
When it comes to the moving process, if you or your tenant from Wisconsin need any help with the move, you can always read more on this link.
Can the Tenant Defend against the Eviction?
Sometimes, even after being given the eviction notice the tenant is still in your apartment, violating the rules. At other times the tenant may choose to fight the eviction in court. The tenant defenses can include the discrimination by the hands of the landlord or failing to maintain the rental unit. It is also illegal to use “self-help” mechanisms in order to “help” the eviction process. This means that you are not allowed to shut off utilities or to change the locks on the door or you might be dealing with a counter lawsuit. Also, if you’ve given your tenant the 5-day notice, according to the Wisconsin eviction laws it is illegal to kick your tenant out if he paid his debts during this five day period. Same goes if the tenant fixes any lease violations that he or she was supposed to be evicted for.
How much does eviction process cost?
Despite this sounding like an easy task, evicting a tenant isn’t a cheap process. Even if we exclude the several months’ rent that you are missing prior to starting the eviction process, the average length of an eviction is 30-180 days, which means more lost money for you. And let’s not forget the prices of filing a complaint, charges for a sheriff’s office, cost of an attorney… If you’re interested in the more exact numbers, the American Tenant Screen has provided a great research on the cost of the eviction process that you can find on this link.
Wisconsin eviction process for landlords during winter
Even if you’ve done everything right, some private written lease agreements state that you can’t evict during the cold, winter months. This is also the case if you’re renting to elderly residents. If this is the case, then you must check the terms of your lease agreement in order to make sure if you can evict during certain months.
In conclusion, if you are a landlord you must carefully follow the guidelines that are required by Wisconsin eviction law, or your eviction may not be valid and you might be facing a penalty by yourself. You must always keep in mind that eviction is a serious process and that, even if everything goes the way you wanted it, the tenant has lost a roof over his head.