The Wisconsin eviction process provides for several eviction notices to be used depending on the type of eviction and if it allows the tenant an opportunity to cure the lease violation or pay the overdue rent. In all cases, a residential landlord must follow the Wisconsin eviction process or the action may be dismissed or damages assessed if the landlord attempted self-eviction measures.
All tenants are entitled to due process if they face eviction, regardless of the reason. A landlord who ignores this by trying to evict a tenant without a court order by denying the tenant access to the property, threatening the tenant, removing the tenant’s personal belongings or by shutting off essential services could face a civil suit by the tenant.
A tenant’s legal action could be for trespass, harassment, defamation, assault or the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Wisconsin 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit
The Wisconsin eviction notice for nonpayment of rent or for any other lease violation that allows the tenant an opportunity to cure the breach or pay the delinquent rent is a 5-Day Eviction Notice. The notice is exclusive of weekends and the day it is served.
For lease provision violations, Wisconsin law allows the tenant to take “reasonable steps” to remedy the violation within the notice period. This includes making a good faith or reasonable offer to pay for any damages.
There is also a 5-day notice to quit with no opportunity to cure if the landlord is notified by law enforcement that the tenant is selling or manufacturing illegal drugs.
14-Day Notice to Quit
The 14-Day Wisconsin eviction notice does not give the tenant an opportunity to cure the violation. This may only be served on tenancies of one year or less if the landlord has already served a 5-day notice for the initial lease violation and the subsequent violation is for the breach of the same type–nonpayment of rent or lease provision violation. Landlords may also serve this notice on week-to-week or month-to-month tenancies.
The 28-Day Notice is a non-renewal notice that is served on tenants with month-to-month tenancies and advises the tenant that the lease will expire on a certain day.
30-Day Notice to Quit
A 30-day notice to pay the overdue rent, comply with the lease or to vacate is served on tenants with leases of more than one year.
Service of Notice/Contents
A landlord may serve the tenant personally with these notices or by leaving a copy with someone in the household who is at least 14 years of age. If no one is available, the notice may be posted on the unit’s door or left in a conspicuous location and mailed to the tenant. Proof of service must be shown.
All notices should contain the amount of the rent that is due or reference to the specific lease provision that has allegedly been violated, and that the tenant either has the opportunity to stop the lease violation or not.
Summons and Complaint
Should the tenant refuse to comply or vacate, the next step is for the landlord to file and serve a Summons and Complaint for eviction in small claims court. These documents must be served by a private process server or the Sheriff’s office. It must also be served at least 5 days before the initial court date indicated on the Summons. Proof of service must also be filed prior to the first court date.
Initial Court Appearance
The initial court date is to see if the tenant appears. If not, the landlord will be granted a default judgment. If both parties appear and no settlement can be achieved, the court will schedule a trial date.
An eviction trial is held before a judge. The landlord has the burden of proving the lease violation and that the appropriate notice was served. Copies of the lease agreement, eviction notice, rent receipts, repair estimates, police reports and witness testimony may be presented. The tenant has the opportunity to refute the allegations.
A Wisconsin Tenant’s Defenses to an Eviction
A tenant in the Wisconsin eviction process may assert any of the following defenses:
- The breach of a lease provision is not substantial enough to warrant an eviction.
- The lease provision allegedly violated is unreasonable.
- The allegations are false.
- There was improper service.
- The notice was inadequate.
- The landlord waived eviction by accepting any part of the rent.
- The landlord failed to remedy a condition hazardous to the tenant’s safety or health or which is in violation of the housing code after having been an opportunity to repair it. The tenant may get a credit for this.
- The eviction is in retaliation for the tenant having filed a complaint regarding the condition of the property to the landlord or to a government agency or for joining a tenant’s rights organization.
- The eviction violates the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits evicting a tenant based upon the individual’s religion, race, sex, national origin, creed, age, family status, source of income or disability.
Judgment/Writ of Restitution
If the landlord is granted an order of possession, the tenant must move out. If the tenant remains, the landlord must secure a Writ of Restitution to be given to the Sheriff for service on the tenant who has 10-days to vacate after service. The Sheriff may also post a 24-hour warning notice on the property on the last day advising that the tenant will be forcibly evicted after that time.
Tenant should Consider Vacating or Settling
A tenant who feels that he or she has no defense should seriously consider vacating the premises or reaching an agreement with the landlord before any court action is filed. Once the Summons is issued, the eviction becomes a matter of public record regardless if the action is dismissed. Tenants who have been sued for eviction will have a difficult time finding other rental units since landlords are reluctant to rent to anyone with a history of late rental or no rental payments or violations of a lease.