The eviction process can differ from county to county, but they more or less are the same:
This article details a summary for a landlord to refer to when evicting a tenant in compliance with Wisconsin state law. Alternatively, a landlord can ask an attorney for legal help if they have any questions on landlord-tenant rights.
An eviction with cause means an eviction process with a valid reason and often requires an eviction notice before proceeding with an eviction action.
An eviction notice is usually a form filled out by the landlord that details their violation and whether or not a tenant can fix the issue. The notice requirements depend on the reason for eviction (lease violation, end of the lease, illegal activity, etc.)
The landlord must give the tenant the right eviction form because, without it, the tenants may easily win the case.
1. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
A lease agreement can vary between tenants. Landlords and tenants are required to uphold the terms of the lease agreement at all times.
Lease violations include:
- Not paying rent on time
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Too many people are living inside the rental unit
- Housing a pet in a pet-free rental unit or rental premises, etc.
The landlord can evict the tenant for a lease violation, but the notice provided depends on the violation the tenant committed:
For month-to-month tenants, a landlord has legal cause to decide that they do not wish to let the tenant correct their violation (or pay overdue rent). In this case, the landlord must provide the renters with a 14-Day Notice to Comply INSTEAD OF a 5-Day Notice to Comply.
In Wisconsin, a landlord must give the tenant a 5-Day Notice to Pay/Comply, a 5-Day Notice to Comply, or a 30-Day Notice to Comply if they want to grant the tenant the opportunity to fix their violation or pay rent on time and if the tenant is a week-to-week tenant, or a tenant has a tenancy of more than one year.
Landlords can continue filing for an eviction lawsuit if tenants fail to resolve the issue (or pay due rent) and remains inside the rental property after the given notice period.
2. Causing Imminent Harm
According to Wisconsin state law, a tenant who is deemed a threat against another tenant (or a relative to a tenant) and the conditions below are met, then the landlord must give the tenant notice called a 5-Day Notice to Quit. This five-day notice allows the tenant 5 days to leave the property or else they face an eviction process.
These are the conditions for a tenant to be evicted under this reason:
- A tenant has a protection order against them
- There is a condition of release that does not allow the tenant to interact with the person they are deemed a threat against
- The tenant has a criminal complaint filed against them under allegations of stalking, domestic abuse, and sexual assault
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal activity on the rental premises, the landlord must give them a written notice of 5 days to move out of the property. The violation extends to anyone residing with the tenant inside the rental unit.
Examples of illegal activity include, but are not limited to:
- Involvement in criminal activity
- Threatening the safety of other tenants and surrounding neighborhoods
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
Tenants are not allowed to fix their violations. Should the tenant remain on the rental premises after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue filing for an eviction process.
4. Non-renewal of a lease after the end of the rental period
A Wisconsin eviction process does not allow a landlord to evict a tenant without good cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental term ends.
However, a tenant can be evicted if they stay in the property even a day after their lease term ends (and have not arranged for a renewal).
This type of eviction notice usually only applies if the landlord wants to end the tenant's lease. The required notice time given to a tenant depends on their tenancy type or lease term.
Should the tenant remain in the rental premises even after their notice period ends, the landlord may continue to file for eviction proceedings to evict the tenant from the property.
Filing a Complaint
After the notice period, the landlord may file for an eviction order at small claims court or the equal rights division). A successful eviction process relies on correct filings, so the landlord must file all the forms correctly.
Wisconsin filing costs range between $94.50 to $114.50, depending on the mode of filing.
1. Steps in filing
- Proceed to the justice court (small claims court or equal rights division) the rental property belongs
- Fill out the forms
- Pay the filing fees
It takes between 5- 30 days before a landlord can file a complaint. This depends on the notice given to the tenant.
Serving the Tenant
The Summons and Complaint must be served to the tenant. The landlord must not serve this document themselves. The document should contain information such as the date and time of the court trial.
Wisconsin allows anyone who is a state resident uninvolved in the case to serve the document. It has to be delivered at least 5 days before the eviction hearing is scheduled.
1. How to serve documents to a tenant
The summons and its corresponding documents have to be served through one of the following methods:
- Personal Service: The Summons and Complaint is served to the tenant in person.
