How to Evict a Tenant in Wisconsin

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In Wisconsin, eviction proceedings commence when a landlord files an eviction action with the court. However, before the landlord can proceed with the eviction, she must provide notice to the tenant. If a landlord fails to provide proper notice before evicting the tenant, she could lose the eviction proceeding and be forced to start over again. In Wisconsin law, tenants must receive either five days' notice or 14 days' notice, depending upon the circumstances.

Fixed-Term Lease vs. Month-to-Month Lease

Wisconsin recognizes two basic types of residential leases: fixed-term and periodic (month-to-month or week-to-week).

  • A fixed-term lease is a lease for a specific period of time, such as a one-year lease or a six-month lease.

  • A periodic lease, on the other hand, is a lease with no fixed term, and the tenant stays and pays on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis.

With Cause Eviction vs. Without Cause Eviction

Wisconsin recognizes two types of evictions:

  • An eviction with cause is an eviction conducted because the tenant has stopped paying rent or has breached the lease in some other manner.

  • An eviction without cause occurs when a fixed-term lease has ended and the landlord doesn't want to enter into a new lease, but the tenant stays on the property regardless.

Evictions With Cause: Periodic Tenancy

If a tenant is month-to-month or week-to-week and fails to pay rent, the landlord has two choices. She can either:

  1. Send the tenant a notice that he must pay the rent or vacate the premises within five days, and if he does not, the landlord will file an eviction action.
  2. Send the tenant a notice that he must leave the premises within 14 days, and if he does not, the landlord will file an eviction action. In this case, the landlord is not giving the tenant the opportunity to cure the rental payment default and is simply moving forward with removing him from the premises.

If the landlord wants to evict a periodic tenant for other violations besides non-payment of rent, such as if the tenant causes serious damage to the property or is hosting unauthorized residents, the landlord can give the tenant a 14-day notice to vacate.

Evictions With Cause: Tenancy for a Fixed Term

The notice requirements for a fixed-term lease for one year or less are the same as those for a month-to-month tenancy. The landlord must send a Wisconsin five-day notice to cure or vacate premises. Unlike periodic tenancy, the landlord does not have the initial option of sending the 14-day notice to vacate for non-payment of rent, unless he has already sent the tenant a five-day notice at some point within the past year. In that case, the landlord can proceed with the 14-day notice.

For example, if a tenant is three months into a one-year lease and stops paying rent, the landlord must send a five-day notice to pay or vacate and cannot just send a 14-day notice to vacate. If the tenant cures the default, but then defaults again six months later, the landlord has the option of sending either a five-day notice or a 14-day notice.

If the tenancy is a fixed-term tenancy, these same rules apply for eviction due to lease violations.

Evictions for Drugs or Gang-Related Activity

If a tenant is engaged in drug or gang activity on the premises and the landlord is notified of the activity by a law enforcement officer, the landlord can send a five-day notice to vacate, even if the tenant is current on rent and has not violated the lease in any other manner. This notice is provided without any option to pay.

Evictions Without Cause

If a tenant's fixed-term lease ends on its own, but the tenant refuses to leave the premises, the landlord can file an action to evict immediately and doesn't need to provide any type of notice first.

If the tenant is a periodic tenant and the landlord wants the tenant out even though the tenant is paying, the landlord must provide 28 days' notice to the tenant to vacate the premises. After that time, the landlord may file an eviction action.

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About the Author

Rebecca K. McDowell is a creditors' rights attorney with a special focus on bankruptcy and insolvency. She has a B.A. in English from Albion College and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School. She has written legal articles for Nolo and the Bankruptcy Site.