What You Need to Know About Eviction in Wisconsin

Wisconsin state laws require landlords to administer at least five days’ written notice before initiating the eviction process.
Written by Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Wisconsin
landlords may evict tenants for nonpayment of rent or a violation of the lease agreement—but not without providing at least a five-day notice beforehand. If a tenant has violated the lease in a criminal manner, the landlord must provide a five-day Notice to Quit. 
If you’re a renter in Wisconsin, you have tenant rights that you can exercise in the case of an unlawful eviction. But what are those rights, exactly, and how do you know if you’re being evicted unfairly? 
Here to break down Wisconsin’s eviction laws is
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Wisconsin eviction 101: reasons you can be evicted

In Wisconsin, a landlord may evict a tenant if the individual has violated their lease agreement, threatened the safety of another tenant, or possesses illegal substances on the property. 
Not paying rent is the most common example of a lease violation—but breaking other portions of the lease, such as the keeping of an unauthorized pet or too many guests in the unit, can be grounds enough for a landlord to initiate the eviction process. 
Under most circumstances, the landlord cannot evict the tenant without adequate notice. What does this notice look like? Let’s break it down:
  • Failure to pay rent: A tenant who has failed to pay rent by the due date must be issued a five-day written notice before the landlord begins the eviction process. Within that five-day period, the tenant may rectify the issue by paying rent, in which case the landlord may not evict them.
  • Violation of lease terms: A tenant who violates portions of the lease agreement must be provided at least five days' notice to comply in correcting the issue or otherwise vacating the unit. 
In either case, if the tenant repeats the same offense—such as not paying rent on time—more than once in a 12-month period, the landlord can then issue the tenant a notice to quit, which specifies a period (usually two weeks) in which the tenant must vacate the property. 
A notice to quit may also be issued by the landlord in cases of imminent harm or criminal activity on the property: 
  • Imminent harm: When it comes to imminent harm, the landlord has the right to evict a tenant with only five days’ notice, but the laws are a little trickier. To legally evict a potentially dangerous tenant, this tenant must both pose an “imminent” or immediate threat to another tenant and have a more formal criminal charge against them (like a protection order, criminal complaint, or condition of release). 
  • Criminal activity: In the case of criminal activity, tenants who participate in the use of illegal substances, violent acts, or other illicit activities may be evicted with only five days’ notice to quit and no opportunity to repair the issue.  
Overall, the standard notice for tenants regarding eviction is at least five days. In some cases—such as if you’re on a lease term longer than one year—your landlord must provide you with more advanced notice.
Key Takeaway It is illegal for Wisconsin landlords to evict tenants for nonpayment or noncompliance with lease terms without first providing five days’ notice. 
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A timeline of eviction in Wisconsin

Once your landlord has initiated the eviction process, you (the tenant) will be served a complaint and a court date will be set. The small claims court process can take weeks—so if you’re facing eviction in Wisconsin, here’s generally what you can expect
Step
How long it typically takes
What to expect
Notice is posted
5-30 days
Written notice from your landlord must be provided to you outlining the violation or complaint and, in some cases, allowing you the opportunity to correct the issue within a certain period to avoid eviction.
Complaint is filed and served
5 days
You will be served a summons to court at least five days before the hearing is set to take place.
Court hearing and judgment
Approximately 25 days
Within 25 days of your landlord filing the complaint, a hearing will take place in the appropriate court. If you fail to show up to this hearing, your landlord has grounds to evict you automatically.
Writ of Restitution is issued
Immediately
If the court sides with your landlord, you will be issued a Writ of Restitution instructing you to vacate the premises immediately (within a 10-day time frame). If you fail to comply, a sheriff may be sent to forcibly remove you.
Possession of property
About 10 days
At this time, you will be forced to pack your belongings and exit your rental. In some cases, a stay of execution may be issued, allowing you up to 30 days to vacate the property.
When all is said and done, the eviction process can take over a month—how long it takes to set a court date and reach a ruling on the case can significantly prolong the procedure. 
On the other hand, you could find yourself facing a Writ of Restitution in a much shorter time frame, so it’s best to be prepared for when your notice arrives. 

How to resist eviction in Wisconsin

As a tenant, you have
protected rights
under Wisconsin state law that safeguard you against unfair treatment. When it comes to getting evicted, there are a couple of ways you can fight back: 
  • Address the cause of the eviction: In situations where you’ve failed to pay your rent on time or violated a portion of your lease, your five-day notice is also a grace period in which you may fix the problem (such as by paying your rent in full). If you’re able to correct the issue within those five days, your landlord no longer has grounds to evict you. 
  • Take note of proper procedure: Your landlord is not only legally required to provide advanced notice of eviction—but they must also go through the proper legal channels in order for the process to be legitimate. If your landlord has erred in the procedure or used “self-help” methods (like shutting off your utilities or changing your door locks) in an effort to speed up the process, you have the legal right to sue your landlord for damages. 
  • Take note of property maintenance: Your landlord has a legal responsibility to make repairs to your unit, so long as you have not caused any damage carelessly or intentionally. Failure to do so can put the power in the tenant’s hands—you can either choose to vacate the unit and end the lease prematurely or withhold a portion of the rent until adequate repairs have been made. 
  • Call out discrimination, if appropriate: In Wisconsin, a landlord cannot evict you on the basis of your race, religion, sex, gender, national origin, family status, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, age, occupation, or status of victimhood (i.e., if you are a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence). 
Knowing your rights as a tenant and your state’s eviction laws can protect you against illegal evictions and give you an advantage in the eviction process. 

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