When evicting a tenant in Wisconsin, a landlord must carefully follow the rules and procedures set forth by Wisconsin law. If the landlord does not follow all the legal rules, the eviction may not be valid. This article will explain the basic rules and procedures the landlord or property manager must follow when evicting a tenant in Wisconsin.
A landlord must have legal cause to evict a tenant early, that is, before the term of the tenancy has expired. In Wisconsin, the most common legal causes are tenant failure to pay rent or violation of the lease or rental agreement. Before the landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court, the landlord must terminate the tenancy. This is done by giving the tenant notice. The type of notice required will depend on the type of tenancy and the reason for the eviction.
If a landlord does not have cause to evict a tenant, then the landlord must wait until the end of the tenancy before expecting the tenant to move out of the rental unit. In some cases, the landlord may still need to give the tenant written notice to move before the tenancy terminates.
If the landlord wishes to end a month-to-month tenancy but does not have legal cause to do so, then the landlord must give the tenant a 28-day notice to vacate. This notice will inform the tenant that the tenancy will terminate in 28 days and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time (see Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.19). Wisconsin Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy has more information on this topic.
If the tenant has a fixed-term lease and the landlord wishes to end the tenancy but does not have cause, the landlord must wait until the end of the term before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord does not need to give the tenant written notice to move unless the lease requires it.
Even though a landlord may have valid legal cause to evict a tenant, the tenant may have a valid legal defense and could choose to fight the eviction. Tenant defenses include the landlord discriminating against the tenant or failing to maintain the rental unit. The tenant's decision to fight the eviction could mean that the cost of the eviction lawsuit increases or that the tenant will be able to remain in the rental unit for longer. Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Wisconsin has more information on this subject.
A tenant can only be removed from the rental unit after a landlord has won an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. At that point, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a law enforcement officer. It is illegal for the landlord to ever attempt to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, and the tenant could sue the landlord for trying. Illegal Eviction Procedures in Wisconsin has more information.
After an eviction has occurred, the landlord may find that the tenant has left behind personal property. If the landlord and the tenant had a written lease or rental agreement with a clause stating that the landlord will not store the tenant's abandoned property, then the landlord can dispose of the property in any way that is legal (see Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(5)(a); there is an exception for medications. The landlord must keep medications for seven days after the tenant has moved out before disposing of them).
If the landlord and the tenant did not have a written lease or rental agreement with a clause concerning abandoned property, then the tenant must follow an older statute (see Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(bf)). Under this statute, the landlord must store the tenant's abandoned property. The landlord must notify the tenant within ten days of storing the property. The tenant will then have 30 days to claim the property. If the tenant does not claim the property within 30 days, then the landlord can dispose of the property (see Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.05(5), 2009 stats.)
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Wisconsin law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.