At some point as a landlord, you may find you need to evict a tenant. Whatever the legal cause for eviction may be, Wisconsin law gives the landlord the right to evict tenants. However, this power is only granted if you follow the steps set out in Wisconsin statutory law. It is critical that you follow the proper procedure to make sure the eviction is lawful and does not expose you to any liability or claims from the tenant.
Giving an Eviction Notice in Walworth County
Once you have determined the tenant's conduct warrants an eviction before the termination of the lease, you must give the tenant an eviction notice to vacate. If the lease period has expired and the tenant continues to stay on the property, commonly referred to as “holding over,” you do not have to give an eviction notice. In that situation, you can and should begin eviction proceedings immediately.
Per Section 704.21, the eviction notice must be in writing and be served on the tenant by one of the following methods:
- Giving a copy personally to the tenant or leaving a copy at the tenant's usual dwelling place in the presence of some competent adult or member of the tenant's family (at least fourteen years of age) who is informed of the contents.
- Leaving a copy with a competent person who appears to be in charge of the rental property and mailing a copy, by regular or other mail, to the tenant's last-known address.
- If notice cannot be given by either of the two previous methods, then by affixing a copy of the notice in a conspicuous place on the rental property and mailing a copy, by regular or other mail, to the tenant's last-known address.
- By mailing a copy by registered or certified mail to the tenant's last-known address.
- By serving the tenant as you would serve a summons in any civil matter.
Duration of the Eviction Notice
The duration of the eviction notice will vary pursuant to Section 704.17, but is typically five, fourteen, or twenty-eight days, depending on the type of lease and the cause for eviction.
Filing Eviction Proceedings in Walworth County, WI
If the tenant fails to vacate the property within the time stated in the eviction notice, the lease is legally terminated, and the landlord can begin eviction proceedings. This begins with filing a complaint in Small Claims Court for eviction. Per Section 799.41, the eviction complaint must identify the parties, the rental property, and state the facts supporting the cause for eviction.
The Wisconsin Court System has many forms for small claims actions, and it has put together a pamphlet providing more information about the small claims eviction process. While many landlords choose to pursue eviction proceedings pro se (without an attorney), the outcome is usually far greater when an experienced real estate attorney like attorney Brian Schuk is brought in to make sure everything is done right and that the eviction is lawful and valid.
Serving the Complaint and Summons in Walworth County
After filing, the court will set a court date and you must then legally serve the tenant, now referred to as “the defendant,” with the complaint and summons. After accomplishing this, you will then file an Affidavit of Service with the court.
Attending Trial in Walworth County
If you and the defendant are not able to resolve the matter on the first court date, the court will set the matter for trial. Be on time for the trial date and bring whatever evidence you have with you (documents, receipts, correspondence, witnesses), and be prepared to explain to the court the defendant's violation of the rental agreement or other cause for eviction.
Wisconsin's Writ of Restitution
If the court finds in your favor, the judge will issue an order for judgment for restitution of the property at issue to the plaintiff, which means an order that the rental property is to be restored to your possession as the rightful owner and landlord.
If the tenant continues to remain on the property, the court can issue a writ of restitution to the sheriff's office. The writ of restitution is an instruction from the court for the sheriff's office to remove the tenant from the property.
Eviction By the Walworth County Sheriff
As soon as a writ of restitution is issued by the court to the sheriff's office, contact the sheriff's office to provide them with a copy of the writ and to coordinate the actual eviction. You will have to pay the sheriff's fee upfront, and it will vary depending on whether you have the appropriate notice in the lease and whether you want the sheriff's office to remove only the tenant from the property, or the tenant along with their belongings. If you choose to remove both the tenant and their possessions, you will have to decide whether to have the sheriff's office store the tenant's personal belongings or make plans to store their belongings yourself.
Removing and Storing Tenant's Belongings in Wisconsin
The sheriff's office or clerk of court might require you to file a bond to indemnify the tenant if any personal property is damaged during the removal and storage.
Ask the sheriff's office about their bond requirements and storage fees as you may find you already have or can rent a place that is much less expensive to store the tenant's personal property. Document all expenses incurred in the removal process.
Retain a Wisconsin Eviction Attorney
Evicting a tenant can be a stressful time for a landlord, especially if you have never done it before. Though the process is not entirely complex, it is time-consuming and specific. If you need to evict a tenant and have questions, don't hesitate to contact our office. There is a reason we practice real estate law. We are committed to helping landlords make sure eviction proceedings are handled legally and lawfully without committing mistakes and that you remain protected during the process.