- Substituted Service: A copy of the Summons and Complaint is left at the tenant's place of residence or rental unit with someone who is at least 14 years old.
- Mailing Service: The server mails the documents via certified mail.
- Publishing Service: The server published the Summons and Complaint on the local newspaper.
2. After serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant is not required to file an answer with the court. They only have to appear at the initial hearing.
The Summons and Complaint must be served at least 5 days before an eviction hearing is scheduled.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
A landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against their tenant to win. If the tenant fails to show up to the hearing, the landlord could win by default.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and filed an answer
During the initial court hearing, the landlord has the opportunity to support their claim with evidence and show it to the judge. This includes, but is not limited by the following:
- Copy of the deed and the lease/rental agreement
- Rent receipts
- Rent ledgers
- Bank statements
- Witness statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations committed by the tenant
An initial eviction hearing is scheduled within 25 days after the landlord filed the complaint. If the issue is not resolved during the initial hearing, it takes another 30 days for a judicial officer to issue a final decision.
The Wisconsin court system scheduled an initial eviction hearing within 25 days after the landlord filed the complaint. Complicated cases that are unresolved during the initial eviction hearing will take an extra 30 days for the judicial officer to make a decision.
1. After the landlord wins the case and gets a Writ of Restitution
Once the landlord wins the case and provided the tenant does not file for an appeal or reconsideration, the court will issue a Writ of Restitution immediately upon judgment passing in favor of the landlord.
The Writ of Restitution is a court order which informs the tenant that they must move out of their housing on the property or else they will be forcibly evicted. If the tenant fails to do so, they will be forcibly evicted.
2. Move out process
This final step in the eviction process allows the tenant to move out of their housing on the property. Wisconsin state law dictates that a tenant must vacate the property within 10 days upon receipt of the Writ of Restitution.
In cases that will bring a tenant hardship, they may be granted a stay of execution for a maximum of 30 days. Only the appropriate law enforcement officials are allowed to forcibly evict a tenant from the property.
The Writ of Restitution is issued immediately, while the move-out period takes 10-30 days depending on whether the tenant was granted a stay of execution.
Wisconsin Eviction Process Timeline
On average, it takes 2 months to 4 months for a complete eviction process in Wisconsin.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets VERY hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is most useful when you keep ALL documents stored away just in case any of them are needed.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s essential to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. For this reason, it is always best to have everything physically written instead of face-to-face conversations.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will generally win this dispute.
- Video - If you missed them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it is essential to show the judge and photographs or videos of the violations.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice, though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can you kick someone out without eviction notices in Wisconsin?
No. A landlord can be sued for forceful evictions. This is called a self-help eviction and according to Wisconsin law, it is illegal to evict a tenant without cause.
If a landlord is sued by a tenant, the court will determine what damages a landlord will have to pay. Sometimes, the statutes can demand that rent the landlord required the tenant to pay in advance is returned to the tenant.
Can you evict someone in the winter in Wisconsin?
Yes, a tenant can be evicted in the winter in Wisconsin as long as the reason for eviction is valid and the landlord follows the correct eviction process. Examples of valid evictions include: failing to make a timely rent payment, which is a lease violation; conducting illegal activity; end of lease term, etc.
What is a self-help eviction?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity, but they can range to many other things. Many states specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure illegally. Some state laws also provide for tenant's court costs and attorneys' fees (if the tenant successfully sues the landlord) and/or give the tenant the right to stay in the rental unit.
What other laws should I be aware of?
A landlord must be aware of an update regarding COVID-19 Eviction Policies as mandated by the CDC. Due to COVID-19, there may be an eviction moratorium or the government may be offering rent relief efforts to help tenants in eviction protection during the pandemic with the approval and support of the CDC.
Landlords must also check out information about laws on Security Deposits so that they understand how it can help them in case a tenant is unable to pay rent or other utility payments. More information to answer further questions can also be found in the Landlord-Tenant Laws of Wisconsin as well as the Fair Housing Act.
What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to Wisconsin Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay.
Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action and sue for any additional damages as well.
- eForms: Wisconsin Eviction Notice Forms
- National Apartment Association: COVID-19 Information for Wisconsin
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Wisconsin
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in Wisconsin: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- NOLO: Wisconsin Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines