Wisconsin Laws on Property Disputes Between Neighbors
A breakdown of Wisconsin laws on neighbor disputes involving trees, fences, and the right to farm.
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Wisconsin Tree Damage Laws
In Wisconsin, if someone damages your tree, you can recover your actual damages (usually, what you paid for the tree or what it would cost to replace the tree). (To learn what you must prove in order to get actual damages, see Nolo’s article When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.) In some states, specific laws allow you to recover additional damages if someone deliberately damages your tree. To find out whether Wisconsin has such a statute, check the table below. The table will also tell you the amount you can sue for (the number is usually represented as a multiple of your actual damages).
In addition, intentionally damaging a tree is a crime in some states and can result in arrest, jail, fines, and other penalties. Check the table below to find out if there’s a Wisconsin criminal statute on causing intentional damage to a tree. If Wisconsin does not have such a law, general Wisconsin criminal statutes, such as those related to theft or property damage, may still apply. (To learn more about damages and criminal penalties in tree injury cases, see Nolo’s article When a Neighbor Damages or Destroys Your Tree.)
Additional Damages and Criminal Penalties for
Intentional Damage to Trees in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Statute for Additional Damages
Additional Amount You Can Sue for in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Criminal Statute
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 26.09
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 26.05
Wisconsin Adverse Possession Laws
Under certain circumstances, a trespasser can come onto land, occupy it, and gain legal ownership of it. The legal term for this is “adverse possession.” To qualify as adverse possession (and to get ownership of the property), the trespasser’s occupation of the land must be:
- hostile (meaning without permission, though the definition can vary by state)
- actual (meaning physical occupation)
- open and notorious (meaning the possession is obvious to onlookers), and
- exclusive and continuous for a certain period of time.
The time period that the trespasser must have occupied the land varies by state. To find the time period in Wisconsin, see the table below. In some states, the trespasser must have paid taxes on the property during this time period. Other states don’t require payment of property taxes, but will apply a shorter time requirement for land occupation if the trespasser has paid taxes. And some states don’t mention tax payments at all in their adverse possession statutes.
Finally, some states will only allow an adverse possession claim if the trespasser has some sort of a document or deed related to ownership of the property (even if the document is inaccurate or carries no legal weight). For more information on the legal requirements for adverse possession, and how to prevent adverse possession if you are a landowner, see Nolo’s article Adverse Possession: When Trespassers Become Owners.
You can find Wisconsin’s adverse possession law in the table below. However, since many states have several statutes that bear on the issue of adverse possession, use the statute below as a starting point, and continue reading related statutes. (To learn more about legal research, see Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research section.)
Wisconsin Adverse Possession Laws
Adverse Possession Statute in Wisconsin
Time Required (in Years) for Continuous Possession in Wisconsin
Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 893.25 to 893.27
20, 10 (deed), 7 (deed, taxes)*
*If (deed) is listed, you must have a document or deed in order to make an adverse possession claim. If (taxes) is listed, you must have paid taxes on the property during this time period.
Wisconsin Boundary Fence Laws
A boundary fence is a fence that is located on or near a property line, though the exact definition can vary by state. Sometimes even a hedge can act as a boundary. To learn more about boundary fences, including how they are defined, when a neighbor is allowed to build a boundary fence, and who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, see Nolo’s Fences and Neighbors FAQ.
To find Wisconsin’s boundary fence statutes, see the table “Boundary Fence Statutes,” below. If your state does not have a specific law defining and regulating boundary fences, there might be a local ordinance (in your city, county, or town) that has rules on boundary fences.
Wisconsin Boundary Fence Statute
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 90.03 (farming or grazing
Wisconsin Right to Farm Laws
All states have enacted laws that exempt farmers and other agricultural operators from complying with run-of-the-mill nuisance laws -- laws that restrict certain kinds of noisy activity like operation of heavy machinery, or prohibit the use of pesticides, for example. States vary as to how “farming” is defined and how long the agricultural operation must be in existence in order to get protection under right to farm statutes. Some states also list specific things (for example, odor, noise, or dust) that don’t constitute a legal nuisance when they’re a byproduct of farming or agricultural activity. You can find Wisconsin’s right to farm statute in the table below. (To learn more about right to farm statutes, see Nolo’s article Rural Neighbors and the Right to Farm.)
Wisconsin Right to Farm Statute
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 823.08
To learn more about these property issues and other disputes between landowners and neighbors, get Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise, by Cora Jordan and Emily Doskow (Nolo).