If you are a landlord struggling with a tenant who is not paying rent or violating the lease agreement in some other way, eviction may be your best solution. The statutes governing the eviction process in Walworth County are designed to protect you, but they are also meant to protect tenants from unlawful evictions. Here are some best practices to follow as a landlord to ensure you do not violate the rights of your tenants while processing an eviction.
How to Evict Tenants in Wisconsin with a Fixed-Term Lease
A fixed-term lease is a lease for a set period of time, e.g., one year. The first step to eviction begins with the termination of the lease, either before the lease has expired (eviction with cause) or after the lease has expired (eviction without cause). Eviction with cause requires the landlord give the proper notice to evict while an eviction without cause does not require the same.
With Cause (Before the Fixed-Term Lease Has Expired)
The only way to terminate a lease before the lease term has expired is with cause. This means the tenant has done something to justify early termination of the lease. There can be many causes for eviction, ranging from failure to pay rent, violation of a term of the lease agreement, damage to the rental property, or even criminal activity occurring on the rental property.
The notice requirements for each different type of cause vary from a five-day notice to remedy the violation or vacate the premises to a fourteen-day notice to vacate. The landlord must also properly serve the eviction notice on the tenant, which can be tedious but must be properly followed by the landlord to ensure the eviction is lawful.
Without Cause (After the Fixed-Term Lease Has Expired)
If the lease has expired, but the tenant continues to hold over and remain on the property, the landlord can evict. Eviction proceedings under these circumstances can begin immediately.
There is one caveat: If the landlord accepts payment of rent after the expiration, then a proper notice to evict may be required.
How to Evict Tenants in Wisconsin with a Month-to-Month Lease
A Wisconsin month-to-month lease is a type of tenancy where either the landlord or tenant can void or change the terms of the contract with at least a month notice. Evictions must be commenced with cause, but there are exceptions where the eviction process can commence without cause.
With Cause (Before the Month-to-Month Lease Has Expired)
The causes for eviction mentioned above are the same for a fixed-term lease and a month-to-month lease. This means you can evict a month-to-month tenant for the same failure to pay rent and same violations of a fixed-term lease agreement.
- If the tenancy is month-to-month and the tenant fails to pay rent on time or in full, the landlord can give the tenant a 5-day notice to pay or vacate (notifying the tenant that he has five days to either get current on the rent or vacate the premises), or he can give a 14-day notice to vacate (not offering the tenant the option to pay rent and stay).
- If the cause for eviction is a lease violation, he must give the tenant a 14-day notice to vacate the property to avoid an eviction lawsuit.
An eviction notice may be properly served by:
- 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 method (a) or (b) with reasonable diligence, 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.
Without Cause (After the Month-to-Month Lease Has Expired)
Once the periodic term for the month-to-month lease has expired and the tenancy is not renewed by payment and acceptance of rent, the lease is terminated. If the tenant continues to hold over another period (i.e., another month) without payment of rent, the landlord can begin eviction proceedings by filing a complaint about eviction in small claims court.
Mistakes To Avoid During a Wisconsin Eviction Process
The eviction process must be followed carefully to protect the landlord from claims from the tenant as a result of an improper or unlawful eviction. As a landlord, you should never attempt “self-help eviction” by changing the locks on the property, turning off the utilities, or otherwise taking action to constructively evict the tenant.
How an Eviction Attorney in Walworth County Can Help
The notice requirements for eviction are tedious but if not followed precisely, they can result in an eviction that is improper. If you choose to handle the eviction without the assistance of an experienced attorney and fail to give proper notice, you may have to start the entire process over, while the tenant remains on the property.
Attorney Brian Schuk is an experienced landlord attorney who has been helping landlords just like you successfully evict problem tenants for years. If you have a problematic tenant and are considering eviction, contact us. Our experienced team will be happy to answer any questions you have about the eviction process.