The eviction process was put in place to protect landlords and their property from tenants who wrongfully hold over or fail to pay rent. A landlord, however, must have valid, legal grounds to evict before initiating the eviction process. Examples of valid, legal reasons to evict a tenant in Lake Geneva and throughout Wisconsin include the following.
- Failure to pay rent in full or on-time.
- Failure to vacate the property after the lease has ended.
- Violation of the lease agreement.
- Being a nuisance.
- Damage to the property.
- Engaging in a particular kind of criminal activity.
The length of time the landlord must give the tenant to vacate the property before filing a small claims eviction proceeding varies depending on the type and length of lease.
At Schuk Law Firm, there is a particular focus on landlord and tenant law. Representing both tenants and landlords, we know how the system works on both sides of the eviction process. Here, we explain what the most common legal, valid reasons are for a legal eviction in Wisconsin.
Failure to Pay Rent in Walworth County, WI
A landlord may begin eviction proceedings by first giving notice to the tenant if the tenant
- Fails to pay rent,
- Pays only part of the rent, or
- Pays the rent late (even one day late).
Notice to the tenant of the eviction terminates the lease. Termination of the lease also terminates the tenant's rights under the lease. The time and type of notice depend on whether the lease is a month-to-month (also referred to as “periodic”) tenancy or a fixed-term tenancy.
Failure to Pay Rent in a Month-to-Month Tenancy
If the tenancy is month-to-month and the tenant fails to pay rent on time or in full, the landlord has two options under Wisconsin Statute 704.17.
- A landlord can give the tenant a 5-day notice to pay or vacate, which means the tenant has five days to either get current on the rent or vacate the premises, or
- A landlord can give a 14-day notice to vacate, which means the tenant does not have the option to pay rent and stay but must vacate by the 14th day.
Failure to Pay Rent in a Fixed-Term Tenancy
If the tenant is a fixed-term tenant (i.e., a lease for one year or less), and the tenant fails to pay rent on time or in full, the landlord can give the tenant a five-day notice to pay rent or vacate the property.
If the landlord has already given one five-day notice within the year of the lease, he or she can now give a 14-day notice to vacate, removing the option to pay rent and stay.
Wisconsin Lease Violations
The lease agreement can contain many different terms and conditions. The landlord can usually commence eviction proceedings when one or more of the terms are violated.
Examples of lease violation and eviction commencements include:
- If -- pursuant to the terms of the lease -- the tenant is not allowed to have a pet on the premises and the landlord finds the tenant is keeping a dog in the rental unit, an eviction proceeding could be invoked.
- If a lease requires that a tenant does not park a vehicle in the front yard to avoid damage to the landscaping and the landlord finds the tenant violating this provision, an eviction proceeding could be invoked.
In the case of a month-to-month tenancy, where the landlord finds the tenant is violating one or more provisions of the lease, the landlord must give the tenant a 14-day notice to vacate the property to avoid an eviction lawsuit pursuant to Wisconsin Statute 704.17(1)(b).
In the case of a fixed-term lease, the landlord must give a 5-day notice to either remedy the lease violation (i.e., remove the pet or cease parking cars in the front yard) or vacate the property. If the landlord has already given such a 5-day notice within the year of the lease, he can give the 14-day notice to vacate (without offering the option to remedy the violation).
Damage to Rental Property in Walworth County, WI
Unless otherwise agreed, the tenant is usually responsible for routine minor repairs at the rental property. The tenant also must meet any maintenance and sanitation standards required by local housing codes.
If the tenant causes serious damage (holes in walls, interior water damage, fire, or insect infestation) to the rental property, the landlord can commence eviction proceedings based on damage to the rental property. This requires a 14-day notice to vacate before eviction proceedings can be commenced. A tenant is financially responsible for any damage, including infestations by insects or other pests caused by acts or inactions of the tenant.
Causing a Nuisance in Wisconsin Rental Property
Upon receipt of a notice regarding the nuisance, the landlord may begin eviction proceedings against the tenant by giving a 5-day notice to vacate the property.
Renting and Criminal Activity in Walworth County, WI
If the tenant is engaging in criminal actions that threaten the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises of other tenants or immediate neighbors, the landlord can begin eviction proceedings. The landlord must issue a 5-day notice to vacate the premises, without an option to stay. Criminal actions include:
- Any criminal activity that threatens the health or safety of the landlord or its agents
- Gang-related activity, or
- Drug activity on or near the premises.
The 5-day notice for eviction due to criminal activity must include the following:
- The basis for the notice (i.e., the lease is being terminated due to criminal activity or nuisance);
- A description of the criminal activity or drug-related criminal activity, including the date(s) it took place and an identification or description of the individuals involved;
- Notice that the tenant may seek legal advice or visit a tenant resource center; and
- Notice that the tenant has the right to contest the allegations before a court commissioner or judge if eviction is filed.
This section does not apply to a tenant who is a victim of the criminal activity. An example would be a significant other or spouse who is the victim of domestic abuse or violence occurring on the property.
Wisconsin Tenant Eviction Defenses
Even in the face of valid, lawful causes for eviction, tenants may have a legal defense to the eviction and may choose to fight it. However, the court has broad authority to determine whether the defendant has a valid defense and will make an inquiry of the defendant to determine whether the defendant claims a permitted defense. Case law has limited the available defenses to eviction actions as follows.
1. Whether the relationship between the landlord and tenant exists between the parties.
2. Whether the tenant is holding over.
3. Whether proper notice was given.
4. Whether the landlord has proper title to the premises.
5. Whether the landlord is attempting retaliatory eviction.
Aside from these, a tenant may also claim improper service of process or some other technical defect in the pleadings.
Seeking Help With the Eviction Process in Walworth County, WI
Attorney Schuk has been helping landlords and tenant with eviction proceedings for years with proven results and reputation. Contact Attorney Schuk today to discuss your specific tenancy or eviction issues.